Our Team

We have a dedicated group of staff and board members who make our work possible. Staff positions and short bios are below. You can access a list of our Board of Directors and their affiliations here.

Alisha Bliss

Community Health Coordinator

Alisha has her AAS/AA degree in human services and chemical dependency studies, a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology, and is currently completing her Community Health Worker Certificate. She began her position in February 2020 with 15 years of experience in chemical dependency counseling, case management, and adult rehabilitative mental health services. Some of her specific areas of focus include trauma, shame, and dialectical behavior therapy. This background helps her to work compassionately and effectively with students and families who are seeking support for a wide variety of health needs. She is motivated by seeing people overcome barriers and achieve their goals.

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Kelsey Gantzer

Executive Director

Kelsey joins the Collaborative with a variety of experience in nonprofit management and working with educators. Previously, she served as Food Access Manager and Rutabaga Project Manager at the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency. Prior to that, she served as the Operations and Communications Manager for the Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association. In addition to her nonprofit leadership experience, she has a passion for building community connections and working with youth. She holds a BA in Business Management and English from the University of St. Thomas. 

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Angel Nustad-Peluso

Director of Programs

Angel has 15 years of experience working with young people and directing youth programming in a variety of settings. She has a BA in Studio Arts with an emphasis in Women's Studies from the College of St. Catherine. She has earned several youth work fellowships, authored an article for the Journal of Youth Development, and contributed to the Hubert Project E-Study, A Youth Work Lens on Human Development. She is a passionate youth development professional, and her tireless commitment to growing and raising the value of this field led her to the Collaborative in 2018. She also currently serves on the board of directors of Ignite Afterschool.  

Saraiya Piantek

Denfeld Site Coordinator

Saraiya began her position as Denfeld Community School Site Coordinator in 2020. She has eight years of experience working with children in nonprofit settings, including the YWCA Duluth, Boys & Girls Club, and Northwood Children's Services. She attended the Education Studies Program at the University of Minnesota, focusing on Early Childhood Education and Special Education. Saraiya specializes in mental health, trauma, and emotional and behavioral needs. She currently serves as co-chair for the MLK Planning Committee of the Duluth NAACP. She enjoys going on hikes and spending time outside during her free time. Saraiya cares deeply about building a safe place for all students to meet their needs and reach their full potential.

Jeremy Rupp

College and Career Pathways Coordinator

Jeremy has a BS in Family Psychology and Theological Studies from the University of Northwestern, and a Master's of Arts in Education from Hamline University. He has 25 years of experience in K-12, higher education, and youth development. Jeremy was adopted from Alaska, raised in Kenya and Uganda, and spent much of his life moving around to different places. Jeremy is currently an Integration Specialist at Denfeld High School, and also works part-time with the Collaborative as the College and Career Pathways Coordinator. He began this role with the Collaborative in 2018. He seeks to support all students as they navigate their own path toward careers and/or college, and he is particularly committed to assisting marginalized students, families, and communities.

Rachel Thapa

Lincoln Park Site Coordinator

Rachel works alongside a collaborative leadership team composed of families, school staff, and community partners to create, strengthen, and maintain the bridge between school and community. She has been in her current role since 2016 and has been involved with the Collaborative since 2003, including several years on staff at the Myers-Wilkins site. Rachel has a B.A. in Behavioral Arts and Sciences with emphases in Psychology and Education, and more than fifteen years of experience in youth development and full-service community schools. She is inspired by the strength and resilience of people around her and a vision of a more hopeful future. Rachel is committed to co-creating the conditions of well-being necessary for all people to learn and thrive through authentic connection and collaboration