2018 LGBTQ Leadership Institute Class

Photo Credit: Jami Milne

Jordan Allen, Des Moines University Medical Student

An Iowa transplant, Jordan Allen moved to Des Moines a little over a year ago to attend medical school at Des Moines University. From a young age his dream was to become a doctor, but it wasn’t until classes started that he discovered his passion for LGBTQ health and advocacy. He hopes to become a pediatrician so he can help address the shortage of physicians providing transition services to trans youth.

As a student, Jordan is involved with social justice and advocacy efforts. Serving as President of DMU’s LGBTQ advocacy group, Pride Alliance, his proudest accomplishment is being instrumental in creating the TransHealth series at DMU. The series provided expert education to over one hundred health profession students and providers.

Recently, Jordan had the opportunity to represent DMU students on the national level, helping pass policy that would position osteopathic medical professionals to support comprehensive immigration reform, sexual assault survivors’ rights, and transgender individuals in the military.

In his free time, Jordan enjoys Broadway musicals, attending concerts, going to drag shows, traveling, and playing the clarinet.

Mindy Begenat, Wells Fargo

Mindy Begenat joined Wells Fargo in 2012 and works as a quality assurance analyst. She also serves as chair of the company’s Pride Team Member Network Iowa Chapter. Although the two roles require very different hats, they both allow her to focus on what she’s truly passionate about: helping others develop and grow. During the school year, she enjoys mentoring second and third grade students weekly to help nurture their love of reading.

In her free time, Mindy enjoys writing, traveling with her wife, attending concerts, and spending time with her dog (Archie), cat (Dary) and guinea pig (Usnavi).

Emily Brown, UnityPoint Health – Des Moines

Emily Brown is a Des Moines native with an undergraduate degree in psychology from Grand View University and will finish up her Master’s in public administration from Drake University in spring of 2019.

In her first career after graduation, she worked with individuals with disabilities and found her passion for being an advocate for others. She helped to develop and implement the first Project SEARCH work training program for young adults with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Des Moines area in partnership with UnityPoint Health – Des Moines (UPH-DM).

Developing and successfully leading that program gave Emily an opportunity to pilot a new position within UPH-DM as a Retention Specialist. Through this position, she serves as a career coach and training partner focused on entry-level careers in healthcare, while also supporting individuals who often experience barriers to success at work.

Helping people is what Emily loves to do, and she feels it’s even better to get to do this work within an industry whose sole purpose is caring for the community. Whether it’s working with individuals with disabilities, new Iowans, veterans, LGBTQ community or individuals re-entering the workforce following incarceration, she finds great pleasure in being a voice for others.

Challenging the status quo and encouraging people to think differently is part of Emily’s daily work, and it’s also why she chose to join the LGBTQ Leadership Institute. Healthcare is a growing industry, and she looks forward to being part of the movement that drives our culture forward and improves our ability to embrace our community.

Luis Delcid, Ballet Master

Luis Delcid was born in Los Angeles, California and raised in Genova, Guatemala. He is a professional ballet dancer, teacher, and choreographer.

Luis trained in Los Angeles at Marat Daukayev Ballet and Everybody Dance LA. After two years of training, he was accepted as a full scholarship student at The Rock School for Dance Educationand Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington DC. During his time at The Kirov Academy, Luis was granted the honor of being the first student choreographer to showcase his choreography.

Shortly after graduating, Luis moved back to Los Angeles to work with the Los Angeles Ballet to teach, choreograph, and do some freelance work. He was part of Tulsa Ballet‘s second company during the 2014-15 season and joined Ballet Des Moines for three seasons from 2015-18. During his time at Ballet Des Moines, he was a dance teacher with the school of classical ballet and dance.

Luis is currently taking the ballet master position for Johnston Dance Academy working under Mrs. Jeane Dybdahl Chelsen’s 2018-2019 program.

Scott Fieker, Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Scott Xavier Fieker (pronouns: he, him, his and they, them, theirs) is 58 years old, identifies as a gay transgender male, and lives in Davenport, IA. He is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) who specializes in gender therapy, PTSD, and crisis counseling. Scott knew at age 3 that he was male, but was unable to transition until after the death of his immediate family members due to respect of their needs and safety concerns.

In 2009, Scott encountered discrimination from his employer, a residential adolescent treatment center in Kansas City, MO where he was Director of Therapy. While he was coming out, center staff stripped him of his position and moved his office to the basement of the campus chapel, forbidding him to counsel youth or supervise therapists. They told him that he was mentally ill and possibly a pedophile.

Now, Scott’s passion is creating a world which affirms diversity and equality. He wants to build resources and networks in the Quad Cities area for the LGBTQIA community.

Mariah Himes, Lutheran Services in Iowa

Mariah Himes is an Iowa transplant from North Carolina. She moved to Des Moines in 2016 to take a position with AmeriCorps VISTA, where she thrived and fell in love with Iowa and everyone she met. She recently took a position with Lutheran Services in Iowa where she uses the volunteer management skills she developed through AmeriCorps VISTA to help LSI staff utilize volunteers to meet more client needs and engage the community.

When she’s not working, Mariah enjoys exercise, reading, eating cheese and drinking beer, spending time with her girlfriend, and playing tug of war with her puppy.

Clifton Hughes, Principal

A native to Illinois, Clifton (Clif) Hughes recently transplanted to the Des Moines area to further pursue his career in the financial services industry at Principal Financial Group. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University, he joined the financial services industry where he now has more than eleven years of experience working with both insurance and investment products. For the past 7 years, he’s been working as an investment compliance professional for retail broker dealers where he has earned the Series 6, 7, 24, 26, 51, and 63.

When not researching securities laws and rules, Clif enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking all kinds of treats, cookies and cakes. Clif and his husband recently built a house in Ankeny and have been spending time outdoors landscaping.

Clif applied for the One Iowa LGBTQ Leadership Institute to get involved and learn more about Des Moines and the greater Iowa LGBTQ community. Clif has a passion for bettering the education system and plans to help influence the system to improve the education of our students and to ensure all students have a safe and inclusive learning environment.

Jarrel Johnson, Iowa State University

Jarrel Johnson (pronouns: he, him, his) is a Ph.D. student and Presidential Scholar at Iowa State University studying higher education administration with a minor in women’s and gender studies. He received a B.A. in English from Shaw University, an M.S. in entertainment business fromFull Sail University, and an M.Ed. in higher education leadership from Mercer University.

Prior to pursuing his Ph.D., Jarrel worked as a higher education administrator for five years. His work primarily focused on supporting first-generation, historically underrepresented, and/or low socio-economic status college students. Previously, he worked at several higher education institutions including Iowa State University and Cornell University.

Jarrel’s research investigates the ways in which race, gender, and sexuality influence the experiences of college students. In particular, he broadly examines the lived experiences of LGBTQ students at historically Black colleges and universities.

Following graduation, Jarrel aims to become a professor and researcher at a research-intensive university. He also aspires to found a research center on race, gender, and sexuality studies in education. The mission of this research center would be to facilitate innovative knowledge and practices in an effort to serve marginalized communities in a P-20 educational setting.

Michelle Kell, IT Professional

Michelle Kell Shannon is a 58 year old transgender woman who currently lives in downtown Des Moines. She recently moved to the area after fully coming out to her family and friends.

Michelle was born in Coronado, California, and grew up in a military family. She has five younger sisters, and unfortunately lost her mother at the age of 14. Michelle joined the U.S. Navy at age 17 and served on combat ships for six years.

Michelle has been married twice, has two adult children by her first marriage, and now has six grandchildren. She has worked hard over many years in IT and technology, achieving the “American Dream” for her family.

Michelle had a different dream for herself though, one she has had all her life. She has now decided to live that dream, and as a result, has opened up a whole new chapter in her life of self truth, authenticity, and hope. She has since experienced great joy and great suffering, but she believes in herself and her choice to make her dreams a reality.

Michelle is now active in local and state LGBTQ quests to achieve and secure the right of all to participate openly and freely in our society. She hopes to graduate from One Iowa’s first LGBTQ Leadership Institute class and use the knowledge she gains as a stepping stone to a new career in community activism.

Ashley Lindley, Domestic Violence Intervention Program and Sanctuary Community Church

Regardless of her profession, Ashley Lindley has always looked for two things in work and life: a challenge and something she can be passionate about. Using these ideals as guides, she has gone on many adventures throughout her adult life.

Ashley graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication as well as a certificate in Fundraising and Philanthropy Communication. Nonprofit work was an easy fit because it allowed her to help others and make a difference in her community. Ashley completed two years of AmeriCorps service immediately following graduation. Her journey has since included opportunities to teach, coordinate programs, fundraise, and advocate. LGBTQ advocacy has become increasingly important to her as she sees and encounters the struggles LGBTQ individuals face today.

When Ashley found out about the LGBTQ Leadership Institute through One Iowa, she had to apply. As a part of this program, Ashley hopes to gain confidence in her identity as an LGBTQ individual as well as gaining skills that will make her a more authentic and resilient leader in her home state of Iowa.

Max Mowitz, Young Women’s Resource Center

Max Mowitz is a Des Moines native and enthusiast, driven by LGBTQ activism and leadership ever since emerging from the closet. They got involved in LGBTQ activism starting in high school and continued during their time at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where they pursued a degree in ethnomusicology and African American studies.

Max is currently the Volunteer and Office Coordinator at Young Women’s Resource Centerand hopes to continue their education in social work or public health, with the ultimate goal of working with LGBTQ youth and educating the broader community. Their absolute favorite thing to do is educate people about LGBTQ and identity-based issues: ask them anything, they’re not shy!

Max loves dogs, drag, and staying hydrated. They spend their free time lifting weights, blogging about local food at Des Moines Made Local, and volunteering as a sexual assault advocate.

Drew O’Leary, Veterans Health Administration

Drew O’Leary is a military veteran who works as a registered nurse at the Department of Veteran Affairs. He is currently attending graduate school working toward a Masters of Science in Nursing with a focus on healthcare legislation.

Drew enjoys spending time with his two children, playing softball, gardening, and taking care of his dog and backyard chickens. He has aspirations of working with policy makers to impact healthcare legislation that effects LGBTQ Iowans and veterans.

Sarah Parker, Iowa Hospital Association

Sarah Parker is an Iowa native, primarily raised in the Van Meter area. In 2013, she pursued retail banking as a teller for Bankers Trust Company. The exposure to the finance industry drove Sarah to start pursuing her degree in business administration.

Sarah shifted her career focus in 2016, when she took on a position at Iowa Hospital Association. She currently assists the advocacy department with a variety of duties like report-generating, meeting coordination, and mass mailings. She also assists the marketing department with campaign fundraising efforts.

When she is not studying or working, Sarah likes to travel, attend concerts, play acoustic guitar and watch Iowa Wild hockey games. When Sarah is not spending time with her girlfriend, her English bulldog and two cats, you will find her training and preparing to compete in powerlifting.

Jack Schuler, Wells Fargo

Jack Schuler is a transgender man living in Des Moines, IA. Originally from Streator, IL, Jack graduated from Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, IA in 2005 with a degree in theatre. From 2006 to 2011, Jack served as a linguist in the Marine Corps. He returned to Briar Cliff and graduated in 2014 with a degree in English, history, and secondary education.

Jack has been serving in the Army Reserves as a chemical operations specialist since 2011. He is a member of Phi Alpha Theta, the Democratic Socialists of America, and Industrial Workers of the World. Jack is also a published author and poet and an award-winning historian.

Elle Wyant, United Parcel Service (UPS)

Elle Wyant graduated from Iowa State University with a BA in communications and has held an account executive position with UPS in central and eastern Iowa for the past 16 years. She was raised on an Iowa farm and continues to live on one of the family homesteads with her two young daughters.

Following her divorce, Elle came out as transgender and has transitioned into the woman she is today with the support of her family and friends. She speaks publicly about her experience to support those wishing to better understand the LGBTQ community. For the past 10 years, she has served as a guest speaker twice a year for a human sexuality class at University of Iowa. Elle has also been a mentor for several LGBTQ youth as they go through their transition.