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Meet Our Team

Board Of Directors

Staff


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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDCaLog5QnQ
Nate and his best-dog friend Lucy live in Des Moines.

 

To contact Nate 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

Connor Ferguson (He, Him, His) is the Communications Manager for Iowa Safe Schools. He studied at the University of Maine majoring in English (emphasis in Analytical Writing) and minoring in Creative Writing. He hopes to use communication opportunities to facilitate change and growth in the
LGBTQ+ community of Iowa.

Born and raised in Iowa, Connor began his college career at the University of Northern Iowa, then the University of Iowa, and ultimately finding the right academic fit at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine. In 2019 he presented “Diversifying Writing Centers: The Impact of Visibility and Accessibility” at the Northeast Writing Centers Association, a research project focused on diversity in academic settings such as Writing Centers; and “Queering the Fin de Siècle” through the McGillicuddy Humanities Center at the University of Maine, a fellowship project interrogating the erasure of the queer identities of Virginia Woolf and Wilfred Owen.

In his free time Connor likes to write creative fiction and fantasy, read as many books as possible, play the latest and greatest role-playing video games, build his vinyl record collection, engage in lively discussion, and hang out with his two cats (Mr. Darcy and Minna).

To contact Connor click here or call 515-971-3474

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

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

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

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

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

Benton Renaud (He, Him, His)  is the GSA Network Specialist at Iowa Safe Schools. He is a graduate of Ankeny Centennial High School and will be attending the University of Iowa next fall with a major in Psychology and on the Pre-Law Track. He has lived in Iowa his whole life, growing up in Hardin County. While at Ankeny Centennial High School he was involved in Student Council, Student Ambassadors, GSA, Show Choir, Silver Cord, and more.

Outside of school Benton served on the Student Leadership Council for Iowa Safe Schools and the Iowa Youth Congress. Benton has advocated for diversity and inclusion at his school by starting a diversity and inclusion team designed to help increase the understanding of diverse backgrounds, and started his school’s first ever opportunity fair. Benton has won several awards for his community involvement, including Youth of the Year presented by the National Council on Youth Leadership. Benton’s commitment for volunteer work and advocacy drive him to make his community a better place.

In Benton’s free time he enjoys going to coffee shops and thrift shops, going on adventures with family and friends, and knitting.

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

Lucy Monson (She, Her, Hers) 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