Member Spotlight

Laura Harrison
2021-2022 Executive Secretary

Where did you grow up?

I have lived in Topeka for 24 years now.  I moved here from Acworth, GA, when I was 13 years old because of my dad’s job in the shoe business. 

What do you do for a living?

I am currently a sixth grade teacher at Auburn Elementary.

How long have you been involved with the Junior League?

This is my 3rd year in league!

Why did you join the Junior League?

One thing that I love about League is the opportunity I have been given to learn more about my city and how I can help. 

What positions or roles have you held in League?

My first year active I was a member on the Funding Council and now in my second year I serve on the board as Executive Secretary. I participated in LBDI when I was on the Funding Council and was blown away by the stories people shared with me about their struggles with food insecurity.  

What do you love most about League and what keeps you coming back year-after-year?

One thing that I love about League is the opportunity I have been given to learn more about my city and how I can help. 


What advice would you give to someone wanting to join the Junior League of Topeka?

It will be the best decision you make. You create lasting friendships, you learn about organizations in Topeka, and you learn how to be a leader in the community. 

What are you involved in outside of the League?

Outside of League I am active in my church, part of the Leadership Team at my school, and spend any other free night playing chauffeur for my four children and all their activities.   

Tell us something else about you?

I love to read books! 

Member Spotlight

Amber Carlson
2021-2022 President-Elect

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Topeka, and after leaving at 18, didn’t ever plan to return. However, life has a way of bringing everything full circle, and 18 years later we returned to be closer to family. Putting effort into the community that we raise our family in, has been a keystone in this journey.

What do you do for a living?

I am the Vice President of Operations for a company that specializes in providing specialty physician services to underserved communities. Though the bulk of my career was spent in advertising sales management and publishing.

How long have you been involved with the Junior League?

I am proud to be in my seventh year as an active member of the Junior League.

Why did you join the Junior League?

Truthfully, at that time, I joined League to get my identity back. After years of working outside the home, I found myself lost in the daily life of motherhood. I needed an outlet for my entrepreneurial energy, and I found my niche in the League. 

What positions or roles have you held in League?

I helped to formulate the plans for, and helped to launch our semi-annual magazine, Capital Impact, and served as the Editor of the Inaugural edition. I then briefly served as VP of Communications, a Member-at-Large, Recognitions and Obligations Coordinator on the Leadership Council, VP of Funding Development, and now I am honored to be President-Elect. 

What do you love most about League and what keeps you coming back year-after-year?

Being part of an organization that works for the betterment of our community is such an honor. Having a hand in facilitating change, and working hand in hand with like-minded women, has been such an empowering experience. The friendships that I have made in League through this shared journey are incredible.  


What advice would you give to someone wanting to join the Junior League of Topeka?

I would advise her to jump in with both feet! As with everything else in life, you will get out of League what you put into League. Become enthusiastically involved, create your space in the League, and prepare to grow in ways you didn’t foresee. 

What are you involved in outside of the League?

I have homeschooled four of our six children for the last seven years. 

Tell us something else about you?

My husband, Kris, and I have a big family! In addition to our six children, we have one son-in-law, and a toddler grandson. Our house is always filled with lots of noise, copious amounts of chaos, and thankfully, love. 

Capital Impact Leadership Summit

The Junior League of Topeka is pleased to announce Lauren Dreher as our keynote speaker for the 2022 Capital Impact Leadership Summit.

Lauren is a mindset speaker and the author of Go With Your Gut: Then Keep Going. She grew up with facial scars and after a childhood of subconscious negative self talk found herself in her mid twenties with low confidence, self esteem and needing direction. Her dream was to help people get past their outer image and build inner confidence. She discovered how important your mindset is. She loves to help people shift perspective and learn to manage their mindset. After all, our mindset is our choice.

Are you an educator or student in Topeka and surrounding counties?

Member Spotlight

Brie Engelken-Parks
2021-2022 President

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Seneca, KS – about 70 miles North of Topeka. My family lived in Topeka until I was seven, when we moved to be closer to family but I always felt like Topeka was home. When all my friends and I were graduating college – they were KC or bust and I was Topeka or bust. I just was not interested in any other options.

What do you do for a living?

I’m the Senior Director of Marketing for AE Wealth Management, LLC. (AEWM), an SEC Registered Investment Advisory firm where I help create strategies and plans to recruit and retain financial advisors for AE Wealth Management while also building tools to help financial advisors across the country grow their business and help serve their clients’ financial goals.

The Junior League of Topeka and AEWM are not affiliated.

How long have you been involved with the Junior League?

I joined the Junior League of Topeka in 2017 making this my 5th year. It’s been a whirlwind and I am so thankful for the strong women that help me grow and better myself every day. I always learn something new from their experiences.

What positions or roles have you held in League?

I’m currently serving as the President of the Junior League. Previously I’ve served as President-Elect, Vice President of Fund Development and a member of the Funding Council (a team I wanted to be on the LEAST but ended up learning so much and LOVED it!!).

What do you love most about League and what keeps you coming back year-after-year?

Junior League has provided me with a safe space to develop new skills and a place to share my talents. It’s also been a tremendous way to connect with other women in our community and I love having the ability to collaborate with others, be it members or those in our community, for the betterment of Topeka – the place I live, work and am choosing to raise my family. But I stay for the women I get to serve beside. They are strong, bold, compassionate, and intelligent women and they each have different and unique life experiences that I have had the great privilege of learning from. I couldn’t ask to be surrounded by a better group of women.



What advice would you give to someone wanting to join the Junior League of Topeka?

I joined the Junior League at a time when I felt lost. I was looking for community and the opportunity to find myself again after having kids. I got that and so much more. If you identify as a woman, join Junior League – you will NEVER regret it!

What are you involved in outside of the League?

Outside of work and League, I’m actively engaged in our community. I’ve previously held board positions with the Race Against Breast Cancer and the American Advertising Federation of Topeka. I have spent time volunteering with the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center, Let’s Help, Project Topeka and Harvesters. But more often than not you can find me chasing around my two daughters, Audra & Ryann, alongside my husband, Matthew, reading, watching the latest binge-worthy show or indulging my Target obsession with a pick-up run.

And their off … Junior League of Topeka prepares for the best 2 minutes in sports!

Join the Junior League of Topeka for the 3rd Annual Jockey’s, Juleps & Junior League, a Kentucky Derby Party FUNdraiser.

Wear your best outfit and don your most extravagant hat for the 148th Derby race.  Guests will enjoy the race, entertainment, silent auction, and prizes for Best Hat and Best Dressed.

CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

Tickets purchased before March 15 are $75 each, and will sell for $85 after that date.  Additional items can be added to ticket purchases and include Bourbon Tasting (COMING SOON), Horse Bet 50/50 Race Raffle, Wine Pull, and additional Drink Tickets.

Kansas’ Rich Civil Rights History

Written by Lacey Bisnett

Kansas has a rich history in the fight for civil rights. One of the most well known cases of this was Brown V Board of Education. This case was initiated by members of the local NAACP chapter in Topeka, Kansas. Thirteen parents volunteered to participate.

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site 02
Photo curtesy of JoLynne Martinez.

In the summer of 1950, they took their children to schools in their neighborhoods and attempted to enroll them for the upcoming school year. All were refused admission. The children were forced to attend one of the four schools in the city for African Americans. For most, this involved traveling some distance from their homes. These parents filed suit against the Topeka Board of Education on behalf of their twenty children. Oliver Brown, a minister, was the first parent listed in the suit, so the case came to be named after him. Three local lawyers, Charles Bledsoe, Charles Scott and John Scott, were assisted by Robert Carter and Jack Greenberg of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

The case was filed in February 1951. The U.S. District Court ruled against the plaintiffs, but placed in the record its acceptance of the psychological evidence that African American children were adversely affected by segregation. These findings later were quoted by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1954 opinion.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Galentine’s Day Social

Join members of the Junior League of Topeka on Saturday, February 19 from 10 a.m. – noon at Ash Boutique, 921 S. Kansas in Topeka. Socialize, shop and learn about the Junior League! Brunch hors d’ouvres will be available along with mimosas (for 21 and over only). In coordination, Junior League members will be collecting gently worn professional women’s clothing for the Center for Safety & Empowerment.

The Equality House

The Story of overcoming Hate, Prejudice and Fear

By Ashley Watson

Driving along 12th Street in Southwest Topeka, a brightly painted one-story house stands out from the mid-century homes. Most people know this house as the “Rainbow House” due to its colorful paint job reflecting the Pride flag.

Aaron Jackson, founder of Planting Peace, purchased the Equality House in 2013. Planting Peace is a global nonprofit organization. Planting Peace proclaims “Peace” as its mission stating the organization was, “founded for the purpose of spreading peace in a hurting world. Our projects focus on a range of humanitarian and environmental initiatives, including our multi-national deworming campaign; a network of orphanages and safe havens in developing countries; LGBTQ rights advocacy; Equality House and Transgender House; and rainforest conservation efforts in the Amazon.”

What is the Equality House?

The Equality House is a symbol of compassion, peace, and positive change in both the Topeka community and the world at large. Planting Peace hopes the house “serves as the resource center for all Planting Peace human rights initiatives and stands as a visual reminder of our commitment, as global citizens, to equality for all.”

It also makes quite the statement at 1200 SW Orleans St., nestled directly across from the Westboro Baptist Church hate group campus.

Visitors are welcome to the House. They are able to walk the property, take photos and help out/help themselves to veggies from the community garden. Also, if able, visitors are encouraged to donate.

What are some things the Equality House has done?

The Equality House made quite a splash when it moved to Topeka to directly combat the hatred from the neighboring Westboro Baptist Church. Travelers have come from all over to see the house and feel supported by its message.

The Equality House has hosted many events including: LGBTQ weddings, drag shows, and NoH8 photoshoots. In addition to events, the Equality House has helped to raise awareness and funds to be used for anti-bullying, to help those with HIV/AIDs, and more.

Do You Know the Red Flags?

Would you know if someone right in front of you was trapped in a trafficking situation? Know the signs.