Our People

NYLC Leadership Team

Amy Meuers

Chief Executive Officer

E-mail: ameuers@nylc.org

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Dr. Michael VanKeulen

Vice President of Organizational Development

E-mail: mvankeulen@nylc.org

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Dr. Sue Root

Senior Research Fellow

E-mail: sroot@nylc.org

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Dr. James Kielsmeier

Senior Scholar and Founder

E-mail: jimk@nylc.org

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Amy Meuers, Chief Executive Officer

As the CEO of the National Youth Leadership Council, Amy brings more than a decade of service-learning experience to the organization. Her passion and commitment to young people is evident through her leadership of the National Service-Learning Conference for the past 13 years, her commentary through articles and blog posts, as well as her own volunteer activities. Prior to joining NYLC, Amy spent 10 years in the insurance industry working in claims, risk control, marketing, and event planning.  She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Globe University and an Executive Leadership Certificate from Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation in partnership with the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the National Human Services Assembly. She is committed to transforming community into classroom and inspiring all young people to Serve. Learn. Change the world.®

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Dr. Michael VanKeulen, Vice President of Organizational Development

Dr. Michael VanKeulen was born and raised in Minnesota. He became a high school teacher in 1990 where he developed is philosophy of a family centered childhood development system. In 2000, he left teaching to become better connected to the diverse communities through the public and private institutions.  This work has focused upon increasing the capacity of diverse community stakeholders claiming their authority as citizen in the responsibility of developing our society’s next generations of civic leaders.  With a strong interest in environmental sustainability, human cultural diversity, and social justice, Michael has traveled extensively through Europe, Asia, and Africa – seeking new models of child development and community wellbeing.


Michael has been involved in the development of numerous new programs including; development of NYLC’s Project Ignition, NYLC’s K-12 district-wide curriculum revision, and the nation’s first public schools to provide full language immersion – one Mandarin (2006) and one Arabic (in process).  As the Executive Director for both Open Path Resources and the Education Management Organization, Students Prepared to Succeed, he has developed new ways to connect community and schools to improve students’ educational outcomes.

 
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Dr. Sue Root, Senior Research Fellow

Sue brings more than 25 years of experience in teacher education, consulting, and research in service-learning. She taught pre-service teachers at Alma College for 16 years. While at Alma, she was a regional director of the National Service-Learning in Teacher Education Partnership and co-wrote Service-Learning in Teacher Education: A Handbook. Sue has led the evaluation of several service-learning projects and developed a bank of measures of academic and social outcomes of service-learning. She was the content editor of Growing to Greatness, NYLC’s publication on the state of service-learning. Prior to her work with NYLC, she was a Senior Research Associate at RMC Research Corporation, Denver.


Sue’s recent publications include: Service-Learning by Design; and Service-Learning in Elementary Schools: What’s Developmentally Appropriate? (with Natalie Seum); “Research Demonstrates the Value of Service-Learning: Significant Studies Point to the Value of Service Learning, but the Field Needs More Experimental Research to Firmly Establish the Value of this Approach,” in Phi Delta Kappan, 91(5); and “Service-Learning as a Promising Approach for High School Civic Engagement” in J. Bixby & J. Pace (Eds.) Educating Citizens for Troubled Time: Qualitative Studies of Current Efforts. Albany, Ny: SUNY Press.

 
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Dr. James C. Kielsmeier, Senior Scholar and Founder

Dr. James C. Kielsmeier has committed his life to transforming the roles of young people in society — building youth/adult partnerships that facilitate young people’s growth from recipients of information to contributing members of a democratic society. In the process, he has pioneered service-learning, an educational approach that benefits young people and communities around the world.


Jim’s work is rooted in his time as a youth worker in Harlem and as a U.S. Army Infantry platoon leader and community relations officer in Korea in the 1960s. His experiences bridge the traditional divide between formal and informal education, having served as a middle and high school teacher, leading Outward Bound programs, and bringing Outward Bound strategies into mainstream public schools. In St. Louis in the 1980s, he developed an experiential model for youth development that featured cross-age mentoring, building trust and community across racial barriers in a desegregating school district.


These experiences provided the foundation for the National Youth Leadership Council, established as a nonprofit in Minnesota in 1983. Jim incorporated team-building, youth/adult partnerships, applied learning, and community involvement into both a summer camp and education reform initiative that became the national service-learning movement.


Always an advocate for youth development and education, Jim was appointed to head a comprehensive youth service team that implemented the first sustainable state-level approach to integrating community service and service-learning in Minnesota in the late 1980s. In the 1990s, he was engaged in advocacy that led to the creation of Learn and Serve America within the new federal agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service.


Whether directing research projects on K-12 service-learning, hosting the National Service-Learning Conference over its 20-plus-year history, or convening international service-learning leaders, Jim has been at the forefront of a broad movement to reshape roles for young people. Perhaps most importantly, Jim has always had a tenacious hold on his core principles and a bold vision of a new way of building community.


In the words of Jim’s mentor, retired University of Colorado education professor Richard Kraft: “Jim is the ultimate paradox: a gardener who hunts; a pacifist who served in the military; a deeply committed man who has a listening ear; a devout Christian with friends from all religions and no religion; a man with much to be proud of, but who like the Jewish Prophet Micah seeks to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with his God.”


After leaving his role as NYLC’s CEO in 2010, Jim continues to teach as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota, where he founded the Center for Experiential Education and Service-Learning.


Jim holds a doctorate in education from the University of Colorado, a master’s degree from American University, and a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College. He is married to the Rev. Deborah Eng Kielsmeier and is the father of three daughters.

 

Board of Directors

Anne Becker

General Counsel, Intermediate District 287

Katy Dolan

Student, Harvard University

Andrew Furco  – Vice Chair 

University of Minnesota

Greg Herder – Chair 

Mounds View Public Schools

Antwayn Hunter

Intermediate District 287

Beza Gebremariam

Student, Duke University

Lakshmi Meenakshi Immaneni

Student, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Amy Meuers

CEO, NYLC

Riley Quinlan

American Express

Dr. Rob Shumer

University of Minnesota

Dr. Barbara Witteman

Concordia College

Shira Woolf-Cohen – Secretary

New Foundations Charter School


Laura Coates

NYLC Board Honorary Director
CNN Legal Analyst

Dr. James Kielsmeier

NYLC Board Honorary Director
Founder

Nontombi Naomi Tutu

NYLC Board Honorary Director
Race & Gender Justice Activist

 

Senior Fellows

NYLC is fortunate to have a gifted team of Senior Fellows: Leaders from a number of fields, they advise the organization on its programming and policies.

Susan Abravanel

President, Susan Abravanel Consulting, LLC


Abravanel offers leadership experience in nonprofit strategic assessment, program design, and implementation.

Prior to starting her own consulting firm, Abravanel served as Vice President of Education for Youth Service America and the Education Director for SOLVE. Her history with service-learning involved work with law-related and civic education programs. A subsequent two-year contract with a state department of education developing During her tenure in Oregon, she became involved with NYLC and started attending the National Service-Learning Conference.

“The success of service-learning is its impact on engagement,” said Abravanel. “Service-learning engages students because it is meaningful, relevant, and values their voice.”

As for integrating service-learning into schools everywhere, Abravanel believes the key lies in engaging youth. “Many will say that the failure of the field lay in the lack of sufficient and significant research and evidence of success,” said Abravanel. “The field needs to come together with a priority commitment to education excellence, and a resolve to quickly fill that need.”

Jim Barron


Barron completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Science at Springfield College, and later went on to receive his Master of Arts at Stanford University and Doctorate of Education at Boston University. He then completed his Post-Doctoral endorsements at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1978.

In addition to holding a variety of teaching roles throughout his career, he also has served as principal, superintendent, and board member for several organizations.

Barron is devoted to the continued progressive leadership in educational administration, university teaching, human resources, multicultural high-risk youth, outdoor experiential education, and international, humanitarian, and environmental service.

“Service-learning is the paramount way to learn,” said Barron. “When you give, you receive much more in return.” He hopes the service-learning field will continue to multiply.

Marty Duckenfield

Associate Producer, Clemson Broadcast Productions


Duckenfield was first introduced to service-learning after being hired at the newly created National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC) at Clemson University in 1988. She became involved with NYLC in 1992 after attending the teacher institute and has been an avid supporter of service-learning ever since. “[Service-learning] empowers young people at an early age to be change agents, to make a difference, thus giving them the tools and the confidence to be good citizens,” said Duckenfield.

While at Clemson, NDPC sponsored national and regional conferences, conducted hundreds of workshops, published several of service-learning guidebooks, and developed resources including games, videos, and the Service-Learning Passport for Life. NDPC later became a regional partner in the National Service-Learning in Teaching Education partnership, which led to Clemson’s School of Education being the home of the International Center on Service Learning in Teacher Education for six years. In addition, Duckenfield helped establish the Service-Learning Collaborative, promoting service-learning as a practice to all Clemson faculty.

“And I must truly say, that without NYLC and their work and constant support, I would never have even gotten started [in service-learning]. Their inspiration, partnerships, and support over the years have not only made my life have greater meaning, it has also impacted the world of dropout prevention…,” said Duckenfield.

As for her vision for the future of the field, Duckenfield hopes community members, educators, and students will all work together to make the case for service-learning. “We must continue to advocate for an America whose social environment values community engagement by young people, via their school programs and extracurricular organizations, thus effecting a change in expectations that communities may have for their youth, in both their children’s schools and their activities outside of school,” said Duckenfield.

Joanna Lennon

Co-founder and CEO, Civic Assets


The goal of Civic Assets is to rehabilitate and reintegrate veterans of the armed forces who suffer from PTSD and/or traumatic brain injuries by placing them in high-quality service activities and projects. Prior to this, Lennon served as founder and CEO of Civicorps Schools in Oakland, California for over 20 years.

She earned her Bachelor’s from University of California, Berkeley. Lennon also holds a Master’s Degree in Wildland Resource Source and is a doctoral candidate in the School of Forestry and Resource Management, also at U.C. Berkeley.

Lennon is passionate about addressing the needs of young people through programs that encourage them to be active citizens in their communities and has experience working on policy and legislation at the state, national, and international level.

Lennon has advised former presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, as well as members of Congress. She also was instrumental in the drafting of the National Community Service Act, signed by then President George W. Bush. In 2002, she was the recipient of the Peter E. Haas Public Service Award from U.C. Berkeley.

Kate McPherson

Adjunct professor in leadership and service-learning

Seattle Pacific University and Portland State University


McPherson has a long history with service-learning, including her work as an independent service-learning/leadership consultant and service-learning coach. Since 1987, McPherson has provided technical assistance to schools, community organizations, colleges, and businesses to design and sustain service-learning programs.

She is no stranger to NYLC either. McPherson was the recipient of the Service-Learning Practitioner Award back in 2002 at the National Service-Learning Conference.

McPherson received her Bachelor’s degree in American Studies from the University of Chicago. She earned her Secondary Teaching Certificate with English and Social Studies Endorsements, and got her Master of Arts in Teaching from Reed College. Most recently she completed graduate courses in Educational Leadership from Seattle Pacific University.


Interns

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Christian Buonfiglio, Technology Intern

Christian Buonfiglio is a recent graduate from Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minnesota with plans to attend Hamline University to study English and Computational Data Analytics in the fall. He has a passion for social justice, writing, and computer science, and his experience volunteering with Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts during his senior service project at Saint Thomas Academy solidified his passion for both the arts and service-learning. Inspired by progressive, community-oriented leaders like Minnesota's own Ilhan Omar, he hopes to provide support to NYLC in its mission to create educational opportunities and networks of support for students both locally and internationally. Christian works with the NYLC to provide technical support and site design, as well as assistance with NYLC's online community.

Christian enjoys writing, reading, finding new music, watching video essays on YouTube, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and petting his cat Mocha.