Joshua Merritt is the LGBTQ Youth Advocate for Iowa Safe Schools. He is an Iowa native, spending most of his life in Johnston. He came out to his family and friends during his sophomore year in high school, and helped establish the district’s first Gay-Straight Alliance during his senior year. Afterward he attended the University of Iowa for undergrad and DePaul University to get his masters in social work. Since coming to Chicago he’s worked with homeless and formerly homeless youth and adults in both direct service and program administration roles.
Joshua is also an avid video and board gamer, and prides himself on his Netflix binging abilities. He’s extremely excited to come back to his home state to continue serving the LGBTQ student population and advocating for their rights.
Nate Monson leads Iowa Safe Schools where he has been Executive Director since 2007. He is a well known voice in Iowa on issues related to LGBTQ youth and school climate issues. He speaks annually to many colleges/universities, schools, corporations, and community organizations. Nate serves his community with involvement in various organizations including being a Board Member of the Walnut Creek YMCA, Iowa Bullying Prevention Council, and Chairperson of the Iowa Pride PAC.
Nate graduated from Clarke University in 2007 with a BA in History.
In his role at Iowa Safe Schools, Nate works to lead the organization's strategic plan, development efforts, organization of the Annual Iowa Governors Conference on LGBTQ Youth, and creation of programming efforts.
Becky Smith joins the Iowa Safe Schools team as the new Iowa GSA Network Coordinator, with her role consisting of promoting the empowerment and involvement of Iowa’s LGBTQ* young people to create positive change to their school. She received her bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Iowa, and has been involved in Des Moines area non-profit work, promoting inclusion and equality throughout the state of Iowa.
Becky brings with her a wealth of experience working with LGBTQ* young people, and is excited to share her knowledge on GSA organizing, youth advocacy, and intersectionality to Iowa Safe Schools. She has developed strong relationships with many existing Iowa GSAs, and is committed to creating safe spaces for young people in Iowa schools through youth activism and community support.
Becky lives in Des Moines with her fiancé. She loves Starbucks, binge watching TV shows on Netflix, and spending time with her and her fiancé’s three cats.
Mark Turnage is the Registrar and Administrative Assistant for Iowa Safe Schools, where he provides help with transcripts, technical support for participants of the Safe Schools Academy, registration for the annual Iowa Governor's Conference, and coordinating local community fundraising events since 2014. Mark graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 2008 and has been involved in community events and advocacy-related fundraising since moving to Des Moines in 2011.
The son of two teachers, Mark's experience in both education and empowering youth expression includes three years as Pleasantville High School Fall Play Director, providing audio/technical support to high school entertainment and athletic programs, and partnering with local LGBT organizations and venues to promote the work of Iowa Safe Schools.
You can always find Mark at the midnight premiere of the latest Batman film, curating his comic book collection, playing the latest Metal Gear videogame, indulging his inner film geek, or working on writing the next great Batman story.