Hi everyone! I’m Erin Kurt and I have been at Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa since 2005 in a variety of roles. I grew up in Marion, Iowa, where my parents and siblings still live. I graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology and Spanish. While working in Admissions for Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, I obtained my Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing there. I loved working for a non-profit college and when I learned about the chance to work at JAEI, to continue to make a difference in young people’s lives, I made the switch. I live now in Coggon with my husband and our family.
Part of My Job: I have a unique role that allows me to support all parts of our team. I love that! I love doing what I can to make things easier, whether that’s through process improvement, technology, utilization, you name it! I like taking the big picture, breaking it down, and making the work move in that direction. And the team we have really makes it possible. Their enthusiasm, teamwork and joy make amazing things happen!!!
Thing to do in Outside of Work: Spend time with my family, which usually includes lots of sporting events, dinners, spending time outside, home projects, and laughing!
Place to Travel: Colorado. I love the mountains, the fresh air, the long list of activities. I have been there in the summer, fall and winter and love it every time!
Ways to Relax: I love to read, cook, garden, do home improvements…I’m always doing something until I crash at the end of the day!
My name is Whitney Schreder and I’ve been with JAEI since 2012. My role has morphed over the years and I love learning and growing with each new challenge! I am an Eastern Iowa native (Mount Vernon) and a University of Iowa alum (Go Hawks!). I live with my family in Sutliff and enjoy traveling the Midwest in our camper van, reading, cooking, boating, movies, golf and being outside when we can!
Part of My Job: The people. We have a great team at JAEI and we get to work with really great people in our communities.
Spot in Eastern Iowa: Sutliff – there’s live music each weekend during the summer months, the river, biking – I’m lucky to call it home!
Quote: “Love the life you live. Live the life you love.” ~Bob Marley
Things to do after 5 PM: Happy hours, game nights and date nights are my faves!
I’m Heather. I am originally from a small town in Northeast Iowa. I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in Marketing. We moved to the Benton county area in 2014. My career with Junior Achievement is by far my favorite of all the positions I have held. Everyday I get to work with passionate colleagues all focused on making life better for our youth.
Part of My Job: Connecting with other people who are dedicated to educating local youth about their financial future. In addition, seeing the light bulb moments when teaching Junior Achievement curriculum in the class room. It’s unforgettable when it all clicks and a student says “You mean I have to pay taxes?”
Things to do after 5 PM: Watching my children participate in school activities.
Hello, my name is Janette Beer. I joined the hard-working, dedicated, and fun JAEI team in the fall of 2019 as a part-time Education Manager. My job entails setting up classroom programs, recruiting new volunteers, ordering materials, and being a liaison between educators and volunteers. I grew up in Cedar Rapids and received my undergraduate and graduate degrees in elementary education from Mount Mercy College and Coe College. I spent 8 years teaching in the Linn-Mar district then spent the next 14 years as a stay-at-home mom. I have a long history of volunteer work at church and my children’s school. When I was in high school, I experienced Junior Achievement as a student and loved it. I also utilized JA as a classroom teacher for several years. Having the opportunity to be part of the JAEI team is a perfect match for me! I’ve seen firsthand the tremendous impact it has on students of all ages and I’m happy to be part of advancing the mission of Junior Achievement in my community.
My favorite ….
Part of my job: Being in classrooms teaching JA! (The amazing team I work with is a bonus!!)
Place to be: With my family on the beach.
Quote: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson
Things to do after 5PM: Gathering with family or friends to share in conversation, laughter, and love. Going on a date with my husband. Hanging out at home with my 2 daughters.
Hello! My name is Johnathon Brinson, I am proud team member and District Manager at Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa. I am originally from Clearwater, Florida and now reside in Mount Vernon, Iowa with my wife and two small boys. I previously worked at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in revenue and also, served as a finance officer for the city of Solon. During my career I realized I wanted to do more in order to support the idea of change in our communities. The idea of changing the world by empowering our youth was the driving force I needed to be a part of a wonderful organization. Junior Achievement is the place where I decided to pursue my overall goal of improving our communities by empowering our youth.
Part of My Job: Creating relationships with leaders and citizens within the community and from multiple functional areas. Being a part of a team that supports each other by working together makes Junior Achievement feel like a home for me.
Spot in Eastern Iowa: My home in which I can spend time teaching my boys the way of life.
Quote: "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek"- Barack Obama
Downtime: Running outside and attending the gym.
Hi! My name is Kristi Brown, and I am proud to serve as the Stewardship Director at Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa. I was raised in Marion, Iowa and later moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa to attend college. I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations and minors in Marketing and Journalism. After college, I tried out the corporate world and quickly decided it was not for me. I realized I wanted to work for an organization that gives back to the community and makes it a better place for everyone to live and work, which makes Junior Achievement a perfect fit for me! I am so proud to get to be a part of showing area students that if they believe in themselves, work really hard, and never give up, their future has endless possibilities.
Part of My Job: Having an opportunity to work with associates from multiple functional areas of our team to bring the Junior Achievement mission to life! We truly have a great team. I love that each staff member also gets to spend time in the classroom to see our work and impact in action.
Spot in Eastern Iowa: My backyard! Chasing my kiddos and spending time with family.
Quote: "Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing."- Pele
Things to do after 5 PM: Being outside going for a walk or bike ride.
Hello! My name is Emma Disterhoft, and I am the Logistics Manager at Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa. I am from Marengo, Iowa and attended Central College in Pella, IA. Go Dutch! I graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management-Marketing and minors in Spanish and Accounting. This is my first job in the “real world” and I am so glad to have found a home at JA. A few fun tidbits to know about me- I love cats, office supplies, anything involving cheese, and nature.
Part of My Job: Watching each of our events come to life and seeing our WHY in action when I teach a JA class.
Spot in Eastern Iowa: This is not so much a place but a feeling. My parents’ house on Christmas Eve is always full of love, family, comfort, and warmth. If there’s a place that has that, I’ll be there!
Quote: "The sunshine walks beside her” – lyrics by Nanci Griffith. Be the light!
Things to do after 5 PM: Usually something involving good food, good company, or good entertainment- hopefully all three!
Hi! My name is Amy Fossum, and I am the Director of Education at Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa. I was raised in Center Point, Iowa and after getting married I moved to the Quad Cities. I attended St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic Arts and Book Arts. I have recently moved back to Center Point with my husband and four children.
Part of My Job: Watching the passion of my co-workers, volunteers and teachers when it comes to sharing the Junior Achievement mission with young people!
Quote: “Creativity takes courage.” – Henri Matisse
Things to do after 5 PM: Creating art in all different forms, from tie dying and screen printing to designing.
Hi! My name is Beth Horan, and I am an Education Manager for Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa, focused in the Cedar Valley. I grew up in Northwest Iowa, and then went to UNI to pursue my teaching degree. I graduated from UNI with an English Education degree. After teaching in the Cedar Valley for 8 years, then around 10 years in the business community, I am so very excited to join the Junior Achievement team! I currently live in Cedar Falls with my husband Adam, my children Anna and Jay, and our dog Sophie. I am honored to be part of such a great organization that is able to provide support to our young people in the community while connecting them with volunteers with the desire to be a positive influence and resource within the community.
Part of My Job: I am just diving into my new role, but I already feel that I am part of a team who truly cares. I am excited to build relationships with current and new educators who can benefit from the JA curriculum as well as meet new individuals within the community who are driven to volunteer within the classroom.
Place to Visit: We love visiting Eagle River in Northern Wisconsin. It is beautiful and peaceful, and we can enjoy time outdoors and on the many lakes. We hav missed it the past two years, but we are excited to return next year.
Quote: "Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it." - Andy Rooney
Things to do After 5 PM: WE are always up for a great movie and love cozying up in our basement to watch just about anything. As a former English teacher, I of course love reading. I also love to take walks, play outside with my kids, and I really do enjoy cooking and trying new recipes.
Hello, my name is Nicole Lesmeister, I was born and raised in Cedar Rapids and have the exciting opportunity to serve JA as a Program and Volunteer Manager. I earned a degree from Ashford University. My passion for working with for impact organizations and education led me to join JA in the summer of 2019.
Part of My Job: Working with a team of passionate individuals to make a difference in our community
Spot in Eastern Iowa: Biking on any of the trails
Quote: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit."
Things to do after 5 PM: Go for a walk
Hello! My name is Carrie Pontzius and I started my career with JA in 2010. I have had many different responsibilities within the education team and my most current role focuses on developing an enhanced student assessment program, demonstrating how the JA program affects students. I am excited to share the impact JA has on students with our community!
Part of my job: Being in the classroom. I enjoy leading the JA program and interacting with educators and students.
Place in Eastern Iowa: Any of the local dessert shops! We have a few to choose from and they are all good!
Quote: “Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do!" -anonymous
Thing to do after 5 PM: Our family enjoys spending time at the lake and exploring local parks and festivals.
My name is Jessica Rickard, and I serve Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa as Operations Manager at our Waterloo location. I was raised in Ames, Iowa - Go Cyclones! - and moved to the Cedar Valley after graduating high school. In my mid-twenties I moved to the Front Range of Colorado. After almost 9 years in the mountains, I missed the green fields and small towns of Iowa so much that I decided was time to come home. I've been with the Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa team since 2016 and love working for an organization that helps prepare area students for their amazing futures.
Part of My Job: I always wanted to be a teacher, so spending time with the students in their classrooms is almost a dream come true! Plus, the experiences I've had in the classroom really help to drive home how instrumental the Junior Achievement mission is in improving the lives of our kids. I also really enjoy spending time with everyone on our team, particularly the other members of the morning coffee club, in such an upbeat and enthusiastic working environment.
Spot in Eastern Iowa: My house. It's cozy and all my favorite people, animals, and things are there.
Quote: "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." CS Lewis
Things to do after 5 PM: Usually walking the dog before having dinner with my family.
Hi! My name is Katelyn Tungland, but a lot of people call me KT! I was raised in Hudson, Iowa and currently reside in Cedar Falls with my husband, Alex, our daughter Joslynn and our Australian Shepard, Chex! I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication. Prior to working for Junior Achievement I was a JA volunteer and quickly fell in love with the program and wanted to get more involved in the community. JA has blessed me with a career that allows me to find a healthy balance between work and life! I love how JA focuses on youth education and entrepreneurship!
Part of My Job: Working in the community! I love connecting with business people, networking and participating in other service organizations and clubs. I love spreading the mission of JA with some of the best community leaders and colleagues in Eastern Iowa!
Spot in Eastern Iowa: The trails! I love to run. The Cedar Valley has some of the best paved and dirt trails. I have ran 2 full marathons, 19 half marathons and countless 10k’s and 5k’s.
Quote: "Comparison is the thief of joy” – Teddy Roosevelt. I love this quote because it is a daily reminder that everyone is unique and has their own story. It is not fair to compare.
Things to do after 5 PM: Spending time outside with the family! And eating dinner…. Because I love to cook and to eat!
Hello! My name is Michelle Waldron and I am one of the Operations Managers at Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa. August of 2020 will mark my 9th year with JAEI! I have lived in Cedar Rapids for most of my life and graduated from The University of Iowa. My husband Mike and I have three children, Annah will be a senior and Sam will be a freshman, both at the University of Iowa. My youngest, Sophie, will be in ninth grade at Prairie in Cedar Rapids. All three of them have had Junior Achievement in school and I am thankful that I was able to teach a lot of their classes!
Part of my job: The JAEI Team! I feel very lucky to work with a team that is so passionate and works so hard to make Junior Achievement successful in Eastern Iowa.
Spot in Eastern Iowa: My house! I love spending time with my family.
Quote: Choose to be optimistic, it feels better. – Dalai Lama
Things to do after 5pm: Take my dogs for a walk or catch up with my family about their day.
Junior Achievement Student
"Junior Achievement reinforced concepts for me to remember later in life."
Junior Achievement Student
"I thought the experience was amazing. The presentation was unlike anything I've seen."
Junior Achievement Student
"Junior Achievement has given me a sense of what adults go through with budget issues."
Junior Achievement Student
"I liked how the Junior Achievement volunteer explained his job to us."