Susan Hester holds her Master's Degree in Strategic Leadership from Mount Mercy University here in Cedar Rapids, IA. Her Bachelor's Degree is in Behavioral Science from Mid-America Christian University in Oklahoma City, OK. Susan is currently a paraprofessional at Coolidge Elementary where she enjoys working with younger students, helping them in their educational career. Previously, she demonstrated ability to work with older students when working as a paraprofessional at Washington High School.
Jacob has been a Language Arts teacher at Cedar Rapids Washington High School for the past 10 years. He received a BA in English from Stanford University and a MAT in Secondary English Education from the University of Iowa. In addition to being a teacher he has been the sponsor of Washington's GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) and served on several equity committees. Jacob has co-taught with EYI's Director, Sarah Swayze, for the past four years. He enjoys binging old TV shows on Netflix, playing video games on his Switch, and reading classic science fiction and fantasy novels.
Maria Irwin has a Bachelor's Degree in Education from Mt. Mercy University and her English Language Learner (ELL) endorsement through William Penn University. She has been an ELL teacher for the Cedar Rapids Community School District for more than 15 years. A strong advocate for students and families, Maria's achievements in providing equal learning opportunities to help students be successful in every learning environment will provide positive guidance for Empowering Youths of Iowa. As an EYI board member, Maria will aid in developing relationships and working cooperatively with all staff and stakeholders on the team as well as collaborating with community resources to provide appropriate services for EYI youths and their families.
Michelle Nelson has served in several volunteer leadership roles: Treasurer - Junior League of Cedar Rapids, Vice President of Membership - AAUW, Chair of New Member Recruitment - Junior League of Cedar Rapids, Member of Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee - Junior League of Cedar Rapids, and Project Manager for Diversity & Inclusion - Junior League of Omaha. As a leader, Michelle manages strategic thinking, process improvements, and growth. She possesses strong leadership and operations experience, the ability to grow and adapt to inevitable change, and thrives on creating simplifications and solving the root of the problem. Michelle's undergraduate degree is in Psychology with concentrations in Communication, Pre-Law and Pre-Med from Augustana College and her Graduate degree is in Organizational Leadership & Development from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota.
Janessa worked in Human Services for 10 years, first working with youths who had been through traumatic experiences such as abuse. Many had behavioral issues, and Janessa aided them in developing therapeutic coping skills as well as other skills necessary for success as they transitioned into adulthood. Janessa then transferred to working with adults who had physical or intellectual disabilities, mental illness, and/or substance abuse. She is currently studying to get her bachelor's degree in Business Administration. Additionally, she is owner and operator of a small business selling handmade all natural products. Her interests are true crime documentaries, reading about social justice issues (past and present), and hanging out with her four guinea pigs.
Dr. Joseph Nguyen is an assistant professor of chemistry at Mount Mercy University. Prior to Mount Mercy, Nguyen held various teaching positions, including teaching at the high school level. He holds a Bachelor's degree in chemistry, Master's degree in education, and Doctorate in chemistry.
Dr. Nguyen is a distinguished researcher, participating in research projects at University of California, Irvine, University of California, San Diego, University of Kansas, and Creighton University. His research has been widely published, and he has presented his findings at symposiums nationwide. Nguyen has received the Distinguished Iowa Science Teacher Award from the Iowa Academy of Science in 2014 and the Faculty Award from the Mount Mercy University Student Government Association in 2013. He was awarded grants for his educational outreach efforts hosting Science Fun Nights at elementary schools and running the CheMMUsical Show, a fusion of story and song that brings science to life. Nguyen was also awarded the Engaged Scholar Faculty Fellowship through the Iowa Campus Compact and the endowed Feld Chair for Mission through Mount Mercy University.
In his free time, Dr Nguyen enjoys singing, running, cooking, and spending time with his family.