Kirtley is from Newport, RI, and received a B.A. in International Studies from Emory University. After college, she moved to Washington, DC, and worked as a legislative aide for Congressman Jim Langevin (RI). Most recently, she served as Senior Legislative Assistant and advised the Congressman on issues that included education, business, labor, economic development, and children and families. She enjoyed working on collaborative efforts that brought together multiple stakeholders to support student success, especially underserved students. She worked to promote the inclusion of art and design thinking in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education fields. She also worked to curb identity theft and promote financial literacy among the foster youth population.