Sara Dziuk, Executive Director | email
Meg Anderson, Program Coordinator | email
Debra Behrens, Development Director | email
Amanda Cantú, Program Coordinator | email
Cherkos Dessalegn, Program Coordinator | email
Lara Dreier, Program Director | email
Chad Karlsson, Operations Coordinator | email
Bethany Krueger, Associate Director | email
Bao Lee-Yang, Program Coordinator | email
Sarah Martin, Development Officer | email
Erik Mayr, Development Associate | email
Ali Parsons, Associate Development Officer | email
Julia Perkins, Program Coordinator | email
Ben Pierson, Associate Development Officer | email
Anna Rockne, Communications Coordinator | email
Nankya Senungi, College Program Coordinator email
Colin Thompson, Program Coordinator | email
Niko Tomlinson, Program Manager | email
Zer Vang, Program Coordinator | email
Magdalena Wells, High School Program Manager | email
Sara Dziuk, Executive Director
Sara Dziuk is executive director of College Possible Twin Cities. In her role, Sara is responsible for all day-to-day management and operational issues, leading strategic organizational development, raising funds, coordinating communications and building relationships with partner organizations in the Twin Cities.
Sara joins College Possible after spending the past several years with Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest. In her most recent role as vice president of education, Sara was responsible for JA’s K-12 programs – impacting 120,000 students annually with lessons on financial literacy, career and college readiness and entrepreneurship. In her years at JA, Sara managed both development and program responsibilities and was instrumental in introducing new programs, overseeing educational evaluations, developing relationships with schools and sharing the success of Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest with sites across the U.S. In 2010, Sara was recognized with the “JA Rising Star Award,” honoring her leadership and achievements by Junior Achievement of the USA.
Prior to her work with Junior Achievement, Sara served as vice president of the Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau. In this role, Sara managed the strategic, financial and day-to-day operations of the non-profit organization. Sara worked closely with a 13-member board of directors, two city governments, business leaders, media and community members to brand Greater Mankato as a meeting, sports and leisure destination. During her tenure with the organization, the non-profit was recognized with 15 state and regional awards for producing exceptional results and demonstrating innovation.
Sara was recognized as a Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal 2013 40 Under Forty honoree for demonstrating exceptional business savvy, leadership and community involvement. Through her dedication and service, Sara's focus on achieving College Possible’s mission has transformed the lives of young people in the Twin Cities community. Sara holds an MBA from Minnesota State University in Mankato, and a bachelor's degree in management from Gustavus Adolphus College. Sara’s passion for youth and education started early, as Sara’s mother is an educator and her father manages a youth development organization in southern Minnesota. Sara is thrilled to be in a position where she can utilize her strong business acumen in an organization that empowers youth, closes the achievement gap and changes the lives of young people. Top
Meg Anderson, Program Coordinator
Meg was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin - Madison, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Spanish. After graduation, she moved to the Twin Cities to serve in Teach For America. There, Meg taught bilingual third grade for two years at Emerson Spanish Immersion Learning Center in Minneapolis. During her time as a classroom teacher, Meg fostered a strong belief that every child should have the opportunity to obtain an excellent education. She is excited to transition into the non-profit world as a high school program coordinator at College Possible. In her spare time, Meg enjoys doing graphic design projects, going to concerts, exploring the great outdoors and spending time with her friends and family.
Debra Behrens, Development Director
As Development Director, Debra oversees strategic fundraising and communications plans that build community support for the mission and programs of College Possible Twin Cities.
Debra joined College Possible in July 2012 with more than a decade of nonprofit development experience. She understands the importance of creating and sustaining relationships with donors and strives to create rewarding giving experiences for the individuals, corporations and foundations that support our work.
In her most recent role as Director of Development for Animal Humane Society, Debra was part of a team responsible for generating more than $7 million annually from 50,000 animal-lovers in the Twin Cities area. With her leadership and commitment to donors, giving grew significantly in her eight years with the organization.
Debra completed her bachelor’s degree at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, where she studied literature and crafted a minor in the history of ideas. She graduated magna cum laude and was awarded a Richter Fellow for study abroad and selected to be a Wingspread Fellow. Debra then went on to achieve a master of Victorian studies at the University of Nottingham in England. She has remained perpetually curious and is currently working toward a master of library and information science at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.
Raised by an educator, Debra’s belief in the transformative power of education was instilled in her from an early age. Her journey to College Possible has included experiences in external relations for higher education, animal welfare, health care and the arts. Today she feels she has found her place in the world, helping young people gain access to all the possibilities that a college education can provide. Top
Cherkos Dessalegn, Program Coordinator
Cherkos was born in Mekelle, Ethiopia. His family moved to St. Paul in 2001, where he spent his high school years. He considers coming to America one of the highlights of his life due to the vast array of opportunities. After graduating from Highland Park Senior High School, he moved to Marshall, MN to attend Southwest Minnesota State University. Receiving a bachelor's degree in finance, Cherkos found that many of his other studies such as economics, philosophy, and history contributed significantly to his education and continue to interest him. After college Cherkos served two AmeriCorps terms of service with College Possible as a high school coach for juniors and seniors at Highland Park High School. Having gone through the program years prior, he is excited to return to College Possible in a completely different role to support College Possible’s mission and help students in a situation that was once familiar to him. In Cherkos's spare time he loves to read, travel, listen to music, watch and play sports, and be with family and friends.
Lara Dreier, Program Director
Lara grew up in Appleton, Wis., and graduated from the University of Minnesota, where she earned a degree in sociology-law, criminology and deviance. Prior to joining the College Possible team, she spent several years working as an organizer for a variety of non-profit organizations in Madison, Wis., leading an internship program, directing summer canvasses and helping run voter registration drives throughout Wisconsin. The issues she tackled as an organizer ranged from hunger and homelessness to environmental sustainability, but the issue she was most passionate about was access to higher education.
Upon moving back to the Twin Cities, Lara joined College Possible, first as a Program Coordinator, supporting high school coaches at various high schools over three years, and then as the High School Program Manager, where she worked with the high school program team to maintain high quality programming and impressive results for College Possible students. In her current role of Program Director, Lara oversees all high school and college programming, as well as the Idealistic Mentors program. Top
Amanda Cantú, Program Coordinator
Amanda was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and is a first-generation college student. She left Texas to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in Human Development and Family Studies: Child Development option. During her time there, she interned at the Urban League of Greater Madison working with Project REACH, a program that offers students their first work experience through a paid career awareness internship. Amanda found her calling of working in college access and serving her community. She came across College Possible and was captivated about the work they were doing. She joined their team serving two terms as an AmeriCorps coach at Como Park Senior High School from 2008 to 2010. Upon completing her term of service, Amanda joined the Leadership Team as a High School Program Coordinator to continue the work she started. She is also pursuing her Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Management and Business Administration at Hamline University.
Amanda is a PROUD Sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. She became a sister in Fall 2004 and remains very active within the organization. She loves to read, particularly mystery and sci-fi. She's always trying to find the perfect book to read next. She also loves to do arts and crafts, quilting and painting and is taking up scrapbooking. Top
Chad Karlsson, Operations Coordinator
Chad is excited to serve as the Operations Coordinator for College Possible Twin Cities. In this role, he serves a variety of functions from human resources to technical support.
Chad grew up in Rush City, Minnesota and attended the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where he received a bachelors of science degree in human resources and industrial relations and psychology. After graduation, he spent time in Morocco with the Peace Corps, assisted in the 2010 Census, and worked in merchandising for a major retail company. Additionally, he has served as operations manager for a summer enrichment program for gifted and talented students in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities.
Chad is very excited to be working at a nonprofit, and brings his passion for education equality that was inspired by his parents, who were both educators in Minnesota schools. Knowing the potential that so many students possess and helping them unlock that potential by supporting the organization makes each work day a unique opportunity for him.
Outside of the office, Chad can be found playing his vast collection of board games, playing basketball, or perfecting his play in online gaming. Top
Bethany Krueger, Associate Director
Bethany is Associate Director for College Possible Twin Cities. Bethany oversees overall programmatic planning, compliance and improvement for College Possible’s high school and college programs.
Bethany started working with College Possible in September 2001 and prior to her role as Associate Director, held the positions of Program Coordinator, Senior Program Manager and Program Director. Having been with the organization almost since its founding days, Bethany attributes her dedication to the work of College Possible to its inspiring mission, focus on results and culture of having fun!
Prior to joining College Possible, Bethany served as an AmeriCorps*VISTA at Augsburg College during the 2000-2001 year, coordinating America Reads and America Counts programs.
Bethany graduated from the University of Minnesota, where she studied psychology and played two years of collegiate volleyball for the Gophers. She earned her master of arts in organizational leadership from St. Catherine University. Having moved regularly with her family throughout the Midwest, Bethany considers the Twin Cities home! Top
Bao Lee-Yang, Program Coordinator
Bao Lee-Yang was born in Thailand and immigrated to Minnesota with her family at 5 months old. She grew up in St. Paul and attended Harding High School where she was a student in College Possible. The program opened many opportunities for Bao and gave her an outlook on all of the possibilities for her future. She attended the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology of law, criminology and deviance. It has always been Bao’s passion to work with at-risk youth and help them achieve success despite the circumstances they face. After graduation, Bao went to work for Restorative Justice Community Action and The Link.
In 2010, Bao married and moved to California for a year, serving as an AmeriCorps member for the Child Abuse Prevention Council as a Family Resource Center Assistant. For the past several years, she worked for Minneapolis Public Schools in the Check and Connect program to engage, mentor, and support truant youth in their education. Education has always been important to Bao as a first generation college graduate and she looks forward to opening doors of opportunity for students.
In her free time, Bao enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and family, traveling, trying new restaurants and recipes, shopping, baking and doing crafts with her nieces and nephews, watching movies and Korean dramas and reading.
Sarah Martin, Development Officer
Sarah joined the College Possible team as the Development Officer in August 2012. Prior to College Possible, Sarah spent seven years at a foundation where she specialized in donor relations and stewardship. It is a privilege for her to provide donors the opportunity to connect their passions and resources to the causes they care about. Sarah is excited to share the mission of College Possible with the community and be part of a team that makes college admission and success possible for low income students.
As an undergraduate, Sarah attended The University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management where she focused her studies on marketing. Since then she has gone on to complete certificate programs in Business Communication through St. Thomas and in Nonprofit Management through Hamline. It is Sarah’s goal to use her studies in business and communication in ways that align with her desire to see positive changes in her community.
Outside of the office, Sarah enjoys trying new restaurants, exploring the Twin Cities, spending quality time with family and friends, and traveling to new places. Top
Erik Mayr, Development Associate
Erik was born and raised in Roseville, Minnesota. He went on to attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in Communication Studies. While a student, Erik was very active in the University of Minnesota Marching Band. During his last two years he served as a leader and team lead of the trumpet section. Mayr also served as the Marching into the Future campaign student liaison, where he worked with donors and alumni firsthand. Since graduating, Erik has held multiple internships focusing on advancement and development. He is excited to bring his relationship building skills and passion for higher education to College Possible. In his free time, Erik enjoys attending Minnesota Gopher football and basketball games, trying new restaurants, playing the trumpet, and spending time with family and friends.
Ali Parsons, Associate Development Officer
As Associate Development Officer, Ali supports the external relations team by implementing organizational fundraising plans to help meet annual revenue goals. A Brainerd, Minnesota native, Ali attended Concordia College in Moorhead where she majored in English and Spanish, edited marketing materials for a local nonprofit, taught after-school Spanish, and was a member of the Cobber track and cross country running teams.
Ali’s college experience engendered a passion for equal access to higher education, and she joined College Possible as an AmeriCorps VISTA* for the 2008-2009 school year, assisting with institutional fundraising and development. After her term of service, Ali worked as a Hospitality Management Intern in the mountains of Andalusia, Spain, and for an insurance broker in Minneapolis upon her return to the U.S. She is excited to return to College Possible full-time to help further initiatives she is truly passionate about!
Ali is an avid runner and biker, and keeps busy training for road races and marathons. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, outdoor activities, attempting to keep plants alive, mentoring with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and spending time with friends and family. Top
Julia Perkins, Program Coordinator
Julia was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and came to the Twin Cities to attend the University of Minnesota. During her pursuit of her bachelor’s degree in Family Social Science and Social Justice, Julia became involved in the public school community, volunteering in local classrooms as a mentor, tutor and advocate of equal education opportunities. She fostered a strong connection to the Twin Cities community and to the social justice movements happening throughout. Mere weeks before the application deadline, Julia discovered College Possible and knew this was her calling. Since, she has served two terms as AmeriCorps high school coach at Johnson Senior High School (2009-2011) and now returns to continue the work she is most passionate about as a High School Program Coordinator.
Julia lives in Minneapolis, where she enjoys discovering new music, attending live shows in the local hip hop community and spending time (dancing, cooking, laughing, and generally carrying on) with her friends and family. Top
Ben Pierson, Associate Development Officer
Ben Pierson hails from Menomonie, Wisconsin and came to the Twin Cities to attend Macalester College, where he served in student government, played football and majored in political science. College proved transformative, so upon graduation Ben sought the opportunity to help more students access college and the life-changing educational experiences it brings. Ben served with College Possible as a senior coach at St. Paul Central High School in 2008-09 and then as a college coach at Augsburg College in 2009-10, being inspired by his students’ determination, energy and good cheer at every turn. Following these two terms in AmeriCorps, Ben joined the Leadership Team as a program coordinator, where he supported an incredible team of eight College Possible coaches serving students at Coon Rapids, Harding and Johnson High Schools. In early 2012, Ben moved from programming to the development team, where he now has a role in finding the resources to support College Possible’s mission.
Ben lives in Minneapolis, where he enjoys cooking, spending time with friends and family, making the most of life in the city and attempting to care for a plethora of highly dependent houseplants. Top
Anna Rockne, Communications Coordinator
As communications coordinator Anna strengthens community outreach, internal and online communications, produces marketing materials and coordinates media relations in the Twin Cities. She completed a term of AmeriCorps service at College Possible before joining the Leadership Team, and is thrilled to continue promoting the great work happening here. Before coming to College Possible she interned at the Downtown Journal and completed a mentorship at the Star Tribune.
Anna earned a BA in media and cultural studies and creative writing from Macalester College, and worked as a graphic designer in the college’s public relations department. In her free time she enjoys reading, crafting, trying new restaurants, game nights, and perusing design blogs. She calls Saint Paul home. Top
Nankya Senungi, College Program Coordinator
Nankya Senungi joined College Possible as college program coordinator in March 2012. As an undergraduate, she attended the University of St. Thomas, receiving her degree in finance. Currently, she is a student at Hamline University working on her MBA with a concentration in conflict management. Following college graduation, Nankya joined the corporate environments of Target Corporation and Wells Fargo Bank before pursuing her AmeriCorps terms of service at College Possible as a two-year senior coach.
The classroom experiences were both inspiring and instrumental in a personal shift towards service. Nankya is very excited to be a part of the ever expanding college program to continue to serve her students and thousands of others to ensure that they fulfill their goal of college graduation. Top
Colin Thompson, Program Coordinator
Colin was born and raised in Iowa, land of the rising corn. He arrived in the Twin Cities in 2002 to attend Macalester College where he studied Linguistics and Japanese. This, in combination with his lamentable lack of study abroad experience, caused him to flee the country immediately upon graduation to teach English in Japan. After two years of teaching elementary school children about fruit, he returned to Minnesota to seek out a way to make a difference in his community. In 2009, he found that way in College Possible, serving proudly for two years as a junior and senior coach at Harding High School in East St. Paul. After his terms of service he worked with Get Ready at Olson Middle School in north Minneapolis teaching 7th graders about the importance of college. However, Colin is now thrilled to return to his college access alma mater, College Possible, in the role of High School Program Coordinator.
In his spare time Colin is an avid rock ‘n’ roller, and would like to think that he reads more books than he does.
Niko Tomlinson, Program Manager
Niko was born and raised in upstate New York where he attended Cornell University and received a B.S. in animal science. Soon after graduating, he joined City Year-New Hampshire, an AmeriCorps program focused on serving middle- and high-school students as a tutor, mentor, and role model. Early on, he learned the value that education and literacy can have in a person's life.
After two years of AmeriCorps service, Niko moved to Minnesota in the summer of 2004 and started working with Better World Books, a for-profit social venture that helped raise funding for nonprofit literacy organizations working internationally and domestically.
Most recently, Niko worked to develop a national student organization for Books For Africa, a St. Paul-based nonprofit working to end the book famine in Africa. Throughout all his work, he has looked to be a part of organizations working towards goals of education and literacy. Niko is very excited to be at College Possible as a program manager!
In his spare time, Niko can be found riding his bike, running, cooking amazingly delicious vegetarian food with his girlfriend Jes, playing competitive scrabble, digging for records and making sample-based hip hop and electronic music. He also loves his two cats, Ella and Rocketman ... and the Vikings! Top
Zer Vang, Program Coordinator
Zer was raised in Stevens Point, WI and moved to Saint Paul when she was a sophomore in high school. Soon after, she joined College Possible and is now an alum of the program! With the help of her coach, she was admitted to and graduated from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, earning a B.S. in Family Social Science. Upon graduation she worked at the Undergraduate Office of Admissions at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities as an Admissions Counselor. During her time there, she also co-hosted a radio show called “Haiv Hmong” (our Hmong people), mentored undergraduate Hmong students, and was on several committees: Hmoob (Hmong) Alumni Group, Hmong Organizing Program, and Hmong Athletes.
Her commitment to social justice, equity, and higher education drove her to continue her education. She earned her masters of social work at the University of Minnesota in 2011. With her experiences working in higher education, community organizing, and being a student from an underrepresented, low-income, and first generation family, she knew that education is the key to overcoming barriers and the tool for success. As a College Possible alum, she always knew how big of an impact the program had on her life and now as a program coordinator, she is excited to have the opportunity to share her stories, talents, and knowledge with her peers. She believes in College Possible’s mission and is very excited to be part of this dynamic and empowering organization!
In her spare time Zer loves to play volleyball, football, and tennis. She also enjoys reading, trying out new restaurants, and volunteering in the community. Top
Magdalena Wells, High School Program Manager
Magdalena joined College Possible as a program coordinator in August 2010. As an undergraduate, she attended St. Olaf College where she served with the college’s Board of Regents and developed a passion for higher education and the liberal arts. Following graduation, Magdalena joined Teach for America and taught math to middle school students for two years in the urban core of Kansas City, Mo. During that time she also earned a master's degree in education from the University of Missouri – St. Louis.
Her years in the classroom were both challenging and energizing. She was daily convinced of the urgent need for sustainable solutions to educational inequity. The right of students to educational opportunity, the effect of higher education on a person’s life course, and the practical idealism of her College Possible colleagues and students motivate Magdalena in her current work.
Beyond the work day, Magdalena enjoys exploring the Twin Cities with friends by foot and bike, searching for the perfect ice cream cone, trying new recipes, reading creative nonfiction and sketching. Top