Facilitators

Cohort 1 was trained in 2004/5, Cohort 10 in 2013
Andrea Marti
Andrea worked at the Open Door Health Center in Mankato for 16 years as a Spanish interpreter. She is married and has one child, who makes friends with others of various cultures, races, and languages without giving it a second thought. Andrea, who has been blind since grade school, shared her experiences with Mankato West High School ninth graders through presentations during their Helen Keller unit from 1994 to 2008. She trained her new guide dog Bailey in 2017 and is enjoying the extra independence and companionship he offers her. Andrea hopes that adults will also be able to participate in the same diversity discussions that are now offered to students through the Greater Mankato Diversity Council. She says she hopes that people will learn to treasure the differences among them rather than see them as flaws.
Cohort 2
Manami Matsuoka
Manami was born and grew up in Tokyo, Japan, and has been to 23 countries. She loves traveling around the world to learn other cultures and languages by meeting new people. She currently lives in Mankato where she is working to obtain her Master's degree in Ethnic and Multi-cultural Studies. She hopes to use the knowledge for cultural exchanges among people with different cultures and backgrounds.
Cohort 15
Cheiron McMahill
Cheiron has been an educator for 36 years and loves kids. She thinks the mission of the Greater Mankato Diversity Council and the PRW is so positive and concrete. What could be better than for adults to get out there, and to show young people what diversity is, and how much they care about it? She is excited about going to visit classrooms in the public schools with PRW. She has three daughters who are both Japanese and American, and a Japanese husband. Her very favorite kind of diversity is linguistic diversity. She speaks Japanese herself, and is learning Somali. She is currently the ESL instructor at South Central College.
Cohort 15
Vicky Meyer
Vicky was born and raised in Minot, ND and moved to Minnesota in 1990. Her childhood, having an Air Force Base in town, provided an education rich in diversity and cultures. This sparked her interest to learn more about the broader world. She’s been employed in banking for 30 years, thus allowing her to satisfy her compassion for helping people when interacting with the variety of ages and nationalities. In recent years, her family has enjoyed hosting foreign exchange students from India, Switzerland and Columbia. Vicky has been involved with teaching Junior Achievement, Coaching YMCA sports, volunteering for United Way and currently serving as a Greater Mankato Area Ambassador.
Cohort 11
Laura Mueller
Laura is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Gustavus Adolphus College, where she regularly teaches classes on education and culture, ethics, and American philosophy. One of her main areas of interest--in research, teaching, and practice- is educational reform, focusing on liberation pedagogy and experiential teaching. She firmly believes that true change will come from community engagement, not from the 'ivory tower.' In her free time, she enjoys cross-country skiing and playing her banjo. Her dream is to open her own philosophical institute for public engagement.
Cohort 15
Pam Oster
Diversity has always been a big part of Pam's life. She attended a variety of churches as a child and has worked with a wonderful diverse group of people in almost every job she has held. Pam loves the tapestry of life and enjoys meeting and interacting with a wide variety of people. That is why the work of the greater Mankato Diversity Council appealed so much to her. Pam looks forward to an interesting year, and appreciates the opportunity to work once again in classrooms.
Cohort 9
Annette Perry
Education Coordinator
Annette is mother to an incredible girl named Marley Jane and spouse of a fantastic man named AJ. Annette studied business, finance, mathematics, and dance at Minnesota State University, where she graduated in 2006 and has since worked in banking, real estate, and marketing. She is honored to be currently serving as the Education Coordinator for the Greater Mankato Diversity Council. Annette's past experience working with students includes parent volunteer for 5th grade MathMasters and WordMasters, coaching Heart & Sole for the YWCA, and volunteering with the Mankato Area Adaptive Ski program. Annette believes every community needs a diversity council because their work is powerful, proactive, and loving. Annette loves facilitating Promoting Respect Workshops, and since they have been mindfully designed for each grade, she knows the work will be effective in producing a better tomorrow.
Cohort 14
Lori Plemens
Lori was born in NC but raised in Indiana. Go Hoosiers!!! She has lived all over the upper Midwest, but now calls St. Peter home. She has been married to her wonderful spouse Tina for 4 years and has 4 great kids -- Madison, age 15, and 13 year-old triplets Emma, Joey, and Lily. This family keeps Lori busy. Tina is a full time substitute teacher in the Mankato school system and the kids are all involved in extra-curricular activities. They love to get outdoors and play all sorts of sports together. Right now, it’s soccer and tennis and in the spring it will be track and field plus golf! Sadly no one is more interested in playing basketball than Lori is. Life is good and she is so thankful and appreciative for all that she has been blessed with.
Cohort 14
Corrine Riley
Corri was taught that all people should be valued and have the same rights. Working with children, she has tried to teach them to respect others and themselves. Her hope is that we will all welcome and embrace diversity for what it can teach us.
Cohort 6
Amy Ronnkvist
Amy Ronnkvist has spent most of her career working on issues related to social justice, with a specific focus on education equity. At her core, she believes that all students deserve access to a quality education. She has carried this philosophy through teaching sociology courses, work with the ACLU-MN: Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project and through her current role in a national, non-profit organization working to help students finance their education. She lives in St. Peter with her husband and two daughters and Benny the dog who is the boss of the house.
Cohort 9
Andrea Rossow
Originally from London, England, Andrea came to the Mankato area in 2011. She is married with three wonderful stepchildren and will complete her undergraduate degree in Communication Studies, with a minor in Sociology, in May 2019. Andrea has a passion for advocacy work, and she once served as a welfare rights advisor for a non-profit organization. Her role was to facilitate disabled clients' applications for state benefits and support those who were required to attend tribunal hearings. Andrea strongly believes in community equity, inclusivity, and diversity. She is particularly passionate about ensuring that students with disabilities receive equal access to opportunities, and a recent internship at Minnesota State University, Mankato, enabled her to support others in achieving just that. Andrea continues to spread the message that each and every one of us is worthy of RESPECT.
Cohort 8
Melanie Schmidt
Melanie, a member of the Cohort 5 facilitator group, is very excited to begin her duties as a facilitator. She has lived in Mankato since 1990 and graduated from MN State University, Mankato. Melanie has held positions with the South central Service Cooperative, Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest, and also Community Education/Recreation Department where she is currently the Youth Development Program Supervisor with primary responsibilities including enrichment programming for school age youth. She is passionate about quality education for our children and equal rights for all citizens. In her spare time she enjoys antique shopping and spending time with family and and her dog.
Cohort 5
Jessica Schomberg
Jessica is a librarian at MSU, Mankato, where she enjoys the opportunity to work with students and faculty from many different backgrounds. She has a BA in French, a Master’s in Library & Information Science, and an MA in English: Teaching English as a Second Language. Jessica is also a STEM facilitator for GMDC.
Cohort 10
Tracy Stokes-Hernandez
Tracy earned her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from MSU, Mankato and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership. Tracy currently works as an Academic Advisor in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at MSU, Mankato. She has lived in Mankato for 20 years, and as a parent of 3 children attending District #77 schools, Tracy wants to ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students.
Cohort 1
Marne Stover
Marne Stover is a senior at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN, working towards a Bachelor's Degree in Psychological Science. She grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania and moved to Mankato with her parents in 2013. She also volunteers with her school at the Hoffmann Learning Center, judges Speech & Debate for St. Peter High School, and works at River Rock Coffee (the most amazing coffee shop/restaurant in the world). Her hobbies include exploring different types of music and creating new and exciting meals at home.
Cohort 14
Kuma Takamura
Education Director
It was supposed to be a melting pot, but when Kuma came to the U.S. from Japan in the '80s, what he found was "Chunky Stew." Kuma, as a biologist, an electrical engineer, and an educator, worked in many areas including private sector and higher education system. Everywhere he went he strongly felt diversity was a strength but "we were not tapping into it." Humans are inquisitive and curious beings. Difference triggers fear, but he hopes, with our effort, the curiosity/inquisitiveness will eventally take over and people will start learning each others' differences and start recognizing the power of diversity! Kuma joined the Greater Mankato Diversity staff in the summer of 2011.
Cohort 5
Kassidy Tocco
Kassidy is currently a second-year student at Minnesota State University, Mankato studying Special Education. She is an active member of the Honors Program at MSU where Kassidy works to grow in three competencies: leadership, global citizenship, and research. She is also a member of the Maverick Forensics team where she competes in public speaking. Kassidy is also employed by the MSU admissions as a campus tour guide. In addition, she volunteers as a Language Learning Partner, and more recently as a Promoting Respect Workshop Facilitator.
Cohort 15
Kristen Treinen
Kristi is a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Minnesota State University Mankato. While born in ND and raised in MN, she attended graduate school in Carbondale, IL where she began digging into ideas of diversity and the educational system. In particular, she focused her studies on antiracist pedagogy and whiteness studies. Kristi has three children, two have already graduated from Mankato East High School and one is currently a sophomore at East. Kristi is very excited to work with the Diversity Council and give back to the Mankato schools and the Mankato community.
Cohort 13
Jenny Turner
Jenny is a librarian at MN State University, Mankato, where she works to meet the information needs of students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds. She has been interested in other people and cultures since her parents enrolled her in a three-week summer intensive French class at the ripe old age of nine. Jenny has a BA in French and Communication, a Master's in Library and Information Science, and an MA in English: Technical Communication.
Cohort 12
Kevin Velasquez
Kevin is an attorney at the law firm of Blethen, Gage & Krause, PLLP. He and his wife Meghan moved to Mankato from Iowa in 2007, after he graduated from law school. Kevin feels strongly that the diversity within the Mankato area can become a great strength of the community, and he is excited to help instill in area youth the notion that each individual's differences are valuable and should be embraced.
Cohort 6
Leah White
Although her parents originally came from Oklahoma, Leah was born and raised on the east side of St. Paul. After leaving MN to attend graduate school in Kansas and Arizona, she eventually made it home where she currently is a professor in the Communications Studies Department and the Interim Honors Program Director at MN State University, Mankato. Leah loves teaching in any context and is looking forward to getting off campus and into the community. She firmly believes the presence of prejudice and discrimination in a classroom is detrimental to a successful learning environment. As the parent of two children in the Mankato Public School District, Leah is committed to creating a welcoming learning environment for all students.
Cohort 10
Miho Woelfel
Being from a country that has been significantly destroyed by foreign powers, Miho has seen how prejudice and ethnocentrism can lead to tearing one entire nation apart. This background made her aware of social justice issues in her early age, and she started getting involved with them when she became old enough. Miho feels fortunate to be part of GMDC, as she believes this will leave many individuals seeds to grow toward a better community that includes everyone. She would also like to believe that this will contribute to her lifetime commitment--helping rebuild her home country.
Cohort 10
Bradley Wolfe
Bradley works as the South Central/Southwest Regional Coordinator for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. He also teaches as an adjunct in the Communication Studies Department at both Minnesota State University, Mankato and South Central College. In addition to volunteering with the Diversity Council, Bradley serves with a variety of other nonprofits organizations, including the local charter school and Optimist Club. Bradley lives in North Mankato with his partner Douglas and they both enjoy playing a variety of games in their free time. They have three pets: a dog named Jubilee and two cats named Crystal and Ambar.
Cohort 11

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