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Using the essential components of the StriveTogether model, Austin Aspires structure is intentionally designed for broad community participation, engagement and leadership. Each of the components of the structure play an essential role in ensuring growth toward our mission and vision. ​

These Essential Parts Include:

Board of Directors

The Leadership Table

Partner Organizations

Early Childhood Action Network (ECANs)

Youth Advisory Council


Board of Directors

  • Shelley King – President

  • Thad Kusick- Vice President

  • Varinh VanVught – Secretary

  • Sheri Dankert – Treasurer

  • Jill Andrews 

  • Jennifer Goins

  • Suzette Overby

  • Kelly Tapp

Partner Orginizations

Our partner organization play a key role in doing the essential work of collective impact. They provide their time, treasurers, and talents to ensure we are working towards educational excellence from cradle to career.

Education Partners

*Apple Lane Childcare Center
*Austin Public Schools
*Catherwood Childcare Center
*Community Learning Center
*Discovery Learning Center
*Mower County Licensed Daycare Providers
*Pacelli Catholic Schools
*Riverland Community College
*Wee Learning Center

Community Partners

*Americorps *Austin Area Chamber of Commerce *Austin Area Commission for the Arts *Austin First United Methodist Church *Austin Human Rights Commission *Austin Human Rights Commission *Austin Noon Kiwanis *Austin Police Department *Austin Positive Action Coalition (APAC) *Austin Public Library *Austin Rotary Club *CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen) *CLUES *Education Minnesota *Faith Church Austin *Head Start *HyVee *Independent Management Services (IMS) *Mower Refreshed *Nexus Gerard *Parenting Resource Center *Quality Park Processors *Science Fair Mentorship *SEMCAC *SHIP *Smart Transit *Sweet Reads *The City of Austin *The Hormel Institute *United Congregational Church & Preschool of Austin *United Way of Mower County *Welcome Center of Austin *Workforce Development Inc *YMCA at Austin Community Recreation Center

Funding Partners

*Hormel Foods

*Mayo Clinic Health System Austin-Albert Lea

*MN Department of Education

*MN Department of Higher Education

*MN Department of Human Services

*Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation

*Strive Together

*The Hormel Foundation

Early Childhood Action Network (ECAN)

Our Early Childhood Action Network (ECAN) is where some of our most important work wrapped around early childhood happens! Individuals from our partner organizations and community come together to develop strategy around early childhood areas as the main focus. Using community data, these teams identify ways to leverage existing assets or ways to develop new assets to eliminate locally defined disparities within early childhood. Some real heavy lifting happens in these groups, and we are always welcoming new members to the table who have a passion for early childhood!

Current ECAN's Includes

  • Facilitators

  • Preschool to Kindergarten Education

  • Child Care

  • Health Care

  • Early Childhood Supporting Resources

**ECANs are open to all who are interested! Contact us to learn more and get started today!

Preschool & Kindergarten Education ECAN Members

*Marie Viker – Pacelli Catholic Schools *Lynsey O’Donnell – Wee Learning Center *Vanessa Reinke – SEMCAC Head Start *Amy Goette – Community Learning Center *Jennifer Lawhead – Community Learning Center *Deidre Smith- Discovery Learning *Meredith Martin – Congregational Preschool *Shannon Hart – Apple Lane Childcare (Preschool) *Melissa Hussey – YMCA (ACRC) Preschool *Gretchen Erickson – Preschool on Wheels, Readers Café *Karen Erickson – Community Learning Center (EC Spec. Education) *Jill Rollie – Woodson (APS) *Melissa Kossoris – Woodson & Community Learning Center (APS Psychologist)

Child Care

  • Brady Engelby – Mower County Licensing, liaison for home childcare

  • Catherwood Childcare Center

Health Care

  • Heather Talley M.D. – Mayo Clinic Health Systems AU

  • Sara Lee- Mayo Clinic Health Systems Austin

Early Childhood Supporting Resources

*Sara Salas Ramirez- Parenting Resource Center *Karem Salas Ramirez- United Way/ Rainbow Route/ Success by Six *Sheri Dankert – The Hormel Foundation *Sally Gary – Mower County Health & Human Services *Sarah Horstmann –Family Connections

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Youth Advisory Council

This body will play an important role in ensuring the student voice is heard. This group plans to begin meeting in the fall of 2023. If you are an individual living in Austin, between the ages of 16-23, we would love to have your voice at our table! We will meet at locations and times selected by the group. Looking for youth that are looking to get involved to positively affect education in our community! If that is you, please contact us to learn more!

Austin Aspires Staff

Jayne Gibson
Executive Director
Jessica Anderson
Parent Engagement & Mentorship Coordinator
MaKayla Oxley
Early Childhood Navigator
Jwokamer Debock
Director of Student Programs
Jacque Ruiz
High School Navigator
Johanna Reyes
High School Navigator
Jesus Alvarez
Middle School Navigator
Ogud Oman
Middle Level Navigator
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