My professional work with youth began in 1989 when I was 14 with a local nonprofit in North Omaha, Nebraska. I worked for them over the next 7 years teaching drama programs and leading after school programs and a basketball program. My activism began when I was 15 when I started an environmental justice group at my high school as a protest against the existing science club. My systems change efforts focused on meaningful youth involvement started when I was young, as well, founding a youth council for my neighborhood when I was 17. I have continued working both inside and outside of systems since.
Since 1998 I have worked with approximately 50,000 children, youth and adults, focusing on youth engagement, meaningful student involvement, community organizing and service learning. Through a variety of speaking, professional development, training and program development activities. My activities have reached almost 250 elementary, middle and high schools, along with more than 300 nonprofit organizations across the United States and Canada, and in United Kingdom and Brazil. I have consulted more than 100 schools on how to effectively infuse youth voice in service learning. Aside from schools and nonprofits, I have also worked with foundations, government agencies, colleges and universities, publishing companies, and other organizations. My writing has included more than 100 different items, including educational materials, website content, curricula, training manuals, promotional materials, grant proposals and evaluation reports. After founding The Freechild Project in 2001 and SoundOut in 2002 I began working with clients locally, nationally and internationally. I have written extensively for both websites, developing site navigation, content, and publications to offer specifically to their target audiences. I have used social media extensively for Freechild, incorporating technologies such as Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter and delicious into the fray. I have designed projects, written guides, evaluated programs, and provided an array of public speaking, professional development, youth training, consulting and technical assistance to thousands of children, youth and adults since then. I founded a national nonprofit organization in 2007 that was focused on youth engaging, serving as the executive director for two years. Working with a variety of volunteers and professional partners, I obtained 501(c)3 status from the IRS, established a variety of local, national and international relations, upheld professional obligations, and secured a variety of funding supports.
My work in the area of school improvement has continued to grow over the last 10 years. It began when I served as the first-ever Student Engagement Specialist at the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction starting in 2001. There I developed and led a statewide action research project focused on engaging students as partners in education decision-making in state-level administrative processes and school improvement planning. I developed an introductory guide and a website for the state, as well. After completing my bachelor’s degree focused on critical pedagogy, youth studies and community development at The Evergreen State College, in 2006 I began my graduate studies in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Washington College of Education. Since 2008 I have worked as the Coordinated School Health Manager at the Washington State Department of Health. In that capacity I have served as a liaison between the DOH and the state education agency, facilitating interagency collaboration focused on an array of school health issues. I am also the agency’s lead school health policy analyst, leading agency-wide reviews of state and federal legislation and rule-making. My budget management activities, supported by an interagency agreement funded with a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant, include interagency agreements and external contracts, negotiations, sub-contracts, federal reports, program deliverables and evaluation. As the co-founder and co-coordinator of the Washington State Coordinated School Health Network, I facilitate professional development, technical assistance, and information-sharing activities for a variety of partners in K-12 schools, districts, within state agencies and at local health departments across Washington. I am also co-coordinator of the Washington Youth School Health Cadre, the co-chair of Washington Action for Healthy Kids, and the coordinator of Students Taking Charge, a student-driven school health improvement program working in several schools across the state.
I have served several terms of community and national service. In 2000 I participated in a fellowship program for the Points of Light Foundation and was the Youth Engaged in Service Ambassador for Washington State. My service in AmeriCorps ended with a term as an AmeriCorps Leader with the Corporation for National Service lasted from 1999-00. In that capacity I worked with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps in Taos, New Mexico. My terms as an AmeriCorps Member included an individual placement running a ropes challenge course on the Hood Canal for the Washington Service Corps out of Tacoma, Washington and as an AmeriCorps Member with the Changing Trends AmeriCorps Program in Lincoln, Nebraska. In that term I created a tutoring and mentoring program for Kurdish and Iraqi refugee students.
Outdoor education, team building, and experiential learning were a major area of emphasis early in my career. My first work as a ropes challenge course director was for Boy Scout Camp Cornhusker in DuBois, Nebraska in 1996. For two years I worked as a Teacher/Naturalist at Pioneer Park Nature Center in Lincoln, Nebraska from 1996 to 1998. I was a Ropes Challenge Course Director Certification Instructor at the National Camping School in Spokane, Washington in 1998, and operated the COPE Course at Camp Hahobas in Belfair, Washington, for two years. I directed summer nature programs at Camp Cedars in Fremont, Nebraska, and Camp Kitaki in Louisville, Nebraska prior to that.
Other youth work I have done has included operating a youth center for the City of Tumwater, Washington, in 1998 and 1999. From 1995 to 1997 I worked as an Independent Living Skills Instructor for the YWCA in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was a Teen Floor Attendant for a drug treatment facility operated by CentrePointe, Inc. in Lincoln, Nebraska.
I have served a number of organizations as a committed volunteer and activist. I have served as an advisor for the Olympia parks and recreation department, and for a local nonprofit organization called Partners in Prevention Education. After 10 years of service to the National Youth Rights Association, I was named a director emeritus in 2009, and am a founding advisor of the Institute for Democratic Education in America. I am a contributing editor to the Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies, an academic journal. I am a board member for Kijana Voices, and serve as an advisor to the Patchwork School in Colorado. I have also been a volunteer teacher at the Olympia Free School and tabled for the Nebraskans for Peace Alternatives to the Military committee.
This is my professional biography. Let me know what you think!