Board of Directors
CJ Morton, Chairman of the Board
CJ Morton has a degree in Economics from Hobart William Smith in Geneva, New York and an MBA from the American Graduate School of Business in La Tour de Peilz Switzerland. Mr. Morton has more than two decades of business development experience in fast-growth markets, with an emphasis on forming strategic partnerships and other revenue-generating collaborations. Currently Mr. Morton has been serving as vice president of business development for family owned company, Des Moines Cold Storage. Within a 4-year period he executed the sale of four older facilities and spearheaded the construction of a new $17,000,000 plant, securing the future of this 110-year-old organization.
Previously, Mr. Morton Mr. Morton founded and served as president of Home Care Assistance of Arizona, funding and managing all aspects of a successful agency specializing in quality in-home assisted care for seniors. Prior to the Home Care Assistance, he was acting vice president of operations for software development provider ProSource. Mr. Morton came to ProSource from PatchLink Corporation, where he was vice president of business development for the EMEA and APAC regions. He has also held senior-level roles with Vcommerce Corporation and AutoDesk. Mr. Morton started his career as director of operations and investor relations for Denver, Colo.-based TrueBlood Resources.
Mr. Morton is the grandson of the late Guardian Scholars Foundation founder Craig Sandahl. Mr. Morton had worked with his Grandfather over the past few years to support and formalize the program for expansion within Iowa. He, like his late Grandfather, is a strong proponent of higher education and its benefits and hopes to award individuals, who otherwise would have been unlikely to have been able to attend college, with the chance to earn their 4-year degree without the financial burden and stresses that typically accompany one. CJ looks forward to the future success of the program and the ability to send ever more young adults from the foster care system to college.
Kim Marks, Board Member
Kim graduated from Briar Cliff College in Sioux City, Ia. with a degree in social work. For the past 30 years, she has been employed by the Iowa Dept. of Human Services as a social worker in child welfare. Her job responsibilities have varied over the years. Ms. Marks currently serves as the Transition Planning Specialist for 30 counties in the Western Service Area. She has held this position for the past 14 years. In her TPS role, Kim’s focus is on the overall transition process/protocol for older youth who are expected to age out of the foster care system. She ensures that each youth is engaged in planning for their future and that there is a solid discharge plan for continuing education or employment, housing, access to health care, and maintaining a positive support system. Ms. Marks backs that Guardian Scholars Foundation as she believes that the program provides former foster youth with the necessary helpful financial and personal support that is otherwise lacking for the young adults to become successful in higher education.
Bill Smith, Board Member
William H. Smith, Jr., has served as Executive Director of the Organization of MISO States since January 2004. Previously, he was a staff director for the Iowa Utilities Board, a legal advisor at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and practiced energy law in a Washington, D.C., firm. Mr Smith now serves as the Treasurer of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa and a delegate to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. His interest in higher education includes chairing Yale’s Alumni Schools Committee in Des Moines, which interviews applicants from Central Iowa. Over the years, he has served on many Boards and other civic organizations. He holds a B.A. degree in Economics from Yale University and a J.D. degree from Cornell University. Mr. Smith sees great potential in the Guardian Scholars Program to increase the number of former foster youth completing 4-year degrees, which is otherwise lacking in Iowa.
Brandi L. Miller, Board Member
Brandi L. Miller is Assistant Director, New Student Programs, at Drake University in the Office of Student Financial Planning where she has worked with new and prospective students since 2001. Prior to working at Drake, she worked a short time at her alma mater, Grand View University, in their financial aid office. Brandi earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Services in 1999 from Grand View and her Master of Public Administration degree from Drake in 2009. She has been an active member of the Iowa Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (IASFAA) since 2001. As a former foster youth herself, Brandi understands the obstacles of obtaining a higher education as well as the value and opportunities it affords.
SENATOR Jack Hatch, Board Member
Jack Hatch is a former Democratic member of the Iowa State Senate, representing Des Moines from 2003 to 2015. He previously served in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1984 to 1993 and the 2014 Democratic candidate for Governor.
Throughout his career, Hatch has helped write most of Iowa's major legislation over the past three decades that primarily focused on issues relating to healthcare, education, children and families, and environmental protection.
Of particular importance to providing equal access to education, Hatch created the IMAGES scholarships (Iowa’s state-supported minority education scholarship program) and created the All Iowa Opportunity Grants scholarship program to help foster kids attend any state college or university. In addition, as Senate Chair of the Health & Human Services Budget Committee, Hatch created more protection for foster children, developed greater mental health services and provided more protection for low income families.
“Foster kids need to have the same opportunities as any Iowa child,” Hatch said, “joining the Guardian Scholars Foundation is a perfect example of how state resources and private contributions can change a young life forever.”
During his 22 years as a state legislator, Hatch authored the 1989 Leaking Underground Storage Tank Act, co-sponsored legislation the creation of the Resource Enhancement Program, co-sponsored earned income tax credits for low income earners, fought against discrimination to gays and lesbians in housing and employment and supported women’s right to choose and family planning programs. Hatch also led the state's comprehensive health care reform expanding Hawk-i, Iowa’s healthcare access program for young children.
Hatch's work reforming Iowa’s healthcare system gained him national prominence when, in 2009, he was appointed chair of the White House Task Force of State Legislators for Healthcare Reform. In that capacity, he led state legislators in advising the President and Congress on national proposals for health reform.
Hatch earned his B.S. and M.P.A. from Drake University in 1972 and 1973, respectively. His professional experience includes working with a variety of non-profit agencies including Iowa Children’s and Families Services, Wallace House Foundation and the Neighborhood Investment Corporation.
In 1997, together with his wife Sonja, Hatch founded Hatch Development Group & Perennial Properties Management Services, two companies that builds and manages affordable housing in low-income neighborhoods. Working with neighborhood leaders, city and county officials, lenders and investors, Hatch designed, built and managed sixteen housing communities in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. He presently has projects under construction in Waverly, Dubuque, Newton, Cedar Rapids & Des Moines.
Zachary Bales-Henry, Board Member
I am a lifelong native of the Des Moines Metro. Currently, I serve as the President and CEO of Trinity Investment Firm. I am also an Associate Broker at Coldwell Banker Mid America Group; where I head up ZBH & Partners. In my political life, I serve on the Windsor Heights City council as well as the DART Commission, Metro Advisory Council and the board of Iowa Safe Schools. Lastly, I was recently elected to as the Vice President of LULAC Council 307 (League of United Latin American Citizens).
Philanthropic work is also important to me. I currently have two scholarship programs. One is for students with learning disabilities while the other is for LGBTQA youth. Both are geared towards attending college.
My passion is helping my community grow through business and service.
Andrea McGinn, Board Member
I grew up in Runnells, Iowa on our family farm. I now reside in Pleasant Hill with my husband, our 18 month old son, Nolan, and our bulldog, Leonidus (Leo). I attended the University of Iowa for my undergraduate decree and majored in Psychology with a minor in Spanish and Nonprofit Management. I then went on to Drake for law school. I graduated from Drake and passed the bar exam in 2015. I always knew I wanted to do things differently than the traditional law office (and wanted to be my own boss :-) ), so I started my own practice right out of law school. In October 2017, I partnered with the attorney I was office sharing with, Amy Skogerson. We opened The Law Shop by Skogerson McGinn LLC. At The Law Shop, we focus on providing compassionate limited scope legal representation to family law clients. In addition to my family law work, I have been on the court appointed attorney list in juvenile court for many counties around the 5th judicial district in Iowa representing parents and children with open child in need of assistance cases. I also handle a fair amount of DHS adoptions. Prior to my involvement as an attorney in juvenile court, I was able to work with these families as a volunteer for the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program, and then as a student attorney at the Drake Children’s Rights Clinic. I was an executive for the Drake Association for Child Advocacy. I am now an active member with the Iowa State Bar Association Family and Juvenile Law Section. I am the marketing chair for the Central Iowa Academy of Collaborative Professionals. I am also the Iowa Association for Justice’s elected representative on the Iowa Domestic Violence Death Review Team.
I went to law school because I’ve always had a passion for working with children and families in hard times. I hope you will offer me the opportunity to serve these children and families in yet another way through your amazing organization. In my law school admissions essay I remember writing about how I believe that knowledge is power and education is the vehicle to that knowledge. Law school was my way of obtaining knowledge, so that one day I would have the power to change some things in the system.
Nicole Zeien-Cox, Board Member
A Business Graduate, a Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker, Foster Coach, and Production Manager for Think Bold, Be Bold Ventures, Nicole strives to inspire everyone to find their purpose and live a fulfilled life, regardless of their past or current situation.This passion for empowering others was sparked after prevailing through a string of adversities in her own journey from foster care to a self-employed businesswoman.
In just 30 days she wrote her first book, "Foster to Fosters," becoming a Best Seller within a short 24 hours of publishing. This book started her platform as a Foster Care Influencer and led to sharing relatable life lessons through keynote speaking and coaching that benefits budding entrepreneurs, child welfare professionals, parents, and teens. Nicole is passionate about creating the slight edge necessary to bring increased awareness to the foster community through educating, advocating, and inspiring others with her knowledge and personal journey through the foster care system.
Her next adventures include an upcoming independent documentary about her life story, followed by her Fostering 50 Podcast Tour in which she will travel to all 50 states and interview individuals impacted by foster care.
Thomas Wolff, Executive Director
Thomas Wolff, a graduate of Iowa State University, has many years of experience in marketing and non-profit work. Mr. Wolff previously functioned as Administrative Director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines where he produced collateral campaign materials for a capital fundraising campaign and cultivated donor relationships and volunteer opportunities while coordinating volunteer programs and events. Prior to that, Thomas has worked in marketing and advertising at Meredith Corporation where he provided art direction while collaborating with creative team in producing custom publications for host of national clients.
With a strong passion for education and non-profit work, Thomas is committed to elevating young adults born into difficult circumstances, to better themselves through higher education and become productive individuals capable of giving back to the community.