Board of Directors
Jennifer Ulie-Wells, PhD
Executive Director of Please Pass the Love
Dr. Jennifer Ulie-Wells, PhD, finished from Iowa State University in Education with certifications in mental health and social justice. She has been in education for over 20 years as a special educator. In 2013, she founded Please Pass the Love Youth Mental Health Initiative which provides systemic training and support for thousands of educators, schools, and districts across Iowa while hosting the only school mental health conference in the state.
Each year Dr. Ulie-Wells trains thousands of educators, young people, families, and community providers on a variety of school mental health (SMH) topics. She works for Drake University as an adjunct professor. In 2018, she launched an online school mental health program in collaboration with Drake University and Iowa State Education Association (ISEA). She actively engage in national school mental health capacities including the National School Mental Health State Summit with leaders of federal agencies such as SAMHSA, HHS, HRSA, DOE, DOJ, and the University of Maryland Center for School Mental Health. She is a member of SMH communities of practices and the national Family School Community Alliance with scholars from across the nation.
She has served on a variety of behavioral health related state committees with the Iowa Department of Education and is a Iowa Family Leadership Training Institute Mentor through the University of Iowa, Department of Pediatrics. Her research focuses on racial and marginalized trauma as school mental health, and she has pending publications. She is also a West Des Moines School Board member.
She is passionate about improving the quality of life and educational opportunities for children, families, and educators as well as offer more comprehensive services and supports to school systems. She strives to bridge positive relationships between the educational and mental health communities to more effectively prevent and address mental health issues for our children and adolescents throughout the state of Iowa.
Aside from her determination to fight the stigma of mental wellness and advocating for Iowa’s children, families and schools, her number one priority are her two inspiring children and two puppies. They enjoy traveling together and family game nights. Jen’s other passions are art, music, bicycling and most anything outdoors.
Attorney at Whitfield & Eddy Law Firm in Des Moines, IA
Tyler is known for his approachable demeanor and awareness of the many factors that come into play in each case. Tyler's community involvement includes serving on a non-profit board that was ranked on the Business Record's Book of Lists as one of the top 25 most influential boards in the Des Moines metro area and the Downtown Des Moines Chamber of Commerce. He regularly provides media outlets and professional organizations with commentary on Iowa Law. Among Tyler's many accomplishments are speaking at the Iowa Mental Health Counselors Association 13th Annual Conference, Keynote Speaker at the Central Iowa Supervision Partnership Fall Conference, and is an Adjunct Professor at Drake Law School.
Tyler is a mental health advocate at heart who serves all his clients in a thoughtful and caring way when they are going through a difficult and stressful time.
Teacher at Johnston Community School District
Dawn Carico has been an educator for Des Moines Public Schools and Johnston Community School District. She currently is a Title 1 Reading Specialist for Horizon Elementary in Johnston. Dawn serves on the board for Cameron Carico +10 Foundation, in addition to, Please Pass the Love. She also has been a board member for Teammates Mentoring Program and a Teammates mentor. Dawn has also volunteered at Oakwood United Methodist Church and Bible Study Fellowship. Dawn enjoyed volunteering for the Johnston Partnership Summer Lunch Program and Back to School Clinic. Dawn is the mother of Cameron and Kate and the wife of Brian Carico. In her spare time, Dawn loves to spend
time with her family, cheer on the St. Louis Cardinals and Iowa State Cyclones, and take walks with her husband Brian and two boxers.
Accounting Director at FBL Financial Group
Jim Nelson is an Accounting Director at FBL Financial Group, Inc. Prior to Joining FBL Financial Group, Inc. in 2003, Jim worked in public accounting for KPMG, LLP and the Office of the Auditor of State of Iowa. Jim is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting. Jim is a certified public accountant and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants. I began working with Please Pass the Love in 2017. I continue to serve on the Board of Please Pass the Love as I recognize the importance and benefits of having strong mental health processes within our schools and am excited about the great things Please Pass the Love is doing to improve our schools processes.
Senior Vice President President, Chief Human Resource Officer
Elizabeth Nigut is the Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resource Officer at EMC Insurance Companies. She is responsible for creating people strategies aligned to achieve business results, specifically in the areas of succession planning, talent management, organizational and performance management, recruiting and retention, learning and development, compensation, benefits and wellness.
Prior to working at EMC, Ms. Nigut served as the general counsel for the Des Moines Independent Community School District, Iowa’s largest school district. She provided legal
guidance and counsel to the school board and district’s administration, managed the district’s litigation and internal investigations, and assisted in collective bargaining negotiations and grievance processes. Ms. Nigut previously was in private practice with the law firm of Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor and Fairgrave, P.C. for over thirteen years where she focused on employment law, insurance defense litigation, and insurance coverage analysis. Ms. Nigut grew up in Des Moines, received her B.A. degree cum laude from Simpson College, and her J.D. degree from Drake University. She currently sits on the Board of Directors for Iowa State Bank, and Please Pass the Love, a non- profit organization that empowers school communities to embrace and sustain mental health
and wellness supports for their students.
Mary Sheka works at Volunteer Iowa, the state service commission, as the director of the Iowa Mentoring Partnership supporting youth mentoring programs across the state. She has worked with and been an advocate for young people throughout her career in the fields of K-12 and higher education, counseling, public policy, and state government. Her volunteer service includes work with several youth-serving nonprofits including Iowa Homeless Youth Centers, Please Pass the Love, and Children and Family Urban Movement. Mary tries to have as much fun as possible with family and friends and is passionate about traveling, reading, biking, running, attending live music events, connecting to nature, and the oxford comma.
Assistant Vice President of Wells Fargo with the Default Accounts Payable Department
While Sara still thinks of herself as recent transplant to Des Moines, she moved here from Michigan in 2002, and finally feels like she knows most of the good restaurants in the metro. Sara spent 9 years as a middle school teacher, holds multiple degrees in educational research and policy, and is a proud alumni of Michigan State University, Drake University, and Iowa State University. While she is no longer an active educator, Sara is a longtime proponent of education and mental health supports for teachers, students, and families, recognizing that all three are critical components for student success inside and outside the classroom.
Sara believes firmly in the criticality of giving back to the community, and she is involved in several organizations and activities that do so, including Puppy Jake Foundation, Special Olympics, Stand Down for Homeless Vets and is a member of the United Way's Educational Leadership Initiative and Women United. She is thrilled to be part of Please Pass the Love, which has such a positive message and impact for students, teachers, and staff across the Midwest. Until all students have easy access to the mental health education and support they need to be successful, it is important that organizations like PPTL are there to support both the students and the educators/communities who support them.
Principal at Ames High School
Brian Carico has been a school administrator in Central Iowa for the past 21 years. He has served on the board of directors for Youth Homes of Mid-America, Johnston Little League, and active participant for the Cameron Carico +10 Foundation. Brian has also served as a volunteer coach for Johnston Little League, Des Moines Southside YMCA, and AAU baseball. Brian has served on several state wide committees for youth mental health and is a nationally certified Youth Mental Health First Aid Trainer. Brian is the proud father of Kate and Cameron Carico and the husband of Dawn Carico.
Manager of Corporate Health at Meredith Corporation
Marci Cordaro, RN, MSN is the Manager of Corporate Health at Meredith Corporation in Des Moines. Marci has been a Johnston Community School District Board of Education member from 2009-2017 and is currently a parent volunteer. Marci also acts as a nurse volunteer for Free Clinics of Iowa and as a board member and coach for the Johnston Running Club. During her time on the school board in Johnston, they had multiple student deaths by suicide. This impacted the entire community, and Marci really wanted to find a way to contribute, help and make a difference. She got to know Jen and her mission through a mutual friend (Brian Carico) and was so happy to be able to join in this important work! Much of her work as a nurse has been in community health, and Marci spent many years working in educational settings. She has seen nurses, educators, staff, families and students searching for resources, supports and training related to mental health. She believes Please Pass the Love is an important resource for communities to provide support, fight stigma and make change in the area of mental health. In her free time, Marci enjoys spending time with family, running, reading, watching Netflix, and knitting!
Director, Annuity Product Marketing Principal Financial
Director, Annuity Product Marketing Principal Financial
Tracey Clavell is a Marketing Director in the Retirement and Income Solutions division at Principal and has been in the marketing field for over 25 years. She leads a team focused on
creating strategic marketing plans, assets and promotional materials to help individuals save enough so they have enough in retirement. Tracey is a Des Moines native and proud alumnus of East High School. She holds Bachelor of
Arts degrees in International Management and French from Central College in Pella, Iowa. During college she developed a passion for travel and had the opportunity to attend the
University of Paris for several months and traveled throughout Europe. She is passionate about developing our youth and has been actively involved in a local preschool board, parent organizations and committees during her children’s school years. As they become more independent, she’s looking for other ways to help our youth, such as serving
on the board and as Secretary of Please Pass the Love. Witnessing her close friends lose an amazing son to suicide heightened her awareness on the lack of knowledge, resources and services available regarding mental health issues for our children and adolescents. Tracey lives in Indianola, Iowa with her three children. She is savoring the days of attending sporting events, school activities and watching teenagers enter and leave her home. When her
children are busy doing their own thing, she and her fiancé enjoy traveling, camping, bicycling, binge watching their favorite shows and attending as many live music events as possible.
Vice President at Hamilton's Funeral and Afterlife Services
Sasha J. Mudlaff, M.A. is the Grief Consultant for Hamilton’s Academy of Grief & Loss where she specializes in working with grieving children, having done so for over 25 years. She has been with Hamilton's Funeral Home since 1993 as third generation owner/employee in the family business, currently serving as the company’s vice president. Sasha received her undergraduate degree in psychology from Cornell College in Mt. Vernon Iowa (1989) and her master’s degree in developmental psychology from Columbia University in New York (1991). Sasha co-founded Hamilton’s Academy of Grief & Loss, a division of Hamilton’s Funeral Home in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1996. The Academy provides grief-related education, resources and support services in central Iowa as well as throughout the state. Sasha served as the Academy’s full-time director until August of 2004, when she transitioned to her home office and the positions of grief consultant and stay-at-home-mom. In 2010, she began the transition back to her full-time capacity where she works alongside her sister, Holly Peterson Miller, running the family business. Her involvement with Hamilton’s Academy of Grief amd Loss as Grief Consultant continues today. In addition to grief consultant to the Academy, Sasha is very involved with schools throughout the state of Iowa, providing student support, education, teacher training and crisis support. She is frequently called upon to provide presentations, training and education on the topics of grief, loss and trauma to a
variety of agencies locally as well as across the country.
Sasha is past-president of Women’s Reciprocity Group of Des Moines. She also serves on the board for Please Pass the Love, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping to improve the quality of life for young people struggling with mental illness through education and support to the youth, their families,
their schools and their community. Other memberships include: Association of Death Education and Counseling, National Alliance for Grieving Children and the National Funeral Directors Association. She has co-authored three children’s grief books: Molly’s Mom Died, Sam’s Dad Died and A Terrible Thing Happened, and written several afterwards for other books focused on helping children. Sasha and her husband Michael (lead pastor of Westkirk Presbyterian Church in Urbandale, IA) live in Clive, Iowa and have four amazing boys: Micah, Jonah, Nathanael and Isaiah.
Principal at Shive Hattery
Michael is a Team Leader / Principal at Shive-Hattery with a focus on Civic / Public Architecture in the institutional civic-governmental and educational sectors. He has a wide variety of community service experience providing leadership and support to non-profits as a mentor / coach, as well as, through services on boards and in rotary. Born and raised in Lincoln, NE, Michael graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1989 with a master’s degree in architecture. He moved to Tampa, Florida in 1991 to lead / manage a new business initiative focused on addressing the needs of institutional populations by creating supportive environments.
He moved to Des Moines, Iowa in 1996 with his family, where he worked as an Office Director until 2012 for two nationally recognized Architecture-Engineering firms at which time Michael and a ten member team joined Shive-Hattery, in their West Des Moines, IA location to continue to deliver design services that support community betterment. Having worked extensively throughout the United States of America while delivering public sector educational and governmental projects throughout his professional career, a consistency in approach and a philosophy has emerged. Creating environments that support, adapt, and strengthen community well-being is of vital importance. Michael is very passionate about mental health. He has been an integral part of planning of facilities that support behavioral and mental health services across the continuum of care. Through dedication to working across the full spectrum of education, healthcare and governmental services areas, supporting the needs of career service providers and those whose voice is not always easily heard is of significant focus. He realizes the need to get better access to mental health services: to deliver the right service, at the right place, at the right time, by well-trained advocates is critical. Getting more mental health supports in educational environments is a key to the delivery of, and advocacy for systemic improvement and positive change. Michael lives in West Des Moines with his family. Spending time with family locally, traveling to be with and support two college aged children, and another involved in Teach for America round-out activities outside of Michael’s areas of community interest, and professional development. All are extremely enjoyable activities.
Not Pictured: Justin Andersen
Advisors to the Board
Teree Caldwell-Johnson CEO, Oakridge Neighborhood
Dr. Sasha Khosravi Medical Director Mercy Pediatric Neurology & Psychiatry Center, Mercy Hospital
Join the Please Pass the Love Board!
Please Pass the Love now has openings available to join the Board of Directors. PPTL are national award winners for their work to increase school mental health systems and supports through education, leadership, and advocacy.
We seek board members committed to youth mental health and who are willing to grow and learn with us. We strongly encourage persons with fundraising backgrounds to apply.