Escape

Meet Our Team

Board Of Directors

Staff

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 emphasis in cultural competency when working with marginalized populations and supporting communities who have experienced systemic oppression. 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 amazing 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.

Becky is stepping into the position on December 1st, 2020. To connect with Becky, please send an email to becky@iowasafeschools.org, and she will respond to emails in the order they were received beginning on the 1st.

 

Damian J. Thompson (He, Him, His) is the Director of Public Policy 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 contact Damian click here or call 515-238-1991

Leo Peterson (He, Him, His)  is the Director of Youth Engagement at Iowa Safe Schools, where he oversees Gay-Straight Alliance and Queer Campus programming. As a licensed teacher, lifelong learner, and ardent advocate for tomorrow’s leaders, Leo’s commitment to education and youth development defines his passion and career.

Leo has served as youth engagement program coordinator for North Liberty, Iowa; associate for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program at the University of Iowa; and as an instructor and mentor for Eastern Iowa Community College. In all of his work, Leo believes that teaching (inside and outside of the classroom) must be culturally relevant, multicultural, affirming, restorative, antiracist, and inclusive. Leo has an MA in Higher Education and Student Affairs and a BA with majors in Spanish, African-American Studies, and Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Iowa.

Outside of fighting for LGBTQ causes, he enjoys spicy food (the hotter the better), aimless walks, flowers, and just about anything Bravo.

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

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 approaches their work with a listening ear and an engaged heart. Their 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 contact Jordan click here or call 515-381-0588

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

Brett Burk (He, Him, His) is the Community Engagement Manager at Iowa Safe Schools. In past roles, Brett has served communities as an ESL teacher, a caretaker for disabled adults, and a refugee community engagement professional.

Brett became active in LGBTQ advocacy in 2011, working at the LGBTQ Resource Center at the University of Iowa. There, he completed coursework in Linguistics and TESL along with a Certificate in Writing, specializing in poetry and grant writing. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he had the incredible opportunity to teach English and study Mandarin in Taiwan with a Fulbright U.S. Student Award. Three years later, Brett returned to Iowa, where he completed an AmeriCorps term at EMBARC (Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center) and later worked as a Communications and Development Manager.

Brett volunteers as an LGBTQ advisory council member for Des Moines Human and Civil Rights Commission, vice chair of his local neighborhood association, and at other LGBTQ organizations in Des Moines. He is a reader, runner, and coffee shop enthusiast.

To contact Brett click here

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. Kaylyn’s time at Simpson was also spent interning on the Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign. 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 contact Kaylyn click here or call 515-729-4471

Luke Miller (He, Him, His) is the Queer Campus Coordinator at Iowa Safe Schools. He graduated in 2020 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 contact Luke click here

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 contact Madi click here