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. Most recently, Mr. Morton was an independent consultant for a joint venture between RouteCloud and TASER International, helping design solutions to curb teens from distracted driving due to cell phone usage.

Mr. Morton previously 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 Guardian Scholars Foundation founder Craig Sandahl.  Mr. Morton has been working with his Grandfather over the past two years to support and formalize the program for expansion within Iowa.  He, like Mr. Sandahl, 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.

Sheila Hudson, Board Member

Sheila Hudson, New Tech Professional Learning Development Coach, for the West Des Moines School District, has worked in education for fourteen years. Sheila worked in junior high and upper elementary in various suburban and urban districts as a language arts and science instructor, and an English as a Second Language Instructor. Before her career in education, Sheila worked in aerospace near Chicago as a project manager and in Banking as a Data Based Marketing Director. She has Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education, as well as endorsements in literature, reading, and ESL. Sheila has a Masters Degree in Professional Development and Teaching Effectiveness. She is involved with the Des Moines Metro Opera as President of the Opera Guild and a past fundraising chair of Ballet Des Moines.

Sheila is a nationally known speaker who brings educators together to discuss supporting the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students. She lives in West Des Moines with her husband Roger. They have two daughters, one who attends the University of Iowa and one who attends Simpson College, and a therapy dog that works at Clive School of Inquiry with special needs students.

Mark Shea, BOard Member

Mark Shea square.jpg

Mark Shea received his Bachelor’s degree from Buena Vista University in 1994 and his Master’s degree in Adult & Higher Education Administration from the University of South Dakota in May 2014. Mark has over seventeen years of experience in higher education at Buena Vista University. This includes over ten years serving in the Office of Admissions and the past seven years in Student Affairs as the Director of Student Success. Working in the Office of Admissions provided Mark with valuable experience assisting high school students and their parents in the college selection processes. This included working on scholarships, applications, financial assistance, and overall preparation for college expectations and success. The experience in Admissions paved the way for Mark’s current position as the Director of Student Success at Buena Vista University. In this position, Mark works with students in a variety of ways to achieve success despite barriers and obstacles that could prevent their persistence and success. This includes overseeing such programs as Early Alert, success coaching, faculty and staff education, and student problem-solving.

In addition to his experience in higher education, Mark also served on the Citizen’s Foster Care Review Board in Buena Vista County from 2004-2011. This provided Mark with great insight of, and appreciation for, the unique needs of young people aging out of the Foster Care system. Mark and his wife Belinda live in Galva, Iowa and are the proud parents of two sons, Caden (age 14) and Brennan (age 13).

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.

Travis Lloyd, Ambassador

Travis Lloyd 13719648_1775126436035617_3065184614684778758_o.jpg

Travis Lloyd is an inspirational speaker, author, trainer, and consultant with a background as a health care professional and adjunct professor. He is known to share stories of overcoming and inspiring others through real life stories, poetry, and song. As a former hopeless youth who feared his lifestyle would lead to prison, Travis began seeking to discover how to live a life of passion and purpose.

At the age of 23, Travis found what he was seeking for and dedicated the next seven years of his life to gaining the experience and developing the skill necessary to help others do the same. He enjoys speaking, emceeing, and performing for both youth and adult audiences. His past venues range from middle and high schools to universities, juvenile justice, child welfare, and corporate conferences. Having experienced and overcome foster homes, homeless shelters, and a stay in an adolescent mental health unit enables Travis to offer hope, not only to audiences across the country, but to his own community. Travis previously served as a Mental Health Mobile Crisis Worker, and still occasionally serves as an Adjunct Professor and licensed emergency nurse in a pediatric hospital. Travis is a board member of Foster Care Alumni Of America, VP of the Our Fields Of Hope Foundation, Google Certified contributor of Social Work Helper Magazine, and Foster Focus Magazine, co- author of "Fostering Hope For America," and author of "Overcoming Emotional Trauma: Life Beyond Survival Mode."

his link:

Our Staff

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.