OUR TEAM

 

Our group is made up of volunteers who are advocating for positive change in our community. We each have a personal connection to the LGBTQ+ community because we identify as LGBTQ+ or we are parents, friends, or allies of LGBTQ+ individuals. We all live and work in Kansas City and are dedicated to our local communities.

 
  LIZ MEITL   Liz Meitl is an active advocate for students in the Kansas City area. In addition to being a founding member of Thrive, she is the co-facilitator of UNITED, an organization dedicated to fostering inclusive school environments through professional learning and community building, and she serves on the board of the MainStream Coalition. She teaches undergraduate and Master's level courses at KU in the Department of Education, and she works as an educational consultant and advocate for students with IEPs. Liz also volunteers as an educational advocate for young people who are in the foster care system. She often bores her two children and husband with complicated stories about the importance of good public policy. When they’re not talking about public policy, Liz and her family like to camp, ride bikes, garden, go to music shows, and enjoy Kansas City’s restaurant scene.

LIZ MEITL

Liz Meitl is an active advocate for students in the Kansas City area. In addition to being a founding member of Thrive, she is the co-facilitator of UNITED, an organization dedicated to fostering inclusive school environments through professional learning and community building, and she serves on the board of the MainStream Coalition. She teaches undergraduate and Master's level courses at KU in the Department of Education, and she works as an educational consultant and advocate for students with IEPs. Liz also volunteers as an educational advocate for young people who are in the foster care system. She often bores her two children and husband with complicated stories about the importance of good public policy. When they’re not talking about public policy, Liz and her family like to camp, ride bikes, garden, go to music shows, and enjoy Kansas City’s restaurant scene.

  S.J. CRASNOW   S.J. is an Assistant Professor of Theology & Religious Studies at Rockhurst University. Their* research focuses on queer and transgender Jews, and they teach a variety of courses including a class on religion, gender, and sexuality. S.J. is also a faculty co-supervisor of UNITY, the LGBTQ student group at Rockhurst.  *S.J.’s pronouns are they/them/theirs.

S.J. CRASNOW

S.J. is an Assistant Professor of Theology & Religious Studies at Rockhurst University. Their* research focuses on queer and transgender Jews, and they teach a variety of courses including a class on religion, gender, and sexuality. S.J. is also a faculty co-supervisor of UNITY, the LGBTQ student group at Rockhurst.

*S.J.’s pronouns are they/them/theirs.

  CHERI BALL   Cheri is a Licensed Master Social Worker and works as a hospice bereavement coordinator. As the proud parent of two children who belong to the LGBTQ community, she is a passionate advocate for LGBTQ youth rights, especially in schools. Cheri serves on the board of GLSEN of Greater Kansas City as its Youth Services Coordinator, and she also serves on the board of the Missouri Courage Scholarship as its Kansas City Ambassador. Cheri and her family help spread awareness for gender nonconforming youth with their campaign #clothinghasnogender. In her free time, Cheri enjoys spending time with her family and friends, hiking, paper crafting, and binge watching television shows from the UK. Cheri is excited to join Thrive as a representative for GLSEN GKC to improve school policies for LGBTQ youth.

CHERI BALL

Cheri is a Licensed Master Social Worker and works as a hospice bereavement coordinator. As the proud parent of two children who belong to the LGBTQ community, she is a passionate advocate for LGBTQ youth rights, especially in schools. Cheri serves on the board of GLSEN of Greater Kansas City as its Youth Services Coordinator, and she also serves on the board of the Missouri Courage Scholarship as its Kansas City Ambassador. Cheri and her family help spread awareness for gender nonconforming youth with their campaign #clothinghasnogender. In her free time, Cheri enjoys spending time with her family and friends, hiking, paper crafting, and binge watching television shows from the UK. Cheri is excited to join Thrive as a representative for GLSEN GKC to improve school policies for LGBTQ youth.

 
  WENDY BUDETTI   Wendy Budetti has lived in Johnson County for almost 30 years. She is a graduate of Shawnee Mission East and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English at KU. She is a board member of Equality Kansas - Metro Kansas City, and an active member of the Johnson County chapter of Moms Demand Action. She and her husband live in Olathe with their five children, all current or former students of the Olathe School District. Education and advocacy have always been passions of Wendy’s, and she is excited to be a part of Thrive.

WENDY BUDETTI

Wendy Budetti has lived in Johnson County for almost 30 years. She is a graduate of Shawnee Mission East and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English at KU. She is a board member of Equality Kansas - Metro Kansas City, and an active member of the Johnson County chapter of Moms Demand Action. She and her husband live in Olathe with their five children, all current or former students of the Olathe School District. Education and advocacy have always been passions of Wendy’s, and she is excited to be a part of Thrive.

  ANGIE POWERS   A voracious reader, practicing writer, active union member, and social justice advocate, Angie Powers is an educator first. Angie has taught adolescents from a cart, in classrooms, and online. Through her sponsorship of activities such as National Honor Society and the Gender Sexuality Alliance, she’s educated students in the areas of literacy, leadership, character, and service. She’s also mentored new teachers and led professional development in various roles throughout her career in Olathe Public Schools and as a facilitator of the Welcoming Schools approach. 

ANGIE POWERS

A voracious reader, practicing writer, active union member, and social justice advocate, Angie Powers is an educator first. Angie has taught adolescents from a cart, in classrooms, and online. Through her sponsorship of activities such as National Honor Society and the Gender Sexuality Alliance, she’s educated students in the areas of literacy, leadership, character, and service. She’s also mentored new teachers and led professional development in various roles throughout her career in Olathe Public Schools and as a facilitator of the Welcoming Schools approach. 

  LEIGH RYSKO   Leigh has a MA in the Teaching of Languages and has been teaching Spanish since 1997. She has also taught English as a Second Language at UMKC’s Applied Language Institute and in the Amazon Basin of Peru where she worked for a year through Fulbright’s Teacher Exchange Program. She serves as Shawnee Mission South’s co-facilitator of UNITED (Understanding the Need for Intentional Training in Empathy and Diversity). She sponsors her school’s International Club and Spectrum, a Gay Straight Alliance. She co-founded San Diego’s chapter of Amigos de las Américas, a youth leadership program that promotes sustainable development in Latin America and served as Training Director. She chaperones summer trips abroad with students.­

LEIGH RYSKO

Leigh has a MA in the Teaching of Languages and has been teaching Spanish since 1997. She has also taught English as a Second Language at UMKC’s Applied Language Institute and in the Amazon Basin of Peru where she worked for a year through Fulbright’s Teacher Exchange Program. She serves as Shawnee Mission South’s co-facilitator of UNITED (Understanding the Need for Intentional Training in Empathy and Diversity). She sponsors her school’s International Club and Spectrum, a Gay Straight Alliance. She co-founded San Diego’s chapter of Amigos de las Américas, a youth leadership program that promotes sustainable development in Latin America and served as Training Director. She chaperones summer trips abroad with students.­

  JEMMA RADICK   Jemma is a parent to a transgender child, and deeply concerned about our LGBTQ student’s experiences in schools and the lack of clear policy in place to support them. In addition to being a founding member of THRIVE, she is an active participant in KC’s TransParent chapter, and she also organizes Authentically Me, a local community group for gender non-conforming kids and their families to connect and support each other in a social setting. Jemma is a designer and bit of a social butterfly with a love for community building. Jemma & her family moved to the Kansas City area in 2014, and live in Prairie Village. 

JEMMA RADICK

Jemma is a parent to a transgender child, and deeply concerned about our LGBTQ student’s experiences in schools and the lack of clear policy in place to support them. In addition to being a founding member of THRIVE, she is an active participant in KC’s TransParent chapter, and she also organizes Authentically Me, a local community group for gender non-conforming kids and their families to connect and support each other in a social setting. Jemma is a designer and bit of a social butterfly with a love for community building. Jemma & her family moved to the Kansas City area in 2014, and live in Prairie Village. 

  LESLIE BUTSCH    Leslie Butsch has been an advocate for children in Kansas for several years. Leslie began her career as a Case Manager for children in foster care, where she found a passion for ensuring Kansas is creating safe communities for children. While working on a Master of Social Work at the University of Kansas, Leslie served individuals experiencing homelessness, living with mental illness, and surviving intimate partner violence. She also completed an internship at the ACLU of Kansas, shaping an effective policy advocacy and community organizing skillset. Through all of this work, she has centered a passion for social justice. In May of 2018, Leslie graduated from the University of Kansas with a Master of Social Work.

LESLIE BUTSCH

Leslie Butsch has been an advocate for children in Kansas for several years. Leslie began her career as a Case Manager for children in foster care, where she found a passion for ensuring Kansas is creating safe communities for children. While working on a Master of Social Work at the University of Kansas, Leslie served individuals experiencing homelessness, living with mental illness, and surviving intimate partner violence. She also completed an internship at the ACLU of Kansas, shaping an effective policy advocacy and community organizing skillset. Through all of this work, she has centered a passion for social justice. In May of 2018, Leslie graduated from the University of Kansas with a Master of Social Work.

  JONATHAN CALLISON   Fr. Jonathan is a life long Kansas native whose family hails from the southwest area of the state. He is an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of West Missouri and a full time ELL teacher in the Shawnee Mission School District at Shawnee Mission South. He is married to his husband, Chris Robles Callison, also an educator. They live in Prairie Village with a beagle, a cat, and their bees.

JONATHAN CALLISON

Fr. Jonathan is a life long Kansas native whose family hails from the southwest area of the state. He is an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of West Missouri and a full time ELL teacher in the Shawnee Mission School District at Shawnee Mission South. He is married to his husband, Chris Robles Callison, also an educator. They live in Prairie Village with a beagle, a cat, and their bees.

 
  CHRISTOPHER ROBLES   Chris has been an educator for eleven years and currently teaches sixth grade for the Shawnee Mission School District.  He also facilitates diversity workshops for the teachers in his building throughout the year.  Prior to teaching, his first career was in banking where he served people from all walks of life.  If there is one thing that his students take with them from his classroom at the end of the year, it is this:  Everyone you meet is different and that’s okay; everybody deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.

CHRISTOPHER ROBLES

Chris has been an educator for eleven years and currently teaches sixth grade for the Shawnee Mission School District.  He also facilitates diversity workshops for the teachers in his building throughout the year.  Prior to teaching, his first career was in banking where he served people from all walks of life.  If there is one thing that his students take with them from his classroom at the end of the year, it is this:  Everyone you meet is different and that’s okay; everybody deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.

  JOSIE HERRERA   Josie is Associate Principal at Shawnee Mission South High School. 

JOSIE HERRERA

Josie is Associate Principal at Shawnee Mission South High School. 

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