We value teamwork, shared voice, and empowering youth.

Leadership 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

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]

Robert Nelson

Program Manager

Robert  has been working with the agency for seven years. During his time he has held multiple roles on our Program Team in Match Support and Enrollment. He currently is a leader of our agency as the Program Manager, overseeing our program team and supporting others by encouraging growth and inclusive relationships. 

Robert's commitment to Big Brothers Big Sisters is close to his heart, as he has a Little in the program. His Little Brother Tyler will soon graduate High School and Robert plans to continue on as a mentor to another child, while staying in touch personally with Tyler.

Email: [email protected]

Becca Robinson

Marketing & Engagement Officer

Becca started her journey with Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2018 as a Big Sister to Little Kylee before working for the agency in 2019. She received her B.A. in Communications Studies and Art & Art History from The University of Iowa. Her background is in marketing, fundraising, events, and community engagement. 

Becca is passionate about connecting the community to the mission of BBBS. Formerly the Development Director, Becca now supports marketing and recruitment efforts as the Marketing & Engagement Officer. She is currently a Big Sister to her Lunch Buddy Freya and enjoys the time they spend together.

Outside of work, Becca enjoys walks with her dog Mazie, traveling and spending time in Montana, and reading.

Email: [email protected]

Catherine VanDraska

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

Scoreboard Group

Vice President
Collins Aerospace

MidWestOne Bank


Shuttleworth and Ingersoll

Alliant Energy

US Bank

Mercy Foundation

Northwestern Mutual


GreatAmerica Financial Services



Ohnward Bank


Collins Aerospace

Cornerstone Building Brands

UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's

Alliant Energy

Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust