Featured Speakers

Dr. Tiffany Anderson

Dr. Tiffany Anderson, Superintendent, Topeka Public Schools
Wednesday Keynote Speaker
Dr. Tiffany Anderson, a Kansas resident for many years, has been a public school educator for 24 years. She has improved outcomes and closed achievement gaps in rural, urban, and suburban public school districts. The Washington Post and NPR referenced Dr. Anderson as “the superintendent who made schools work for poor children.” In 2016 Dr. Anderson became the first African-American woman to lead Topeka Public Schools in Topeka, Kansas, where the landmark Brown vs. Board case ended legal segregation. Dr. Anderson’s publications include her books, Closing the Achievement Gap and Transforming Schools for Excellence, along with several articles on high performing school cultures published in local and national magazines and newspapers. She is a lifetime member of the NAACP and is nationally known for her innovative work serving schools in high poverty communities.   

Cara Brookins
Cara Brookins, Speaker, Author, YouTube House Builder 
Thursday Keynote Speaker
Cara Brookins is best known for being the mom who built her own house using YouTube tutorials. She’s a professional speaker and the author of eight books, including Rise, How a House Built a Family, which tells the story of building her 3500 square foot house with the help of her four children by googling things like how to do foundation work, install plumbing, and run gas lines. News of Cara's family story went viral in more than 75 countries and was viewed more than two billion times. Rise has now been optioned to become a major motion picture. When she isn’t mixing concrete, quilting, or working in her garden, Cara continues to write and to push audiences around the world to build their biggest dream.

Mayor Michelle De La Isla
Michelle De La Isla, Mayor, City of Topeka
Wednesday Keynote Speaker and Ad Astra Awards Emcee
Born of humble beginnings in New York, Mayor Michelle De La Isla faced many challenges from a young age. Early in life, her mom fled for safety with her and her brother to Puerto Rico to live with her grandparents. By age 17, she was homeless, and at 19, pregnant. She moved to Kansas in 2000 and, after eight years, graduated from Wichita State University with a bachelor of science degree in biology. That summer, she worked as a teacher for Upward Bound, later relocating to Topeka and becoming a single mom of three children. Mayor De La Isla spent her early career in Topeka educating women on financial literacy through MANA National, helping to found the local Hermanitas chapter to mentor Latina girls, and participating in the Capital District Group to advocate and develop Downtown Topeka. In 2010 she became Executive Director of Topeka Habitat for Humanity, establishing the organizations's first office, ReStore, and exponentially increasing service delivery. In 2013 she was elected to City Council and served as Deputy Mayor in 2016. She is the Diversity and Inclusion Representative at Westar Energy and currently serves as Mayor of Topeka. Michelle’s greatest honor is being called Erick, Cristina, and Lorraine’s mom.

Rev. Barry Feaker
Rev. Barry Feaker, Executive Director, Topeka Rescue Mission
Friday Keynote Speaker
Rev. Barry Feaker is a lifelong Topeka resident and a graduate of Washburn University. He has served as the Executive Director of Topeka Rescue Mission Ministries since 1986. Rev. Feaker provides executive oversight to the nine divisions of TRM Ministries, which include shelter services for the homeless; food services for the hungry; street reach for the unsheltered; community-wide distribution services for food and household items; two retail/job readiness sites; Children's Palace preschool for homeless children; NET Reach, a neighborhood empowerment and transformation initiative for homeless prevention and community health; Restore Hope, a human trafficking intervention, education and collaboration program; Doxazo Ministries, a youth development and missionary equipping program; and Education and Supportive Services for career readiness, biblical leadership development, mentoring and community development. In 2012 Rev. Feaker authored the book, "In Darkness, a Light Still Shines," based on his experiences during his first 26 years in ministry. Through all areas of service, Rev. Feaker is dedicated to advocating for the needs of the homeless and impoverished populations, while working to continually better the overall Topeka/Shawnee County Community. In 2018, Rev. Feaker and TRM staff launched an initiative called Freedom Now USA in response to the pervasiveness of human trafficking in the Topeka and the United States.