Our Team

Board Of Directors


Nate Monson
(He, Him, His) serves as Executive Director of Iowa Safe Schools – a position he has held since 2007 following the passage of the state’s anti-bullying law and extension of the Iowa Civil Rights Act to include gender identity and sexual orientation.
Iowa Safe Schools was founded in 2002 with assistance from the Iowa Civil Rights Commission to address the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and queer (LGBTQ) youth in the state of Iowa. Iowa Safe Schools works to create safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environments and communities for youth through education, outreach, victim services, and advocacy efforts. Under Nate’s leadership, Iowa Safe Schools is now one of the largest statewide LGBTQ organizations in the country.
Nate’s commitment to positively impact the lives of others is also reflected in his service to the community on a variety of boards and commissions. In 2010, Nate was appointed to the Iowa Department of Human Right’s Board by Governor Chet Culver. Nate serves as the Chair of the Iowa Pride PAC, the state’s LGBTQ political action committee.
Nate has won several awards for his work including the Distinguished Alumni Rising Star Award from Clarke University and the 2018 Pride Man of the Year from Capital City Pride.
Nate is a graduate of Clarke University where he received a B.A. in History. He is a sought after speaker on school climate, culture, and LGBTQ issues around the country serving as a keynote speaker for conferences, colleges, and corporations. Nate recently spoke for a Tedx Talk titled the Post-Modern Queer Youth Experience which can be found here:
Nate and his best-dog friend Lucy live in Des Moines.

To contact Nate click here 

Scott Heldt
(He, Him, His) is the Director of Business Operations at Iowa Safe Schools. With extensive experience in the political and nonprofit worlds, he is dedicated to strengthening communities through activism, collaboration, and strategic development. Scott hopes his continuous involvement in the political process and dedication to volunteerism through serving on multiple boards will inspire folks to take action and create positive change in their communities.

Scott graduated from the University of Iowa in 2012 with Bachelor’s Degrees in Public Policy & Ethics, and Business Management. In 2018 he completed his Masters of Public Administration (MPA) at Drake University. Scott has won several awards for his work, most recently earning the 2018 Pride Ally of the Year award from Capital City Pride.

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

To contact Scott click here

Becky Smith
(She, Her, Hers) joins the Iowa Safe Schools team as the Director of Youth Engagement, 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.

To Contact Becky click here or call 515-729-4471

Mark Busch (He, Him, His) is the Director of Education at Iowa Safe Schools. He is excited to empower educators and school leaders across the state to learn about marginalized communities and develop welcoming classrooms through Iowa Safe Schools’ professional development opportunities. A proud graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, Mark earned his Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry Teaching in 2011 and Master of Arts in Science Education in 2018. With over six years of teaching experience in rural, suburban, and international classrooms, Mark designed meaningful curriculum to meet the needs of diverse learners. He provided leadership in aligning curriculum to state standards, coordinating with area nonprofits for school programming, assessing district grading and reporting practices, reviewing district systems and supports for educating English language learners, and advocating for students will food insecurities.
In his free time, Mark enjoys jogging on the metro trails, roaming the aisles of home improvement stores, and surveying the local cuisine. Feel free to reach out to Mark to grab a cup of coffee and strike up an exciting conversation!
To contact Mark click here 

Mark Turnage (He, Him, His) is the Registrar and Office Manager 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.

To contact Mark click here or call 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.

To contact Ric click here or call 515-689-9916

Reanna Spain (she, her, hers) is the Outreach Manager at Iowa Safe Schools. She brings eight years of experience in nonprofit effectiveness and youth advocacy with a passion for human rights.

A University of Iowa graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, Reanna has had opportunities to build relationships with diverse populations and work on a wide range of projects, including supporting adolescents experiencing homelessness and those in the foster care system. A storyteller at heart, she strives to share the experiences of others in a way that translates to meaningful connection, compassion, and understanding.

Reanna celebrates life with her husband and son. Her ideal day involves chicken chasing, getting her hands dirty digging up vegetables for dinner, and dancing around the kitchen to Willie Nelson records while she cooks.

To contact Reanna click here or call 515-669-3476

Morgan Dodge (he/him/his) joins the team as our GSA Network Coordinator. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a bachelor’s in Art, minoring in Women and Gender Studies.

After working with queer youth and youth with behavioral/mental health challenges, it was apparent to Morgan that we as a society don’t give youth the attention they need. He is specifically interested in giving the next generation the tools to succeed and continue the fight for social justice.

He also brings knowledge of serving survivors of violent crimes from his days working at a domestic violence shelter. Morgan looks forward to continuing his service to survivors in a more culturally specific manner.

You can usually find Morgan at home playing video games or listening to a podcast. He is a performance artist, and loves to challenge what people view as art. Morgan is also a proud dog dad to a sweet boy named Nigel.

To contact Morgan click here or call 515-381-0588

Dana VanRenterghem (she/they) joins the team as our GSA Network Coordinator. She graduated from Central College in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, minoring in Communication Studies. They find that delivering a message with particular tact and empathy greatly impacts how it is received.

Their background is in direct care with, and by the side of, youth who are struggling with developmental trauma and behavioral/mental health challenges. During this time she realized that when youth are enabled with a safe and supportive environment, they become more willing to take steps of their own to self-advocate. She is also very passionate about using the realm of athletics as an outlet for self-care and growth. Dana believes in the simple power of relationships, and looks forward to engaging with LGBTQ youth in an encouraging, empathetic, and empowering manner.

Dana loves spending time outdoors and exploring the world around them. They have an ever-changing taste in music, and like to dabble with abstract art. Dana is a proud Aunt, and spends any free time with fun-loving friends and family.

To contact Dana click here or call 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.

To contact Lucy click here or call 515-381-0588