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Meet Leigh Anne Taylor Knight of The DeBruce Foundation

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leigh Anne Taylor Knight.

Hi Leigh Anne, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was in college when I first wrote my mission statement: “Improve the quality of life for others in their near and far environments.” Since then, it has guided my career path and inspired the work I get to do today.

Just out of college, I taught secondary students in an alternative school. I reveled in the opportunity to make daily connections and a positive impact on the students in my classroom. I take seriously the responsibility to invest in young lives – they are the future of our world!

Not only was the day-to-day experience of my students important to me, but I also deeply understood that some of my most important work would be to help them thrive in their next season of life. Even if my students didn’t yet understand or have confidence in the value of their abilities and passions, I wanted to help them reach the point where they believed they have value and are made for more than they could even imagine.

When my students would chat with me about “what comes next,” I would ask what they like to do, what they do well, and find ways for them to engage in those in the classroom, extracurricular activities, or volunteering. Coaching activities and other club opportunities for students, we could work together to develop those interests and skills that would carry them into their careers.

My time in the classroom led to becoming Assistant Superintendent in the North Kansas City School District, where I had the ability to impact more students, as well as support educators throughout the district. My role as an administrator transitioned to an opportunity to lead the Kansas City Area Education Research Consortium, which allowed me to move even further upstream in terms of identifying policy solutions and best practices that could be applied throughout Kansas City P–20 education and beyond.

Each time I pivoted in my career, it was because there was a unique opportunity for me to have an impact on a greater number of people. From teacher to school administrator, administrator to leading research to improve education, to now serving as Executive Director and COO of The DeBruce Foundation, each step has informed and inspired my belief in empowering people to succeed in their careers.

Today, I’m privileged to lead a team committed to expanding career pathways. Our work at The DeBruce Foundation aims to help individuals – whether they are starting a career, pivoting to a new one, or re-entering the workforce – to build a higher quality of life for themselves and their families. By helping them understand the many ways their interests and skills have value in the workforce, we can equip them to make informed career decisions.

When infused with this sense of self-awareness and affirmation of their worth, individuals are better equipped to navigate a dynamic career marketplace. With the right resources, they can gain career resiliency and secure a brighter future.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
When I’ve encountered challenges along my path, I’ve been fortunate and blessed to have access to great mentors, sponsors, and role models to help me. They have made themselves available in a way that I could safely share, “Okay, this is what’s going on…” Together, we could name the issue, talk through it, and move toward a solution. This network of support has given me opportunities, provided grace when I needed it, and stretched me to be better. This, in turn, leads me to want to give back and develop others in the same way.

I see this same approach in my team at The DeBruce Foundation. All hands are on deck to offer solutions to the difficulties our communities are facing. They are more concerned about our shared charitable mission than receiving credit or personal gain. We firmly believe in a concept I refer to as #TruthWorks. When facing challenges (workforce development during a pandemic, anyone?), we commit to laying the truth on the table and working through the issues we collectively find. We find greater cohesion and progress as a result.

Do I “succeed” 100% of the time? Absolutely not! I’ve taken risks, and I truly believe that failing is simply the tuition we pay for learning, improving, and moving forward. It’s because of my faith, family, friends, and professional network that I’m able to do this.

As you know, we’re big fans of The DeBruce Foundation. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
Established by Paul DeBruce in 1988, The DeBruce Foundation is a national foundation whose mission is to expand pathways to economic growth and opportunity. I consider myself fortunate every day to be part of the DeBruce family’s generosity and commitment to our community.

Our team is composed of innovators, entrepreneurs, educators, business leaders, researchers, and specialists, and our goal is to equip people to succeed in the workforce. We create solutions, develop curricula, and support initiatives to help individuals along their career journey – from preparing for a career to retirement. We believe each person has skills and interests that can bring value to the workforce and help them achieve greater income stability.

In a rapidly changing economy, it’s imperative that people develop career literacy to make informed decisions about their career paths. Instead of matching someone to one job they could do, we want to expand the options available to them. Research shows the majority of young people consider 1-2 career options, yet workforce trends indicate they will hold 12 different jobs over the course of their time in the workforce. By helping individuals gain an understanding of themselves, develop career literacy, and build a professional network, they are better equipped for a resilient and successful career.

I love the work we do here, and one aspect I’m especially proud of is our DeBruce Career Corps. It is a collective of more than 50 young people, ranging in age from high school to early careers, who keep us informed about the workforce from their vantage point, test our resources, and advise our team. We couldn’t (and wouldn’t want to!) do our work without their real-time feedback to inform our mission. Here is a glimpse at our career literacy tools that help you discover your strengths and interests, learn about different careers, and map out your next steps to your career future:

  • Agile Work Profiler: a career assessment that provides you with a ranked list of your current strengths and interests – your Agilities – and how they relate to the workforce.
  •  The Career Explorer Tools: a suite of interactive tools with which you can learn about the income, preparation, work activities, and demand for each career.
  • Draw Your Future with Agilities: a facilitated process that guides you through a reflection of where you are now, where you want to take your career in the future, and how you can leverage your Agilities. Throughout the process, you map out tangible steps to your ideal future.

We partner with k-12 schools, universities, workforce development organizations, libraries, and more to increase access to career literacy resources and create shared, innovative programming to expand career pathways. I invite you to learn more and access resources for your own career, for your organization, or for your classroom at!

Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc?
@CrowCreekDesigns Instagram account by Jess Crow, who inspires creative design with her beautiful epoxy work.

YouVersion Bible app where I read every single day to stay connected to what matters to me.

Up Your Creative Genius Podcast with Patti Dobrowolski, who encourages people to live their best lives and be brave when pivoting to new opportunities.

Social and news of the academic institutions who have prepared me well for this life and my future: Fayette Public Schools, University of Missouri – Kansas City, Kansas University Edwards Campus, and Mizzou.

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