Des Moines 2016 Fellows

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Meet the 2016 Des Moines Fellows

Joseph Andre, Investment Specialist, Principal Financial Group

desmoines-Andre__Joseph.jpgJoseph Andre (Andre) grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. Being a part of the Midwest helped shape his identity within his country. Being a part of the Midwest also nurtured his drive to explore and travel. Andre's first international experience at the age of 15 opened his eyes to the world around him and would be the first domino to fall of greater things in his life. After that, the bar of his expectations was raised and upon completion of high school he attended Drake University to pursue a degree in International Relations. Between balancing his ambitions, university, political activities, part time jobs and internships he completed his degree learning more about himself then he ever had. Being exposed to different opportunities and responsibilities shifted his drive during school. Unfortunately, it is not often that someone can launch into their dream job or even know what direction it is in but there is one point that Andre learned: just because he did not have the dream job lined up or a career path solid before him, he could still move forward. Andre now works at Principal as an Investment Specialist, holds a board position with international nonprofit Global Arts Therapy, a board position for Friends of SW 9th under the Des Moines South and East Side Chamber of Commerce, and now the NLC to hone more of his attributes and become more successful with leadership. Since his first eye opening experience of international travel, Andre felt moved to help be a part of this idea called progress. His actions today are still in the maneuvering stage to be in a position to help be a part of the progressive discussion. One way or another, Andre will always do what he is able to for that aim.


Monica Biddix, Communication Director, Progress Iowa


Monica Biddix is originally from western North Carolina, but she's been living on and off in Iowa since 2012. She's been living and working in Des Moines for over a year and is excited to call it her new home. Monica's career in politics began in 2009 when she worked on several campaigns in South Carolina and Louisiana. She first moved to North Iowa in the summer of 2012 and managed Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm's successful re-election campaign. Monica moved to Illinois in 2013 to manage to US Congressional race then returned to Iowa where she managed an Iowa House in 2014 and clerked for Iowa state senator Chris Brase during the 2015 legislative session. Monica has recently transitioned into issue politics and the non-profit sector and joined the Progress Iowa team in November 2015. She holds degrees in History and Political Science from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a Masters' in History from the College of Charleston in South Carolina. She is an avid sports fan who follows anything related to UNC athletics. She also enjoys exercising, reading, playing trivia and she visits her 7 year old Maltese, Captain Rhett Butler, and family in North Carolina a few times a year.


Christina Blackcloud, Director of Senior Services, Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa


Christina Blackcloud is the Director of the Meskwaki Senior Services of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa which encourages Meskwaki elderly to maintain a healthier lifestyle by offering nutritional and educational information, daily lunch program, provide caregiver assistance and cultural related activities. Previously, she worked as the Administrative Assistant in the Meskwaki Economic Development Department and as the Executive Director for the Sac and Fox Tribe, served as an Iowa Democrat Delegate to the 2012 Democrat National Convention, served as an intern to Senator Tom Harkin in his Washington, DC office and as a WINS (Washington Internship for Native Students) intern in USDA’s Office of Ethics in Washington, DC. Before becoming the Executive Director in 2010, she was working on her Master’s Degree in Public Policy at University of Northern Iowa of Cedar Falls, Iowa. She has obtained two bachelor degrees in Business from Buena Vista University of Storm Lake, Iowa. Christina’s passion is serving her tribal community by being dedicated to protect and promote Meskwaki tribal interests. She has served or serves on various committees including the Meskwaki Language Team who focuses on revitalizing the tribal language, Vice Chair of the Election Committee who upholds and oversees government and referendum elections, the Meskwaki Historical Symposium Planning team who coordinates a presentation filled with scholars who have studied the Meskwaki people, Iowa Democratic Chair of the Native American Caucus who represents and advocates the democratic agenda for Native Americans, and the Meskwaki Annual Powwow Association who plans an annual celebration of tribal dancing and singing. Christina has over 10 years of work experience in tribal government, is a tribal citizen of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, and grew up on the Yankton Sioux Reservation and graduated from Marty Indian School in South Dakota. Christina spends her free time with her significant other, Michael Keahna and her handsome sons, Devon and Christopher and beautiful daughter, Martha.


Madeline Cano, Community Organizer, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement


Madeline is a community organizer with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI), a 40-year old state-wide, grassroots organization that focuses on putting the needs of everyday people before corporate profits in our local and state policies. CCI organizes communities around the state concerning issues of environmental, racial. and social justice. In her role as a community organizer, Madeline focuses on workers' rights and immigrants' rights, organizing hand-in-hand with affected groups of workers and immigrants to fight against workplace abuses like wage theft, harassment, discrimination, and exploitation. Madeline is also a lobbyist for CCI Action Fund at the Iowa State Capitol during the legislative sessions where she lobbies for good bills that will uplift working class Iowans and against bills that perpetuate social and economic inequality. She is passionate about reengaging Iowans with the political process and ensuring that everyone's voice is heard in order to promote real democracy. As a third generation Latina, Madeline recognizes the importance of her roots and works closely with the local Latino communities to implement immigrant-friendly policies and dual language resources for public services. Madeline holds degrees in International Studies and Spanish from the University of Iowa. She plans to pursue her Masters in Foreign and Public Policy in the next few years and will continue to work in the political field in the future.


Comfort Dondo, Underserved and Marginalized Communities Empowerment Coordinator,
Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence


Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Social Work/Women’s Studies Minor from St Catherine University, St Paul Minnesota and is currently a Masters of Public Affairs and Leadership candidate at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in Minnesota.

Born and raised in Harare Zimbabwe, Comfort is a first generation immigrant to the United States, I work closely to create collaborations among African Immigrants and Refugees throughout the U.S.Past professional experiences, include: Researcher for the Zimbabwe Vitamin A for Mothers (ZVITAMBO) a USAID’s Infant and Young Children’s Nutrition Project. Nutritional Counselor for the Hennepin County WIC program in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Community Health Worker for Portico Health Net, a non-profit agency that works on Health Insurance Access. Currently the Underserved and Marginalized Communities Empowerment Coordinator for the Iowa Coalition against Domestic Violence. I am currently the Ambassador of Zim first, an opposition political party that was formulated in response to the current toxic political situation in Zimbabwe-born as a result of rampant corruption, lack of rule of law, financial meltdown, and lack of basic human rights and need. I currently represent the people of Zimbabwe at the United Nations and work closely with UN Women and the United Nations Foundation.

An active member of WILL and WAND Women’s Legislators Lobbying, which works to empower women to act politically to reduce violence and militarism.


Megan Evans, Campaign Director, Terra Strategies


Megan Evans, a Des Moines native and Roosevelt Rough Rider alum, is the Campaign Director for Family Friendly Iowa. A project of Progress Iowa and SEIU through Terra Strategies, Megan leads a team across the state to help ensure Iowans have every opportunity to succeed, and that strong support is shown for presidential candidates who support issues like quality, affordable long-term care, childcare and raising the minimum wage. Megan began her career in politics eight years ago as a precinct captain for then Sen. Barack Obama. Despite the long hours, pizza overloads and hours a day on the phone, she was hooked. After traveling to different states for both of Obama’s campaigns, and projects in New York and Miami, she made her way back to Des Moines and worked with issue organizations on causes like the Affordable Care Act, equal pay for equal work and elevating the issue of climate change. Issue organizing became a passion, and particularly in Iowa, became a way to help engage people who otherwise may not have become an active participant in the political process. In her free time, Megan enjoys spending time with her family, dog Fez and being an aunt to the always adorable twins, Cora and Crosby. She is also a freelance makeup artist, and always willing to help update a friend’s wardrobe with some great consignment finds.



Cicely Gordon, Humane Education Coordinator, Animal Rescue League of Iowa


Cicely Gordon is the first full time Humane Education Coordinator hired on to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, the state’s largest non-profit animal shelter. The ARL serves thousands of animals through sheltering and community outreach. The organization also serves people and pets through its programs, which include pet adoption, humane education, pet behavior training, spay/neuter, animal cruelty intervention and much more. In developing her role as humane educator, Cicely creates program curriculum that encourages kindness, respect, and empathy toward people, animals and the environment. Her goal is to provide opportunities that help shape an informed, conscious, and caring generation of animal lovers with tools they need to develop and foster humane attitudes and behavior. Her favorite part about her job is seeing how the human-animal bond connects people from diverse backgrounds. She is devoted to a humane lifestyle and acts as guardian to two cats named Sochi and Valentino and two dogs named Foxy and Buni. Foxy takes on the role of humane education ambassador and can be seen giving kisses and accepting pets from kids throughout the Des Moines area. Cicely is a proud cyclone fan. She holds a degree in Journalism from Iowa State University. She has also completed the Certified Humane Education Specialist program through the Humane Society of the United States. In her spare time, Cicely enjoys painting, crafting, and being outdoors. She works part-time as a freelance makeup artist.


Courtney Guntly, Case Manager, Central Iowa Shelter & Services


Courtney Guntly is currently a case manager at Central Iowa Shelter & Services. After graduating with her Bachelors in Social Work from Luther College in 2012, Courtney moved to Wilmington, Delaware for a year of volunteer service through Lutheran Volunteer Corps. During her year of service, she engaged in many conversations about social justice with other volunteers and was inspired to focus her work on social justice topics including environmental justice and equality. Courtney returned home to Des Moines after her year of service was completed and began working at Central Iowa Shelter & Services, where she works with individuals experiencing homelessness to establish goals and work towards self-sufficiency. Growing up in West Des Moines, Courtney was very involved with her community. She continues to be involved in the youth department at West Des Moines Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as the Youth Department Chair. Courtney is also the Central Branch chair of the National Association of Social Workers, Iowa Chapter. When she gets some rare free time, Courtney enjoys staying active, baking cupcakes, and adventuring around Des Moines.


Matt Hauge, Communications & Marketing Director, Community Housing Initiatives, Inc.


Matt Hauge is the Communications & Marketing Director for Community Housing Initiatives, Inc., a nonprofit community development organization that has delivered affordable housing solutions for more than 30 Iowa communities. In that role, Matt supervises marketing for CHI’s rental portfolio of approximately 1,500 units and communicates the importance of affordable housing to creating Iowa neighborhoods and communities that are desirable, vibrant places to live. He also supervises the organization’s IT infrastructure and a coordinates a team preparing new services for residents like online payment and maintenance requests. Matt volunteers as the nonprofit relations specialist for the dsmHack, a unique “hackathon” event where Greater Des Moines’ IT community unites to help nonprofits solve problems and realize project ideas. Previously, he was the Communications & Outreach Director for the Iowa Environmental Council where he coordinated the organization’s annual conference and lobby day, grassroots lobbying efforts and supporter communications, and built momentum for protecting rivers and lakes and growing Iowa’s clean energy industry. A native Iowan, Matt received his BA in journalism and American studies from the University of Iowa and a masters degree in public affairs from the Truman School of Public Affairs in Columbia, Missouri.


Josh Hellyer, Policy and Communications Coordinator, Polk County Housing Trust Fund


Josh Hellyer is the Policy and Communications Coordinator at the Polk County Housing Trust Fund (PCHTF). PCHTF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to planning, funding, and advocating for affordable housing in Polk County and beyond. In his role, Josh is primarily responsible for PCHTF’s planning and research work and for its marketing and communications. He also assists with graphic design, event planning, grant writing, and various other tasks as needed to support the mission of this small but mighty organization. In his largest project to date, Josh managed the creation of Housing Tomorrow, Central Iowa’s first-ever regional plan for housing. Josh was born and raised in Coralville, Iowa, just outside Iowa City. He betrayed his Hawkeye-loving hometown by attending Iowa State University, where he graduated in 2013 with degrees in Community and Regional Planning and French. While a student at ISU, Josh worked as an undergraduate research assistant writing about a variety of planning topics, from U.S. regional government to Brazilian social assistance programs. In his free time, Josh is usually doing something related to music, whether it be perusing the shelves of a local record store, reading music blogs, going to concerts, or playing the piano. He is also a Netflix connoisseur, a decent cook, and an awful handyman.


Heather Jones, Blogger, Square Bear Streetwear


Heather Jones is a Des Moines native, graduating from East High School in 2002. Over the last four years she resided in Tokyo, Japan teaching English to students ranging from elementary school through retirees. Recently relocated back to the Des Moines area, she is interested in racial justice and LGBTQ rights. Throughout college, Heather was a member of Unity Organization which taught students about diversity, systemic racism, and Black history. This is where her interest in racial justice started and has continued to this day with her blog and, most recently, a discussion group in Des Moines. Heather’s post-college career has ranged from customer service to teaching. She has worked for the YMCA of Greater Des Moines on and off since 1997 when she first started working at Y-Camp. She has also worked for the former Riverfront YMCA and currently the John R. Grubb YMCA. Heather believes that the YMCA is one of the best non-profit organizations that constantly strengthens communities throughout the world. Heather also believes that travel not only opens doors, but changes your life. Since first traveling abroad in junior high school she has been to 12 different countries. Living in Tokyo also allowed Heather to work with people from all over the world. She believes that by allowing yourself to experience new places and people your worldview will not only become more well-rounded, but generally be more awesome. Heather is currently blogging for the up and coming streetwear brand, Square Bear, and will be starting with Boys and Girls Club in Spring 2016. She could not be more excited about being a 2016 New Leaders Council Fellow and is looking forward to learning from her mentor and associate fellows.


Mandy McWherter, Marketing Coordinator, Conference Event Management


Mandy McWherter is currently a student at Drake University planning to graduate in May 2016 with a Master’s of Business Administration and an emphasis in Executive Development. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from, Iowa State University in Business Management, then immediately came back to the Des Moines area where she grew up. Professionally, she is the Marketing Coordinator for CEM, an events management company in West Des Moines, promoting CEM’s services and building relationships with clients. In 2015 she spearheaded an effort to convert all sales processes over to a new CRM system and developed a client relationship analysis program. Mandy believes in expressing her values through volunteering and serving others. For the past three years, Mandy has been involved in the Greater Des Moines Young Professionals Connection and served on the volunteer board in 2015 as the Professional Development Chair designing events that connect YPC members to area leaders and offering opportunities to build interpersonal skills. She looks forward to serving the membership again in 2016 as the Community Relations Chair leading three coordinators and working on special projects to support YPC’s goals of engaging and retaining young professionals in central Iowa. Mandy volunteers regularly as a canvasser for the Hillary Clinton Campaign and enjoys speaking with her friends and neighbors about the importance of the democratic caucus and sharing Hillary's values and vision for America. Mandy is particularly passionate about women’s and children’s issues and ensuring affordable higher education. Personally, Mandy is an avid reader, Netflix enthusiast, and enjoys playing at the dog park with her lab, Penny. Whenever she has a free weekend, you can find Mandy at Lake of the Ozarks visiting her parents and boating or hanging out at the pool. In Des Moines, she loves experiencing all that the metro has to offer through cultural festivals, a rich arts and music scene, and the warm and friendly people.


Jordan Murphy, Crisis Support Specialist, Candeo

desmoines-Murphy__Jordan.JPGJordan Murphy is a crisis support specialist and mental health instructor at Candeo.  Jordan moved to Des Moines in 2005 to study Sociology at Drake University.  While at Drake, Jordan fulfilled his lifelong dream of being a small-time radio DJ on a low-powered college station.  Jordan picked up management skills working at a national bank, while using weekends to volunteer with Food Not Bombs.  Jordan developed cooking prowess and a love for community outreach with FNB, then toured 24 cities in 10 states on a campaign to defend the Clean Air Act.  Jordan left Des Moines to direct an office fighting against carbon pollution with Environment Ohio, served as Deputy Regional Canvass Director in Nevada for the 2012 election, and then was a Regional Organizer for middle class tax issues with Texas Fair Share.  In 2013, Jordan returned to Des Moines and joined Candeo, a non-profit organization that supports adults with disabilities to live and work independently.  Jordan has specialized in supporting individuals with mental health diagnoses, and is part of an internal crisis team that is available to all clients and direct staff.  Jordan can’t keep out of community organizing, most notably working to end poverty and hunger as lead organizer for Iowa Oxfam Action Corps.  The Oxfam Action Corps is a grassroots effort to stand up to poverty, hunger, and injustice around the world, supporting policies that will save lives, defend the rights of women and farmers, and protect communities worldwide from rising food prices and climate change.  When not serving the community, Jordan is likely riding local bike trails, camping, or going to a concert.


Claire Richmond, Healthy Homes East Bank Project Manager, Polk County Housing Trust Fund

desmoines-Richmond__Claire.jpegClaire Richmond is a graphic design and community development professional, specializing in cross-sector collaboration to improve health. She received her M.P.H. in community and behavioral health and her M.S. in urban planning from the University of Iowa. She is the project manager of Healthy Homes East Bank, a coalition of non-profit and hospital partners focused on minimizing determinants of pediatric asthma in Des Moines. Richmond is the founder of Clarified Design, a business that seeks to engage and enlighten citizens by creating visuals for complex community issues. She serves on the board of the Des Moines Health Center and chairs the Greater Des Moines Age-Friendly City Infrastructure Committee. In her free time, she stays active by coaching at Fleet Feet Sports Des Moines and training for races across Iowa.



Hector Salamanca Arroyo, Presidential Campaign Project Grassroots Engagement Coordinator,
American Friends Service Committee

desmoines-Salamanca_Arroyo__Hector.jpgOriginally from Puebla, Mexico, Hector has been an Iowa native for the past twenty years, and graduated from Drake University with a BA in Law, Politics and Society in May of 2015, becoming the first in his family to hold a four year degree from the United States. He has interned for Organizing for America (OFA), AFSC’s Immigrant Voice Program, and has volunteered with AFSC’s Legal Services Program, as well as creating an organization at his university aimed at addressing tuition equity and access to higher education for undocumented immigrants. He is also a member of the Iowa Student Power Network (ISPN) and has worked closely with the United States Student Association (USSA) in highlighting student issues in Iowa. 



Josh Skipworth, State Director, The Humane Society of the United States


A Texan by birth, Josh moved to Iowa in 2006 with his mother and brother and decided to stick around. During college, Josh became a Netflix connoisseur and obtained his degree in History with an emphasis in the American Civil War from Iowa State. He remains a dyed in the wool Cyclone. After graduating, Josh worked as the Regional Field Director for the League of Conservation Voters, overseeing outreach and organizing for the IA-3rd and IA-4th congressional districts. Recently, Josh began a job as the Iowa Director for the Humane Society of the United States, a national non-profit seeking a more humane world for people and animals alike. During his free-time, Josh enjoys cooking, dragging his wife to various battlefields around the country, and collecting way too many books.



Zach Steele, Employment Training Specialist, Central Iowa Works


Zach is the Employment Training Specialist for Central Iowa Works, where he trains individuals to enter the logistics field. Over a nine-week period individuals, many of whom have some barrier to employment, participate in workplace readiness training, receive industry recognized certifications, and participate in workplace simulation. Prior to this Zach worked at Easter Seals of Iowa, developing Project SEARCH DMACC, a nine month internship program and Supported Education, which helped individuals with disabilities access higher education. Zach is currently enrolled in Drake University’s Masters of Public Administration program, with a Public Policy focus and will graduate in May of 2016. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Iowa. During his final semester Zach discovered his passion for travel by studying abroad in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Since then, Zach has visited Europe, Indonesia and traveled extensively in Latin America, including two months volunteering in a school in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Ecuador. Zach has completed three marathons and in 2010 was a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, winning $15,000. In his free time, Zach enjoys biking throughout Central Iowa’s extensive trail system, playing basketball and spending time with his girlfriend.


Mazie Stilwell, Campaigns & Elections Field Staff, National Education Association


An Iowan born and raised, Mazie has called Des Moines home for the past fifteen years. She is actively involved in varying levels of politics, both personally and professionally. Mazie works for the National Education Association, the nation's largest labor union, as a member of the Campaigns & Elections Field Staff through the 2016 election. Through this work, she is able to engage 34,000 Iowa educators in the first-in-the-nation caucuses and ensure the prominence of public education issues. Mazie is a proud alumnus of the University of Iowa, where she earned a Bachelors in Social Work and a certificate in Critical Cultural Competence. While completing her degree, she interned for the Iowa Department on Aging and helped form the Lifespan Respite Coalition. After graduation, Mazie led The Arc of Iowa, a disability policy nonprofit, then joined Planned Parenthood of the Heartland as a statewide organizer. In 2014 she was recognized by Dawn's List with the "Rising Star" award. In her free time, Mazie enjoys exploring all that Des Moines has to offer with her husband, Matt. She looks forward to learning from the diverse experiences of her NLC cohort and graduating an enhanced leader.