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.

Cortnie Bain

​Youth Development Programs Coordinator

Cortnie Bain

Denfeld Site Coordinator

Cortnie has a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Science and Elementary Education, and she began working for the Collaborative in 2016. She has a variety of prior experience with children and teens, including managing a teen outreach organization for girls, directing children’s programming at a church, and home schooling her own children. Cortnie believes that the Collaborative’s work is deeply important to the Duluth community, and also to her own personal life. She strives to meet students and families where they are, and to offer needed resources and support so that they can get to where they want to be.

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.

Genesis Colon-Ortiz

Americorps Member

Genesis is the Americorps Member at Lincoln Park Middle School. She has her Bachelor's in Environmental Design from the School of Architecture at the University of Puerto Rico, and is currently finishing her first year of an MA in Human Development and Family Sciences with a concentration in Youth Development from the University of Missouri. Prior to starting with the Collaborative in 2018, Genesis tutored college students. Her native language is Spanish, she enjoys graphic design, and she has abundant experience in academic research at various academic institutions. She is motivated to support youth in becoming the best version of themselves.

Lindsay Kolquist

Family Liaison

Lindsay began her position as Family Liaison with the Collaborative in 2019, soon after graduating from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with a B.S. in Youth Studies. Prior to her work with the Collaborative, she worked with high schoolers in North St. Paul, middle schoolers in Mounds View, and elementary schoolers in Duluth and across Omaha, NE. Lindsay feels that her work honors her mentors and helps her to "pay it forward." She will soon leave the Collaborative to earn her MSW at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

Katherine Mueller

Agency Administrator

Katherine began her position in 2019 and is responsible to oversee administration, finance, and fund development, as well as human resources and staff supervision. Katherine has a BA in English and Philosophy from Albion College, and fifteen years of experience in nonprofit leadership, specializing in resource development and financial management. She believes that we all have something to offer our fellow humans and is passionate about connecting people with one another. This work is important to Katherine because of the connections the Collaborative facilitates between students and families, school staff, and the community.

Dani Smilanich

Myers-Wilkins Site Coordinator

Dani received her Bachelor of Applied Arts from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2017. She is licensed to teach Social Studies grades 5-12. She started at the Collaborative in February 2018 as a Family Liaison at Myers-Wilkins and was promoted to her current role in 2019. In college she was involved in the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), where she led the student-run non-profit in Duluth as its Co-Chair. This provided her with experience collaborating with other organizations, students, and leaders in the Duluth community. She brings this background to her work at the Collaborative to connect community organizations in Duluth with students, families, and staff at Myers-Wilkins. 

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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.  

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

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Kari Thoreson

AmeriCorps Member

Kari Thoreson is the True North AmeriCorps member with the Collaborative at Myers-Wilkins Elementary School. She graduated from UMD in 2019 with a degree in Psychology and Hispanic Studies and joined AmeriCorps soon after graduation. She has always loved working with kids and previously volunteered with Lowell Elementary's Spanish Immersion program. Kari is motivated by the kids she works with, her team, and her belief that every child deserves an equal chance at success and growth. She sees the most important part of her work at the Collaborative as providing kids a safe space to learn, play, and exist.

©2020 by Duluth Community School Collaborative.

32 E 1st St

Duluth, MN 55802