Leadership

We value teamwork, shared voice, and empowering youth.

Executive Team


Melissa Walker

President & CEO

Melissa Walker was named President & CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids & East Central Iowa in July 2023. Melissa brings over 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, with a focus in prevention, advocacy, and family and children's services. She received her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Bethel University and Masters of Science in Management and Leadership from WGU. Prior to joining Big Brothers Big Sisters, Melissa held positions as Prevention Director and Deputy Director at the Area Substance Abuse Council and Director of Philanthropy at Tanager.

Melissa’s passions lie in the areas most impacting those we serve, including trauma-informed care, education, children’s mental health, access to care, and diversity, equity and inclusion. Melissa currently serves on a local school board, advocating for equitable education and services to support kids and families in need. In addition, she serves on the board of directors for the Marion Alliance for Racial Equity. 

Melissa lives in Marion with her husband and two sons. She has been a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentorship program since 2020 as a Big Sister to Nyla.

Email: [email protected]

Stephanie Hartson

Chief Operations Officer

Stephanie has enjoyed a career at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids & East Central Iowa for the past nine years. She began her career in social work in 2005. She received her BSW in 2007 and MSW in 2009 from UNI. Starting as an Enrollment and Matching Specialist, Stephanie worked her way to become the Program Director and now sits as our Operations Officer. 

Stephanie's passion in based in mentorship and supporting youth. She is also happy to support the agency run smoothly on the back end. Stephanie mentored Little Brother Willie for five years. She was also a Big Sister to a Little Sister Kaylee in the Lunch Buddy Program.

When Stephanie is not at work she is enjoying time with her husband, two kids and two dogs. She’s an avid reader and enjoys bike riding.

Email: [email protected]

Catherine VanDraska

Chief Program Officer

Catherine joined the Big Brothers Big Sisters team in May 2021. Catherine is a licensed social worker and received her MSW at the University of Iowa. She has dedicated her career to supporting at-risk youth within our community in prevention and treatment settings. 

Catherine was drawn to the agency by their mission and dedication to support youth within the community that she loves. She has two Littles in the program - Brandon, an eleven year old boy in our Community Based program and Believe, a seven year old girl in our Lunch Buddies program.  

Outside of work, Catherine enjoys going to the movies, being out in nature, running and spending time with her husband, two young daughters and their two dogs.

Email: [email protected]

Emily Zimmon

Chief Development Officer

With a career spanning over a decade, Emily brings a wealth of experience in the nonprofit sector, dedicated to promoting self-sufficiency and creating opportunities for all. After graduation from Cornell College, Emily spent three impactful years as an educator on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, before returning to Iowa in 2015.

Emily’s passion for creating positive change flourished during her six-year tenure at Willis Dady, where she developed and implemented the Homeless Prevention, Street Outreach, and Employment programs.

Emily is an avid reader, traveler, and explorer of curiosities. She loves learning new things, hanging out with her dogs, practicing jiu jitsu, and collecting everything from old books and cameras to tattoos to random tchotchkes.

Email: [email protected]

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

JOSH STREETS
President
Scoreboard Group


PANKIT KOTECHA
Vice President
Collins Aerospace


LAURIE WAHLHET
Secretary
MidWestOne Bank

 

DAVID DROESSLER
Treasurer
RSM US

HAYLEIGH BOARDMAN
Shuttleworth and Ingersoll


WENDI CIGRAND
Alliant Energy


ERIC DAUFELDT
US Bank


LORRIE ERUSHA
Mercy Foundation

BEN FRAZIER
Northwestern Mutual


STEVE GOEDKEN, Ex Officio

GreatAmerica Financial Services

JASON PASKER
Ohnward Bank


ANN RUSKE

Collins Aerospace


JOE SAMPLE
Cornerstone Building Brands


MARK WILLIS
UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's


DOMINGO VEGA
Alliant Energy


SHANNON WOOD
Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust

 

 

BOARD OF TRUSTEES

JOHN RODRIGUEZ
Chair
Retired

JON BANCKS
Morgan Stanley

MARY BROBST
Mercy Medical Center

MATT DOTY
GreatAmerica Financial Services

NATE DUNN
F&M Bank

DONNA GARLAND
Nesper Sign

JIM HADDAD
Retired

DUANE JASPER
Destinations Unlimited

KEVIN JASPER
Hibu

JAMES KLEIN
Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust

RUSS NIELAND
Carson Wealth

MICHELLE NIERMANN
Unity Point, St. Lukes