Our Staff

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Miya Davis

Administrative Director

Miya is a student at Drake University working towards a bachelor's degree in International Relations with minors in Human Rights Studies and Japanese. She grew up in rural Iowa where in high school she participated in theater and choir.  She became a part of Please Pass the Love through their sub-group Teens for L.O.V.E. In April of 2018, Miya attended the Youth Leadership Summit hosted at Camp Sacajawea. This is an experience she says helped change her life and made her realize what she wants to do with her life.

 

Miya hopes to undo the mental health stigma in schools all across the world and she wants to make schools a safer place for those who do suffer from mental health issues. This is a topic near and dear to her heart. She also hopes to help elevate the voices of our youth to help them make the changes in their schools. Most of all she wants to be able to share her story and inspire others as they have done for her.

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Jennifer Ulie-Wells, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Dr. Jennifer Ulie-Wells, finished her Ph.D. 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 is a professor at Drake University. In 2018, she launched an online school mental health program in collaboration with Drake University and Iowa State Education Association (ISEA). She actively engages 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. 

Curriculum Vitae: 

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Jessica Christensen

Director of Community Development and Training

Jessica has been in education for 12 years as an English-Language Arts and Reading teacher. She received her undergrad degree from Iowa State University in secondary English education, and she also attained her master’s degree in Differentiated Instruction through Graceland University. As a native from Central Iowa, Jessica has always had a passion for working with youth, especially when it comes to their social-emotional learning and impacting their mental health. This desire to serve youth increased exponentially when she began the role of Student Success Coach at Riverbend Middle School during the 2019-2020 school year. While in that position, she saw firsthand how one trusted adult can impact a child in need and help them to see themselves as a whole human being. 

 

Through working in the public school system for over a decade, Jessica has seen an increase in education and advocacy for our students’ social-emotional learning and student mental health. She is passionate about helping educators and students learn more about how to support their own mental health needs, and therefore, have more to give in supporting others’ needs. Jessica is excited to move her impact from her little corner of small-town Iowa Falls to the state of Iowa, guiding, supporting, and mentoring educators to recognize the importance of student mental health and social emotional learning in their classrooms and schools. Jessica loves to learn, and thoroughly loves new challenges in her professional life. 

 

Jessica lives in Alden with her husband, Lee, and their four children: Kieser, Hattie, Matilda, and Everett. As a family, they love to go camping, go on family bike rides, and have family movie nights in their basement. In her free time, Jessica loves to read, go for walks, and spend time with her family and friends.

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Anna Banfield

AmeriCorps VISTA -Youth Programming Coordinator 

Anna Bandfield grew up in Marion, Iowa. She graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 2020 with degrees in public health and psychology. After graduation, she served in AmeriCorps as a community garden manager and ran a food access program in Waterloo, Iowa. Anna’s passion for helping people has led her to serve a second AmeriCorps term with Please Pass the Love as a youth program coordinator.

 

Offering support to youth who may be struggling with mental health is near to Anna’s heart. In 2015, she had the opportunity to share her story in a This is My Brave show. She hopes to be a safe space for those who need someone to listen.

 

Outside of work, Anna loves to cross-stitch, write, and spend time outside hiking and rollerblading. She’s grateful to be living and working in Des Moines with an amazing team of individuals.

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Ivania Gabriela Guerra Ceron 

Director of Youth Engagement

She/Her/Ella 

Incoming Director of Youth Engagement

Owner, L & Co. Cleaning LLC. 

Tri-Chair, Iowa Queer Communities of Color Coalition 

 

Ivania Guerra Ceron also known as Gabby is a proud immigrant from Santa Ana, El Salvador. In 2002, she and her family were forced to immigrate to Iowa due to the violent and impoverished conditions in El Salvador. Gabby grew up in Des Moines and faced many challenges in learning a new language and navigating a different culture. Gabby found support in family, friends, and teachers who believed in her potential. 

 

A proud graduate of the public-school system and alumna of North High School, one of Gabby’s passions is providing access to quality education for minoritized communities. She is a believer in hard work combined with access to opportunities; Ivania was blessed to attend the University of Iowa on a full-ride scholarship. As a first-generation student, she graduated with a Bachelor's in Ethics and Public policy, a minor in Latinx Studies, and a certificate in Nonprofit Management.

 

Gabby previously served as the Assistant Director for Al Éxito. Al Éxito supports Latinx students through afterschool programming geared to build their leadership potential. She is the incoming Director of Youth Engagement for Please Pass the Love where they advance school mental health supports. She serves as the Tri-Chair for a new community organization, Iowa Queer Communities of Color Coalition. Gabby completed a fellowship with the Des Moines Chapter of New Leaders Council and served as Recruitment Director on the Board of Directors. She is the proud small business owner of a residential cleaning business called L & Co. Cleaning LLC. She is passionate about finding ways to create a more inclusive community in Des Moines for people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, immigrants, and amplifying youth voices. 

Mikala Williams-Yee 
Americorps Planning Coordinator/SOS Coordinator

Born and raised in Iowa, Mikala is a 2019 Simpson College graduate with a degree in chemistry and mathematics and a minor in French.

 

Mikala is very excited to join us at Please Pass the Love. She views the opportunity as a chance to grow, connect, and learn alongside those around her. She is passionate about mental health awareness and understands the desperate need we have in our communities. She became aware of issues and disparities with mental health education at a young age and did not feel that there were adequate resources for students in her childhood hometown. She hopes organizations like Please Pass the Love can help change that.

 

Mikala previously served in the Pacific Region in AmeriCorps NCCC and currently works as an AmeriCorps VISTA leader with Volunteer Iowa. She hopes to continue her role as a mentor for people of all ages and plans to work in the field of 1-on-1 instruction. Mikala has recently obtained her certification in teaching English as a foreign language and teaching English to speakers of other languages (TEFL/TESOL).

 

In her free time, you can find Mikala practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu, swimming, and exploring new foods, places, hobbies, and languages.

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Cindy Stanbro

Director of Development

For 20 years Cindy has had the honor of working alongside community members in the nonprofit sector to serve communities. She has raised statewide support for local musicians and brought awareness to the benefits of live music, fundraised for and produced hundreds of live theatre productions and educational programming in multiple states, assisted executives in a nationwide public charity to help end Alzheimer’s disease, and made the arts accessible to those in rural Iowa.

Although Cindy has lived in MN, CT, NY, and PA; IA is and always will be her home. Born and raised in Davenport, Cindy met her husband Jason howling over the fence at her dog and the rest was history. Having recently moved back to IA from PA with their 13-year-old daughter Anna, the Stanbros are happy to be back home.

Over the past two decades Cindy has raised funds for healthcare, the arts, and education; taught ages 4-84 in arts-based programming; graced the stage as an actress in schools across the Midwest to teach students about violence, respect, harassment, drugs, and the environment; worked behind the scenes as a director and stage manager; led two capital campaigns; helped start an after-school program; and founded a 501(c)(3) theatre with her husband Jason. Cindy’s entrepreneurial spirit and passion to help improve her community drives everything she does. In her free time, she enjoys walking, laughing, and sunshine.

Cindy is thrilled to be a part of the mission of Please Pass The Love and help improve the quality of life for young people in Iowa. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we all could use a little more love.

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Doyinsola Aluko

Director of Marketing

Born in Namibia but raised in Nigeria and Ethiopia,  Doyinsola got her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in Spanish, and master’s degree in Public Health (Healthcare Organization and Policy: Maternal and Child Health Leadership and Policy) from the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

 

Doyinsola is particularly passionate about helping others in a way that the effect lasts long after the help has been given. She strongly believes that true help shouldn’t end when the helper has left and that creating sustainable ways for people to eventually help themselves is the way the world can continue being a better place; hence, to her, this is the true meaning of “passing the love.”

 

She is also very passionate about mental health and finding ways to improve the already existing mental healthcare system. Her future plans include becoming a clinical psychologist and having her own private practice. She believes that with her background in Public Health and knowledge of how policies are made, she can really join forces with others to improve the system in place.

 

When Doyinsola isn’t reading about a new psychological phenomenon, she is either reading a novel or random fact, singing any song that comes to her mind, writing poems and songs, or just taking a walk.

Our Board Members 

Maggie WhitePresident, Senior Corporate Legal Counsel, EMC Insurance 

Martha Lebron-Dykeman, Vice President, CRS Berkshire Hathaway Home Services 

Jim Nelson, Treasurer, Accounting Director at FBL Financial Group  

Sara Krzyczkowski, Secretary, Assistant Vice President of Wells Fargo with Default Accounts Payable Department 

Catie Bach, Data Analyst at Eurofins 

Jean Boger, School Social Worker at Heartland AEA 

Chris Cuellar, Communications Director at Iowa High School Athletic Association 

Christina Fernandez-Morrow, DMACC, Academic Sucess Coach and Writing Specialist: TRIO Student Support Services, Adjunct Professor 

Amanda Khader, School Psychologist at Heartland AEA

Michael Lewis, Principal at Shive Hattery 

Mary Sheka, Iowa Mentoring Partnership Director, Volunteer Iowa 

Jasmine Simpson, Teacher at Lincoln High School 

Jennifer Stimson, Director of Blank Children's STAR Center & Developmental Center

Stacey Warren, SEBMH Regional Lead at Heartland AEA

Sara Wise, Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Iowa/Mid-America MHTTC

Adult Youth Programming Advisory Board

Emily Chyma, Social Studies Teacher/Head Varsity Girls Track Coach/Student Council Advisor, South Tama County High School in Tama, IA.

Jack Schuler

Val Stickler, Elementary School Counselor at Atlantic Community Schools 

Vic Vanderpool, Principal at Gilbert High School

Amy Ziegenhorn, Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Shara Bradley, Psycholoy Assistant at DHS Iowa