Paula Land joined Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) early in 2011 as our Executive Director. Paula is a graduate of Mount Mercy University and most recently held the position of Vice President of Operations and Organizational Effectiveness for Trees Forever. Paula has three children and four grandchildren. In her spare time, Paula enjoys singing and volunteering in the community. She considers herself a lifelong learner. Passionate about nonprofits, Paula’s excited to be back in the education and human services fields.
Madison graduated from the University of Iowa with degrees in Spanish Language & Literature and International Studies with a focus on human rights. After her studies, Madison went on to become a teacher at a dual-language elementary school where she taught third grade dual-language, and language-literacy groups for three years. Throughout her adventure as a teacher, she developed a passion for education and building empowerment in underserved areas. Madison is grateful for the opportunity to serve her community and to support the mission of CMC!
Tony has been working in the maintenance and construction field for about 20 years. For the last ten years, he has been working with animals, mostly training dogs. Working for CMC will be rewarding, knowing that he is helping people in need. Tony has an 11-year-old son named Sam, who is the center of his life. He likes to play basketball and go fishing. He looks forward to bringing his skills to CMC, along with his sense of pride and a caring attitude!
Peggy’s undergraduate studies centered on psychology and education, as she was very interested in human behavior and aspired to be an inspirational teacher. During student teaching, she discovered this wasn’t the right fit for her. At all. That didn’t make her any less interested in either subject, and in many ways it influenced her professional life, including her MBA studies. The majority of her career was spent at GE, which took her to Cedar Rapids, as well as Missouri and Michigan, but she always knew she wanted to return to Eastern Iowa. After many years, Peggy decided to leave the corporate world to buy and run a coffee shop in downtown Cedar Rapids. Managing the coffee shop reinforced her love for the community, but the flood of 2008 brought an end to that business. Following that chapter, Peggy spent 11 years at Pearson, a global company with a mission centered on improving lives through education. She is excited and blessed to be joining the Catherine McAuley Center, where she has an opportunity to carry out that mission and more with a local focus!
Katie graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.A. in English and a Masters in Library Science. She began tutoring at CMC shortly after moving to Cedar Rapids and has volunteered in various capacities since then. In her role as Government Grants Coordinator, Katie is so happy to help grow the important programs offered by CMC. When not working, Katie loves spending time with her husband and two young children, reading, running, and visiting family and friends on the East Coast.
Ny-Oka earned her MBA from the University of Iowa and her dual Bachelor’s degrees in Accounting and Finance from Mount Mercy University in 2005. Ny-Oka has worked in both the non-profit and for profit sectors, but feels fulfilled in a non-profit organization. She has two sons, one in the US Air Force and the other in the Solon Community School district. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends and attending her youngest son’s sporting events. Ny-Oka is passionate about Hawkeye sports and the Green Bay Packers. She is excited to be a part of the CMC team and eager to support the CMC mission.
Ever since Katie got her first taste of international travel in high school, she has been very passionate about encountering and learning about all cultures and lifestyles. She majored in Business Management and German at Luther College, but took a detour to teach English in South Korea for two years. After returning, Katie joined CMC as a RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps member, having benefited from a helping hand overseas and wanting to pay it forward to new arrivals in our community. Following her AmeriCorps term, she has joined the administrative staff and is excited to be continuing to support CMC’s mission.
Kelsey graduated from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL, with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a concentration in Not-for-Profit Management. She joined CMC in March 2015 after volunteering as a tutor since October 2014 and is excited to use her degree to support CMC’s mission. In her free time, Kelsey enjoys finding adventure through running, reading, and travel.
Sandy joined our staff in January 2015 as our Systems and Facilities Manager. She was a computer programmer for 16 years before resigning to stay at home with their three sons. At that time, she volunteered at church, school, and with their youth baseball program. She is thrilled to be able to serve the staff and community at the Catherine McAuley Center!
Education Services Staff
Anne holds a B.A. in English from Coe College and an M.Ed. with an emphasis in Teacher Leadership from Mt. Mercy University. She worked in the healthcare industry for many years and taught in Barbados for two years. She is passionate about helping students and tutors create community through quality language learning and new educational opportunities. Anne believes all learners are teachers and all teachers are learners, and to that end, is inspired daily by the interactions she sees at CMC. In her spare time, Anne spends time with her close family, loves to write funny and slightly dramatic letters to all and sundry, and going out for great meals with friends.
Stephen McTier, Education Coordinator
Stephen’s passion for teaching language led him to teach ESL in Mexico, Russia, Turkey, and the exotic land of Minnesota. Through his church, he learned about volunteering at CMC then came on staff as Tutor Student Liaison because “CMC gives people the means to a stable, good life. Who wouldn’t support that?” He has made friends in five countries he had never been to before and has written an unpublished novel. In his free time, he reads, walks, goes birding, watches old and new movies, and cooks.
Angie Miller, Education Coordinator
Angie is currently studying for a BA in English Language Learners Studies. She started volunteering as a tutor at CMC and loved it so much that she applied for a job! Her favorite part about CMC is meeting people from all over the world and with many different backgrounds. In her free time, she likes to care for her animals and volunteer in her church. She also goes on mission trips to Guatemala every year and plans to teach there someday.
Achissa, Education Coordinator
Achissa received her BA in accounting at AUCA (Adventist University of Central Africa) in Rwanda in 2000. She came to CMC in March 2015 as a student. She is delighted to be part of the education staff as an Education Coordinator because it gives women and men the opportunity to expand confidence and empowers them to be who they want to be regardless of where they are from. Achissa enjoys swimming, cooking, and spending time with her family in her free time.
While studying for a BA in music at the University of Iowa, Katie accepted an Honors Fellowship in the Writing Center, where she discovered a love for tutoring. That led to teaching English Language Acquisition at Kirkwood Community College. Katie joined CMC in January 2016 and is excited to be part of an organization that empowers students by building their knowledge and skills. In her free time, Katie plays bass guitar, sings, and volunteers as a sound tech at Legion Arts’ CSPS Hall.
Claire graduated with a B.A. in Biology and French from Coe College. Throughout her time at Coe, she was a volunteer, intern, and AmeriCorps member at CMC. All of that time spent tutoring in the Education department led her to a Fulbright grant where she spent a year teaching English at a university in Luang Prabang, Laos. She loved every minute of her time in Laos and fell in love with teaching English. She is so excited to be back at CMC doing just that, surrounded by such a supportive community! In her free time, she enjoys playing volleyball, drinking coffee, reading cheesy romance novels, and spending time with friends and family.
Evelyn Berryhill, RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps Distance Learning Coach
Evelyn graduated from Grinnell College where she studied Anthropology and Linguistics. After taking several courses in education and applied linguistics, Evelyn became interested in ESL and teaching Language, so she began looking for ways to incorporate those areas into a job. She heard about CMC from a professor and was excited to learn about the Adult Basic Education Program. In her free time, Evelyn loves cooking foods from around the world, crafting, and spending time with her family, including several cats and dogs.
Walt Wagner-Hecht, Educational Services AmeriCorps VISTA
While studying for a degree in Biology at Coe College, Walt began tutoring at the Catherine McAuley Center and enjoyed teaching and connecting with students. As a way to contribute to making a more welcoming community, Walt decided to further his commitment to the Center as a VISTA. Reading, playing board and card games, and spending time outside observing nature are among Walt’s favorite activities.
Refugee & Immigrant Services Staff
After obtaining a B.A. in international Relations and Religion from Wartburg College and a M.A. in Intercultural Service, Leadership and Management from SIT Graduate Institute, Sara began working with refugees and immigrants at the Catholic Charities here in cedar rapids. She continued back to Iowa and bringing her career full circle by joining CMC in 2009. She is passionate about educating the community about resilience and strength of refugees, and is inspired by the dedication of CMC staff to provide the support and resources to help refugees find peace and stability. Outside of work, Sara can be found playing in the dirt in her garden, enjoying the company of family or at a yoga class.
Jacques is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He left the Congo in 2007 and went to Zimbabwe where he lived as a refugee until moving to the USA in 2017. He’s currently a student at Kirkwood Community College, majoring in Human Services. He has a great passion for inspiring people to do well in their lives, which pushed him to volunteer in any possible way to help people. From 2016 to 2017, Jacques was helping to make uniforms for high school students in his refugee camp in Zimbabwe. He’s always been proud to see people progressing in their lives. That’s the only thing that makes him happy.
From September to November 2018, Sarah served as a Community Service Specialist for Peace Corps Morocco, where she worked with her community to plan and implement various projects. During this time, she was also working towards her Masters of Arts in Public Anthropology from American University. She is originally from Northern Virginia, but moved to Cedar Rapids after her Peace Corps service. She was looking to work in a nonprofit field because she always found helping people to be the most fulfilling. She is excited to be able to help people new to our country navigate through a new culture and way of doing things, like so many people who helped her when she moved to Morocco. In her free time, she likes reading, watching TV and movies, and snuggling with her cat, Mazel Tov.
Abby holds a bachelors and a masters degree in Social Work and has 13 years of experience in the field. She completed two internships, working with refugees and immigrants in Chicago and Des Moines. She started her social work career in Des Moines at an emergency homeless shelter for adults, and also worked in a group home serving adults with intellectual disabilities. She moved to Iowa City in 2013 and continued working with those populations, but has long wished to work with refugees and immigrants, again. She is thrilled to join the team at CMC and help connect people with the resources they need. She loves experiencing other cultures, and is looking forward to working with people from many different countries and cultures. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, as well as their extended family and friends.
In February 2018, Caleb came to CMC to work with and advocate for refugees and immigrants. Caleb began working with refugees in 2011 and previously worked with refugees under Catholic Charities here in Cedar Rapids and in Louisville, KY. Caleb graduated from Faith Baptist Bible College with a BA in Biblical Studies/Spanish and from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with his Masters of Divinity. Caleb studied abroad in Peru, Ecuador, and Japan. He enjoys time with his wife and keeping up with his 4 children. Caleb’s interests are eclectic – ranging from languages and cultures, history, politics, literature, science, ethics, and philosophy. He applauds CMC’s mission to welcome and empower our society’s most vulnerable. At CMC, Caleb works with new refugee families, gives refugees and immigrants a platform to speak, and brings people of disparate backgrounds together. Caleb is currently learning French and Swahili to better serve our clients!
Lisa Geissler, Preferred Communities Program & Case Manager
Lisa earned her BA in Social Work from Luther College and is currently completing coursework for her MSW through the University of Northern Iowa. She has 14 years of social service experience working with people around housing and mental health issues. Lisa came to CMC as an Intern through her master’s program and joined the CMC staff in December 2017. She is inspired by the passion of the CMC staff and the success clients find as they are supported and empowered by the intentional community environment at CMC. Outside of CMC, Lisa enjoys spending time with her family, exploring the outdoors and learning!
Luke was born in DRC Congo, Africa. After he finished school, he went to work at Central Bank of Congo. In 1998, he fled the country to escape the government’s threat of violence, becoming a refugee. Once arriving in the U.S., Luke attended school in Utah. Luke has previously worked as a case manager for Ecumenical Immigration Refugee Services and supported CMC resettlement efforts as a volunteer interpreter before joining the staff.
Rosa Kombwa, Refugee Child Care Business Development Program Manager
Rosa graduated from North Central College with a Bachelor of Arts in International Business Administration and a Master’s in Leadership Studies with a focus on Social Entrepreneurship. She is excited to join CMC as the Refugee Child Care Business Development Program Coordinator. In her spare time, Rosa enjoys spending time with her family and friends.
Bonnie obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing at Coe College in 2006 and has worked as a Registered Nurse for the past 13 years at Unity Point, St. Luke’s Emergency Department. Prior to that, she volunteered in Lakeside Montana for twelve years with Youth With a Mission, a non-denominational, international missions organization holding such positions such as a Ministry Team Member, Preschool Manager, and coordinator of travel and booking for various performing artists. Valuable interaction with multicultural individuals began to form the foundation for her present work at CMC. Bonnie spent the Fall of 2018 at CMC as an intern for her masters in Community and Public Health Nursing. She is excited to use both of her previous job experiences to advocate for the health disparities of the vulnerable refugee and immigrant population, working to assist with their navigation of our complicated healthcare system.
Leya is working on receiving her BA in psychology from the University of Northern Iowa. She came to work at the Catherine McAuley Center through the RefugeeRISE, Americorps Program. She enjoys singing and volunteering in the community. Her parents took English classes at CMC when they first came to the United States. She is excited to get to impact people in the same way that her family was impacted.
Hilaire came to the U.S. via South Africa, but he is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. When he arrived here, life was not easy. He had to adapt from speaking French to English, and overcome financial obstacles to education. He did not give up because he had a dream to fulfill. He started at Kirkwood Community College in the spring of 2015. He struggled through the first few weeks, needing help, but having no idea where to turn. He never lost hope. Hilaire now attends Mount Mercy University, and his goal is to become a social worker to help people dream of success and become self-reliant. He is always working hard so that one day he can say he has fulfilled his dreams. He believes that in the United States, we can all succeed, no matter where we come from. He is looking forward to being a part of the Catherine McAuley Center team.
Joseph Bwalya, RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps Employment Services Coordinator
Joseph is currently studying at Kirkwood Community College to become a nurse. He looks forward to bringing his experience and talents to further CMC’s employment opportunities as a RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps member. Outside of his studies, Joseph plays rugby and enjoys participating in chess tournaments with other students and teammates.
Kelly Johnson, RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps Volunteer & Donations Coordinator
Kelly has an academic background in language and linguistics and is currently working towards a Master of Public Administration. She has had the pleasure to work internationally in Asia and Africa with the hope of travelling again soon! Kelly recently had the opportunity to complete an internship and tutor at CMC which allowed her to meet many amazing students and volunteers that also believe in the Catherine McAuley Center mission. When the opportunity arose to join the CMC team again as a RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps member, she jumped at the chance to serve her community!
Women’s Services Staff
Jennifer Tibbetts, Director of Women’s Services
Jennifer joined the Catherine McAuley Center as Housing Program Manager in 2008, and has used her 18 years of experience in social services to implement Female-Responsive programming in CMC housing services. Jennifer is proud to be a part of a mission-driven organization like the Catherine McAuley Center and feels privileged to be in a role in which she can help create a safe and supportive environment that allows women to realize their own potential. In her free time Jennifer finds creative ways to be an advocate for women throughout the state, and organizes community groups and female-led initiatives that allow women to connect and find their voice.
Kristin graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies and Spanish. She began working for the Transitional Housing program after volunteering in the Education program since 2015. She is excited to support CMC’s mission by empowering women with education and resources. In her free time, she enjoys supporting her bonus children, being outdoors, and playing with her two cats.
Angela is a student at Mount Mercy University in the Social Work Program, set to graduate in May of 2019. She completed her first field placement in the Transitional Housing Program at CMC and transitioned to a staff role afterwards. It has always been important to her to help people connect to resources and educate people on how to access the resources they require. This can help a person change or improve their life. Angela is most proud of finally going back to school to complete her Bachelor’s of Social Work. She has waited 14 years for this moment! In her free time, Angela enjoys listening to music and spending time with her family. She has a large family with three sons and three daughters (including a set of twin girls).
Lucia McNeal, Women’s Services Case Manager
Lucia has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Iowa and has experience working with victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. In addition to CMC, she currently works part-time as a Mobile Crisis Counselor at CommUnity in Iowa City. Lucia supports the mission of CMC because she values kindness, justice, and mutual support in our community. In her free time, Lucia loves spending time with her partner and their two cats, and listening to music and traveling with her friends. Lucia is excited to be a part of CMC!