Meet 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 

Becky Smith (She, Her, Hers) joins the Iowa Safe Schools team as the Director of Youth Engagement. Becky’s role consists of promoting the empowerment and involvement of Iowa’s LGBTQ* young people as they create safe spaces and positive change in 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 for almost five years.

Becky brings with her a wealth of experience working with LGBTQ* young people to Iowa Safe Schools, and is excited to share her knowledge on student organizing, youth advocacy, and intersectionality. She has developed strong relationships with many of Iowa’s LGBTQ youth, 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, finding new Netflix documentaries, and spending time with her and her fiancé’s three cats: Remy, Sampson, and Judas.

To Contact Becky click here

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 or call 515-681-1359

Tony PeterSmith (He, Him, His) serves as the Director of Development at Iowa Safe Schools. He joined the team from Wartburg College where he worked most recently as the associate director of alumni and parent relations. At the college he planned events, coordinated philanthropy educational programming, and developed new meaningful ways to engage constituents. He also served as an advisor to a variety of student organizations, including Wartburg College Dance Marathon. Tony’s passion for philanthropy was sparked as an undergraduate student at the University of Northern Iowa. He discovered the influence education professionals can have by advocating for their students while in graduate school, studying Post-Secondary Education: Student Affairs.

Tony relocated to Des Moines with his husband. Together they enjoy going to concerts, listening to podcasts, catching the latest movie release, and spending time with their corgi, Murray.


To contact Tony 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

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


Dana VanRenterghem (she/they) joins the team as a 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 515-729-4471

Damian J. Thompson (He, Him, His) is the Public Policy Manager 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 515-381-0588


Lucy Monson (Xe, Xem, Xers) is the Director of Human Relations at Iowa Safe Schools. Lucy 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