Our Team

Board Of Directors


Nate Monson
(He, Him, His) leads Iowa Safe Schools where he has been Executive Director since 2007.  He is a well known voice in Iowa on issues related to LGBTQ youth and school climate issues.  He speaks annually to many colleges/universities, schools, corporations, and community organizations.  Nate serves his community with involvement in various organizations including being a Board Member of the Walnut Creek YMCA, Iowa Bullying Prevention Council, and Chairperson of the Iowa Pride PAC.Nate graduated from Clarke University in 2007 with a BA in History.In his role at Iowa Safe Schools, Nate works to lead the organization’s strategic plan, development efforts, organization of the Annual Iowa Governors Conference on LGBTQ Youth, and creation of programming efforts.

Nate can be reached at

Scott Heldt
(He, Him, His) is the Director of Development & Communications at Iowa Safe Schools. With extensive experience in both the political and nonprofit worlds, he is dedicated to strengthening communities through activism, synergy, and collaborative development. Scott hopes his involvement in the political process as a young candidate and dedication to volunteerism through serving on the Windsor Heights Chamber of Commerce board will inspire young professionals to take action and assure their voices can make a difference.

Scott graduated from the University of Iowa in 2012 with Bachelor’s Degrees in Public Policy & Ethics, and Management. In May 2018 he is expected to complete his Masters of Public Administration (MPA) at Drake University.

In his free time Scott enjoys spending time with family, traveling to Iowa City to watch the Hawks, and cooking like Bobby Flay in his kitchen.

Scott can be reached by emailing or by calling 515-669-3476

Joshua Merritt (He, Him, His)is the LGBTQ Youth Advocate for Iowa Safe Schools.  He is an Iowa native, spending most of his life in Johnston. He came out to his family and friends during his sophomore year in high school, and helped establish the district’s first Gay-Straight Alliance during his senior year. Afterward he attended the University of Iowa for undergrad and DePaul University to get his masters in social work. Since coming to Chicago he’s worked with homeless and formerly homeless youth and adults in both direct service and program administration roles.

Joshua is also an avid video and board gamer, and prides himself on his Netflix binging abilities. He’s extremely excited to come back to his home state to continue serving the LGBTQ student population and advocating for their rights.

Joshua can be reached at or by calling 515-681-1359

Becky Smith
(She, Her, Hers) joins the Iowa Safe Schools team as the new Iowa GSA Network Coordinator, with her role consisting of promoting the empowerment and involvement of Iowa’s LGBTQ* young people to create positive change to their school. She received her bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Iowa, and has been involved in Des Moines area non-profit work, promoting inclusion and equality throughout the state of Iowa.

Becky brings with her a wealth of experience working with LGBTQ* young people, and is excited to share her knowledge on GSA organizing, youth advocacy, and intersectionality to Iowa Safe Schools. She has developed strong relationships with many existing Iowa GSAs, and is committed to creating safe spaces for young people in Iowa schools through youth activism and community support.

Becky lives in Des Moines with her fiancé. She loves Starbucks, binge watching TV shows on Netflix, and spending time with her and her fiancé’s three cats.

Becky can be reached at or by calling 515-729-4471

Mark Turnage (He, Him, His) is the Registrar and Administrative Assistant for Iowa Safe Schools, where he provides help with transcripts, technical support for participants of the Safe Schools Academy, registration for the annual Iowa Governor’s Conference, and coordinating local community fundraising events since 2014. Mark graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 2008 and has been involved in community events and advocacy-related fundraising since moving to Des Moines in 2011.

The son of two teachers, Mark’s experience in both education and empowering youth expression includes three years as Pleasantville High School Fall Play Director, providing audio/technical support to high school entertainment and athletic programs, and partnering with local LGBT organizations and venues to promote the work of Iowa Safe Schools.

You can always find Mark at the midnight premiere of the latest Batman film, curating his comic book collection, playing the latest Metal Gear videogame, indulging his inner film geek, or working on writing the next great Batman story.

Mark can be reached at or by calling 515-381-0588

Ric Tennenbaum (she/they) is the Campus Coalition Coordinator at Iowa Safe Schools. She graduates from Grinnell College in 2018 with a bachelor’s in Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies after spending a lot of time thinking about the creative and unrecognized ways we use emotions and feelings to build utopias for ourselves and our communities.

They love talking about activism strategies, daily acts of inspiration and resistance, and how forming close and unusual relationships with people helps build a stronger movement for liberation. She brings a long background in grassroots mental health organizing and developing their campus’ queer resource center, and is excited to bring Iowa college campuses into a more tightly woven network of alliance and support.

Ric is a sucker for live music and bad dancing. She plays the mbira when life gets too much and throws herself in tizzies trying to brew the perfect cup of tea.

Ric can be reached at or by calling 515-381-0588

Lucy Monson (Xe, Xem, Xers)is the Director of Human Relations at Iowa Safe Schools. Xe received Xer Paw.hD from Bark University in 2016, majoring in Barks & Sciences, and is committed to the pawformance of every staff member on the Iowa Safe Schools team. Lucy hopes to bring fresh breath to the organization, and take a bite out of homophobia and transphobia across the state.

Lucy can be reached at or by calling 515-381-0588