Escape

Meet Our Team

Becky Ritland (She/Her/Hers) joins the Iowa Safe Schools team as the Interim Executive Director. She has spent most of her career in direct service of LGBTQ youth across Iowa and is excited to be stepping back into the work that Iowa Safe Schools is doing statewide.

Becky holds both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work, with an emphasis in cultural competency when working with marginalized populations, as well as grassroots organizing. She is inspired by the incredible work being done by young people across the state in GSAs and QSOs. Becky is especially interested in helping students and young people use their voice to create positive change in their communities through youth activism and advocacy efforts.

When not connecting with community partners or supporting the work of the team at Iowa Safe Schools, Becky spends her time liking photos of cats on Instagram and sipping on cold brew coffee from Starbucks. She and her wife live in Des Moines with their three fur babies.

To connect with Becky, please send an email to becky@iowasafeschools.org.

 

Damian J. Thompson (He, Him, His) is the Director of Public Policy & Communications at Iowa Safe Schools. Damian joins our team from the Office of the Governor, where he oversaw constituent outreach and planned special events. Before his tenure at the Office of the Governor, Damian worked at a bipartisan public relations and lobbying firm in Des Moines. He graduated cum laude from Drake University in 2017 with his Bachelor of Arts in Law, Politics & Society. While a student at Drake University, Damian was politically active, interning with Iowa Congressman David Young as well as at the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement.

In his free time, Damian enjoys collecting antiques, watching classic films, listening to vinyl records, and avoiding hot beverages.

To connect with Damian, please send an email to damian@iowasafeschools.org.

 

Jordan Mix (they/them) is the Deputy Director of Education at Iowa Safe Schools. Jordan graduated from Drake University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in law, politics, and society, and a minor in sociology. They also hold a graduate certificate in gender and sexuality studies from the University of North Carolina Charlotte.

While at Drake, Jordan started Iowa’s first prom for LGBTQ high school students, The Other Prom, which has been held annually since 2014. They also took the lead in writing Drake University’s Transgender Inclusion Statement, and championed establishing gender neutral bathrooms on campus. Jordan’s goal is to empower educators to best serve all students by examining how gender operates in all of our lives and understanding the unique needs of LGBTQ youth.

When they’re not working, you can find Jordan hiking with their wife, cheering on the U.S. women’s national soccer team, and honing their home barista skills.

To connect with Jordan, please send an email to jordan@iowasafeschools.org.

 

Brett Burk (He, Him, His) is the Community Engagement Manager at Iowa Safe Schools. If you would like to support LGBTQ youth or would like to learn more about Iowa Safe Schools, reach out to Brett!

Brett holds a degree in Linguistics and TESL from University of Iowa, where he became active in LGBTQ advocacy working at the University’s LGBTQ Resource Center. After graduating, he accepted a Fulbright U.S. Student Award to teach English and study Mandarin in Taiwan.

Brett strives to empower local communities through grassroots community organizing and capacity building efforts. He enjoys volunteering his time and connecting people to causes that move them. Brett is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Administration at Drake University. He is a proud rural Iowan and first gen college graduate.

To connect with Brett, please send an email to brett@iowasafeschools.org.

 

Mark Turnage (He, Him, His) is the Registrar & Office Manager for Iowa Safe Schools. He coordinates everything, from transcripts to technical support for participants of the Safe Schools Academy, to registration for the annual Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth. Mark graduated from the University of Northern Iowa 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 LGBTQ 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 connect with Mark, please send an email to mark@iowasafeschools.org, or call 515-381-0588.

 

Madi Brauer (They, Them, Their) is the GSA Coordinator at Iowa Safe Schools. They graduated from Luther College in 2019.

Beyond their academic studies, they were involved in dance and ultimate frisbee. They love people and community interaction, and look forward to working with GSAs and other community groups.

Madi also enjoys getting outside and biking, walking, or dancing. They embrace their love for food by cooking and trying new recipes.

To connect with Madi, please send an email to madi@iowasafeschools.org.

 

Kaylyn Fisher (She, Her, Hers) is the GSA Coordinator at Iowa Safe Schools. She is a graduate of Simpson College and holds a B.A. in Health Services Leadership, with minors in Management and Political Science.

A lifelong Iowan, she loves being active in her community. While at Simpson she advocated for inclusive changes to campus residence facilities, coordinated Simpson PRIDE’s annual drag show featuring local and student participants, and helped establish the first annual Lavender Ceremony. 

Her goal is to combine her passion for advocacy and community involvement to empower students in Iowa on their own journeys. Kaylyn enjoys taking time to read a good book, volunteering, and traveling with family and friends. Her favorite trips so far have been to Costa Rica and Arches National Park in Utah.

To connect with Kaylyn, please send an email to kaylyn@iowasafeschools.org.

 

Luke Miller (He, Him, His) is the Queer Campus Coordinator at Iowa Safe Schools. He graduated from Drake University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. At Drake, Luke focused on revitalizing the queer student organization, negotiating for increasingly larger budgets in a time of budget cuts. He also worked to strengthen the position of other multicultural organizations through collaborative fundraisers and protests.

As a part of his studies, Luke was a part of a social psychology research lab that focused applied research in the fields of objectification and stereotyping. He was awarded the Judith L. Allen award by the Drake psychology department for his service activities. Luke’s experiences as a leader in college translate to a passion for helping students and working with them to get the resources they need.

You can usually find Luke on the couch playing video games or watching movies if he is not lost and miles away from his home on a walk.

To connect with Luke, please send an email to luke@iowasafeschools.org.

 

Dana Van Renterghem (She/Her/Hers) joins the Iowa Safe Schools team as the Parent & Family Coordinator. Dana graduated from Central College with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, and a minor in communication studies.

Since graduation, she has spent most of her career working with at-risk youth in a multitude of roles. Dana has provided direct care to teenagers in multiple residential settings, supported families in reunification and permanency efforts while involved with the Department of Human Services, and advocated for LGBTQ youth in a previous role as GSA Coordinator with Iowa Safe Schools. She has a passion for helping youth grow as individuals while reconnecting with loved ones who have been estranged. Dana strongly believes in the power of human relationships and empathy, and finds joy in seeing others reach their full potential. 

Dana is currently enrolled at the University of Denver and has begun the journey of earning her MSW. In her spare time, Dana enjoys nothing more than being an aunt to her nieces and nephews. When she isn’t with her family or friends, Dana can be found at the gym, enjoying the outdoors with the family dogs, or having new culinary adventures with her partner. 

To connect with Dana, please send an email to dana@iowasafeschools.org.

 

Board of Directors

Jan Reinicke, President

Miriam Woods, Vice President

Dr. Bill Morain, Secretary

Jake Auliff, Treasurer

Dr. Patti Woodward-Young

Zac Bales-Henry

Hugo Mora

Tony Khuth

Harold DeLaria