2013 NLC Fellows: Des Moines


Zachary Bales-Henry, Realtor, RE/MAX Real Estate Concepts

I was born and raised in the great city of Des Moines, Iowa. I grew up in a working class family located on the south side of town. At a young age I was diagnosed with dyslexia and that would forever define my perception of the world. Living in a society where your grasp of language is only verbal, and not written, often leaves you feeling like an outsider. However, my dyslexia also left me determined to succeed where others thought I wouldn't. My family always had high expectations for my brother and I. We were expected to be active members in our community, as well as well rounded individuals. High school years were consumed with sports, academics and junior military. The years passed I found that my passion revolved around learning. I went on to compete in D1 Cross country/ Track at Drake University. My studies were in the liberal arts as an English major (which is slightly ironic). It was here I gained a healthy respect for the written word. English studies taught me much about myself and the society that surrounded me. It was profoundly eye opening to have such a holistic view of the world. I became enthralled with everything my major had to offer. During my college years I also obtained my real estate licences and pursued the career I have to this day. After finishing college I became actively involved in my community. I'm apart of various non-profit organizations; including one that I am a founding member of. My career has blossomed and has allowed me to live a rich and fulfilled life. In the future I see myself running for political office of some sort. As well as being an example for those who may all have learning disabilities. My time on this earth has been relatively shot but I have found that the greatest gifts can be found in giving back. That's the one beauty of being apart of both the profit and non-profit world. I have come to understand that our world is composed of many different individuals. We must learn how to bridge those gaps to discover what makes us innately human.

Matthew Blake

Matthew Blake is a first year law student at Drake University in Des Moines. He intends to focus on legislative law with hopes of eventually becoming a lobbyist at the Iowa State Legislature. Matthew graduated from the University of South Dakota where he majored in Political Science and History. During his time at USD, he was involved with College Democrats, Dance Marathon, and accepted to Phi Beta Kappa Honors Society. Before moving to Iowa to pursue law, Matthew was involved with South Dakota politics throughout his professional and collegiate career. He started his political work by interning in Washington D.C. with US Senator Tim Johnson and Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Coming back to South Dakota, he had the chance to work for the South Dakota Democratic Party. Matthew was also hired to run three legislative races in Sioux Falls during the 2010 election cycle. Finally, he worked in Pierre, South Dakota for the 2011 session as an intern for the Democratic House legislators. Throughout his time in those positions, Matthew fought hard for progressive issues in a traditionally conservative environment. When not studying law or following politics, Matthew tries to spend spare moments with his beautiful fiancée. He also is an avid moviegoer who loves large, blockbuster films. Additionally, when he has the chance to read books of his own choosing he loves biographies of US Presidents and other historical books.

Ash Bruxvoort, Philanthropy Coordinator, The Nature Conservancy

Ash Bruxvoort is a Philanthropy Coordinator at The Nature Conservancy, a worldwide organization dedicated to preserving the earth’s lands and waters. Prior to working at The Nature Conservancy she was a Development Assistant at Iowa Public Radio. Bruxvoort is a dedicated environmental advocate with a particular interest in sustainable agriculture. She grew up on a farm in Mitchellville, Iowa, but had little interest in Iowa’s farming tradition until she was in college at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. It was here that she became interested in climate change and sustainability. It was also where she developed a passion for making Iowa a major player in the environmental movement through sustainable agriculture. She earned a BA in English from the University of Iowa, as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Certificate in Fundraising & Philanthropy Communication. In Des Moines Bruxvoort volunteers at New World Café, an all vegan restaurant, and is active with Urban Ambassadors, Young Professionals Connection, and Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. In Iowa City Bruxvoort volunteered for Local Foods Connection and served on the board of earthwords literary magazine, University of Iowa Libraries Charter Committee, and ECO Hawk. She studied abroad in India and co-directed a film about the effects of agriculture and urbanization on tribal communities. In her spare time Bruxvoort enjoys cooking, running, racing bikes with Des Moines Cycle Club, and spending time with her husband and dog. She resides in Des Moines.

Zachary Engstrom, Desk Supervisor/Intern, Drake Law School/IEDA

Zach was born and raised in Grimes, Iowa. He graduated from Drake University in 2006 majoring in Philosophy (Comparative Ethics) and the Study of Culture and Society (Public Culture). He spent his first year after graduating abroad teaching English and American Culture at Hebei Normal University in Shijiazhuang, China. Returning to the States, Zach found work in various industries before returning to Drake Law School. He is a Juris Doctorate candidate for 2013 with certificates in Constitutional Law and Legislative Practice. He previously interned for Senator Sodders at the Iowa Senate, and this session will be working for the Iowa Economic Development Authority. In that distant memory of what non-law school students refer to as "free time," Zach recalls enjoying cooking, reading, and keeping up on current events.

Crystal Harris, Special Assistant to the President, World Food Prize Foundation

Crystal Harris is Special Assistant to the president at the World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines, IA. Crystal has been on staff at the World Food Prize since November 2012, but joined the Foundation as a George Washington Carver intern in May of the same year. Currently, in addition to managing the president’s schedule and correspondence, Crystal also supervises the Foundation’s social media presence and assists with handling the grants for the Hall of Laureates’ education wing and interactive exhibits. Crystal holds a B.S. in Biology from Drake University in Des Moines, IA. While at Drake, she was an active member in the National Biological Honors Society, the International Student Association, and the Pre-Med Club. In addition, she volunteered for organizations off campus, including: Habitat for Humanity; Meals from the Heartland; House of Mercy, assisting at the day care center; and at Lutheran Services of Iowa, working with refugees on an individual basis to develop English speaking skills. Crystal has also spent two academic semesters abroad: first, through a literature studies program in London, England; and second, at the School for International Training (SIT) in Durban, South Africa. While studying at SIT, Crystal completed two research projects. For the first half of that semester, she studied the state of mental health care for children in Cato Manor, an area just outside of Durban’s city center. For the second half, she spent time at a semi-rural hospital in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa where she observed the hindrances to tuberculosis control at a TB/HIV clinic. Collaborating with the nurses, she was able to observe the daily tasks and challenges the staff faced in the fight against tuberculosis. Crystal has also spent time studying health issues at home, interning at the Iowa Department of Public Health, Bureau of HIV, STD and Hepatitis, working with the staff to conduct clinic audits. She recently joined the board for the Des Moines Area Hunger Hike, an organization that works to increase community consciousness and concern about local and world-wide hunger and raises funds to be used by non-profit agencies and programs to help alleviate the problem.

Lacey Howard, Group Editor, Special Interest Media Home Design, Meredith Corporation

Lacey Howard is a displaced Southerner living in the Des Moines area. Seven years ago, this Alabama native was wooed by Meredith Corporation and after spending less than 18 hours in DSM, decided to move west—and really far north—to what she dubs "the land of snow and ice." Despite the weather, Lacey is very active in the local community as a church youth leader, a fitness instructor, and a member of P.E.O., an organization dedicated to the education of women. When she's not at her desk in the home design area of Meredith's Special Interest Media group or coaching students to better health and fitness, she's trying to coax okra to grow in her backyard garden. Although her okra may not agree, she's actually enjoying Iowa's relatively fewer 100%-humidity,100-degree summer days and can drive well (most days) in the snow.

K.O. Myers, Director of Development at EyesOpenIowa

K.O. is a 2009 graduate of the Drexel University School of Law in Philadelphia, PA. During law school, he got involved in the nonprofit sector, studying and advocating for reform in judicial selection methods. He moved to Iowa in 2011 to join the American Judicature Society as Director of Research and Programs. When the Society relocated to Nashville, he decided to stay in Des Moines. K.O. is now the Director of Development at EyesOpenIowa, a statewide nonprofit that provides advocacy and research for comprehensive adolescent sex education. K.O. builds relationships with donors, foundations and supporters, and identifies and pursues grant funding opportunities that support EyesOpenIowa and keep its work sustainable. K.O. is the proud father of a daughter, who lives in Philadelphia with her mother. In his spare time, he volunteers at the Science Center of Iowa, and as an editor on the radio show and podcast Science for the People.

Kotheid Nicoue

Kotheid Nicoue was born in Togo, a small country located on the West Coast of Africa. In the year 2004, Kotheid's family moved to the United States in the hope of finding better opportunities. The transition to the United States has led Kotheid to pursue a degree in International Studies and French and eventually guided him to graduate from the University of Iowa in May 2012. At the University of Iowa, Kotheid was engaged in various multicultural and international organizations on campus. In his role as a Diversity Advocate for the student government and as President of two multicultural organizations, he helped promote the diverse communities on campus by collaborating with faculty, staff and students. In the summer of 2011, Kotheid interned at a nonprofit called SOS Racisme in Paris. This organization fights against racial discrimination in France and across Europe. His work focused on assisting the implementation of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM), including the planning of the first press conference at the European Parliament and researching private and public potential sources for the funding of EGAM. Kotheid is currently a research intern at the United States Center for Citizen Diplomacy, an organization that promotes opportunities for all Americans to be citizen diplomats and affirms the indispensable value of citizen involvement in international relations. He plans to develop a career in the public sector, specifically in governmental and international affairs. Kotheid aims to become a diplomat in the future.

AJ Olson, Volunteer Coordinator, Central Iowa Shelter & Services

AJ Olson is the VISTA Program and Volunteer Coordinator at Central Iowa Shelter & Services. In this position, AJ oversees the 14 member VISTA Veterans Outreach Project, which works to identify and connect community resources to help end homelessness among veterans in central Iowa. Olson also manages the shelter’s volunteer program, as well as CISS’ clothing closet and DMARC food pantry. He is also developing curriculum to teach elementary and middle school students about homelessness in Iowa and the United States. AJ received a BA in religion from Luther College in 2007. After graduation, he studied theology at Wartburg Seminary, including spending three months as a hospital chaplain. AJ started as an Americorps*VISTA member, serving with both Lutheran Services in Iowa and Iowa Immigration Education Coalition, both located in Des Moines. Outside of work, he volunteers with a variety of organizations in the Des Moines area and enjoys reading, biking and baking.

Shayla Price, Agriculture & Food Editor, Progressive Congress

Shayla Price is an attorney and an advocate for ending childhood hunger. As an agriculture and food editor for Progress Congress, her objective is to highlight news stories promoting policies that support healthy diets, food access, and government transparency. She educates more than 1,200 legislative staffers about the latest policy developments to build a strong food system for everyone. While serving as an AmeriCorps*VISTA member at a food bank, Shayla improved the lives of families by increasing their access to good, nutritious food. She also presented information about SNAP (food stamps program) to the general public at community events. As a Governor-appointed commissioner for Volunteer Louisiana, she promoted an ethic of service. Shayla worked with a team to distribute a $5.4 million AmeriCorps grant. She also headed, as chairwoman, the Commission’s marketing and public relations committee. Prior to government service, Shayla worked as a marketing director for ProgressiveU.org, a social welfare organization that gave high school and college students a voice. She led the design and implementation of an improved blog management system for 50,000 student bloggers and recruited, trained, and supervised a project management team that coordinated initiatives designed to improve customer satisfaction and increased site traffic from 100,000 to over 2 million unique visitors. While in high school, she earned more than $100,000 in college scholarships. Price is a scholarship expert and the author of “The Scholarship Search: A Guide to Winning Free Money for College and More.” To help students achieve scholarship success, she has hosted workshops to more than 5,000 students across the country, including at the National Service-Learning Conference, Bennett College for Women, and Tavis Smiley Leadership Institute. She has been featured in several publications, including “Better Homes & Gardens,” “Seventeen,” and “Black Enterprise.” Price also was named one of EBONY magazine’s 2009 Young Leaders and received the first-ever Emerging Greatness Award from the National Black Women’s Town Hall. Price earned her law degree from Southern University Law Center; she is a member of the Missouri Bar. Shayla graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Southern University and A&M College. Price also received a Certificate in Non-Profit Administration from Louisiana State University in Shreveport.

Rachel Scheib, Corporate Wellness Specialist, FBL Financial Group

Rachel (Kautzky) Scheib is currently employed at FBL Financial Group as a Corporate Wellness Specialist. Her responsibilities include creating and marketing wellness incentives to the employees of FBL Financial, Farm Bureau Financial Services, and the Iowa Farm Bureau. She has her personal training certification through the National Strength and Conditioning Association and teaches group fitness classes as well. Rachel graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, Exercise Science and a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology. She is a former basketball player for the Panthers and has a strong desire to help others lead better lives. Her passion for living well and creating a cleaner earth inspired her to create a local running group called the Green Runners. In 2012, she organized 20 successful group Green Runs in which members of the group met and jogged around different communities of Des Moines, picking up trash along the way. She created a partnership with Metro Waste Authority, who provided bags and water bottles for the runs. The Green Runners group has become a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization as of late 2012. She is involved with the Fight for Air Climb, JDRF, and the American Heart Association in her spare time and is always looking for ways to help fundraise for a worthy cause. She enjoys physical challenges and the training that takes place because of them. A Perry, Iowa native, Rachel currently resides in Ankeny with her husband and three children.

Alex Stanton, Administrative Assistant, United Way of Johnson County

Alex Stanton is currently an Administrative Assistant with the United Way of Johnson County in Coralville, IA. Alex currently resides in Iowa City, IA, where he received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Iowa. Alex came from a family passionate about progressive causes, pushing him into becoming active in advancing society towards progressive values. Alex became politically active early on, serving as a Precinct Captain, high school organizer, and intern with Obama for America leading up to the 2008 Iowa caucuses. The most satisfying moments during the internship for Alex were winning the most delegates in my precinct and helping produce a then-record amount of youth turnout. I then became a delegate to the county, district, and state conventions, as well as served on the Marion County Democratic Central Committee. While in college, I took an internship with the Senate Democratic Research Staff, recording and distributing radio commentaries in order to help the senators communicate with their constituents. In addition, I volunteered with programs promoting civic engagement and childhood literacy. Eventually, my passion for progressive causes led me to work for the United Way of Johnson County, where I help to promote advancements in the area of education, income, and health. Ideally, Alex hopes to continue my work in the non-profit sector or becoming involved in state politics, either as a candidate or behind-the-scenes organizer.

Sharon Wegner

Sharon Wegner is sitting for her law degree at Drake University Law School. At Drake, Ms. Wegner is a second year law student, and she holds leadership roles in the American Bar Association circuit government, Drake Law Women, as well as the Student Bar Association. She is interested in a myriad of legal experiences, including immigration, public policy, and government. Last summer she interned with the Iowa Department of Human rRights’ office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, where she worked on refugee rights issues affecting the Burmese community of Des Moines. Ideally, Ms. Wegner would spend her career working with a non-profit, public policy, or government entity. Prior to law school, Ms. Wegner served for 26 months as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa, where she did HIV/AIDS education and outreach work. She also worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA at FaCT Orange County in Southern California. Although she is originally from the Chicago suburbs, she completed her B.A. in political science and history at Drake University, and now considers herself an Iowan. In her spare time, she enjoys adventure travel to far-flung spots on the globe, and reading historical non-fiction.

Erin Wickering, Correspondence Specialist, Marsh

I grew up in southern Illinois, and have lived in Iowa for about 14 years, and in Des Moines for nearly 7 years. I love it here and never plan to leave. I graduated in 2006 from Iowa State with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. I was a little lost after graduation, not know exactly what I wanted to do, and finding it nearly impossible to find work in the Marketing field. I ended up taking whatever job I could find at a larger company, with hopes that I would be able to move into a marketing position in time. After a few years of that plan not working out, I began to seek fulfillment and experience elsewhere: through volunteer work and community service. Because of this work over the past few years, I have developed a great passion for helping people and making my community a better place. I want to and plan to devote my life and career to this kind of service. I still work my day job in the insurance industry, while I devote as much time as I can outside of work to bettering my community. I am anxious to gain as much knowledge and experience as I can, in order to help me be able to work in non-profit/community service on a full-time basis. Some of my current community work includes organizing the Des Moines Zombie Walk, which is an event to raise funds and awareness for a local homeless shelter. In our fourth walk in 2012, we had over 1,200 people in attendance and raised over $11,000. I also volunteer on the Marketing and Development committees for the Des Moines Music Coalition, which helps advance the local music scene through various events, promotional efforts, and education. I believe in being progressive because I feel that for a society to prosper, change is necessary. The ideas of survival of the fittest and tradition for tradition’s sake have no place in a modern community. As an advance society, we need to keep evolving. To evolve, we need to be receptive to change, and to take responsibility to help those who struggle to help themselves. Change is not usually easy, but it is vital.