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Our Team

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Noelle Nelson

Executive Director

Noelle Nelson serves as Executive Director of Avenue Scholars Des Moines. Noelle spent the past 23 years serving as a teacher, curriculum coordinator, administrator, and most recently, as Executive Director of Leadership and Learning, for Des Moines Public Schools. She is passionate about equity of access for all scholars and has committed her career to removing barriers for our most marginalized groups.

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Mary Mendenhall-Core

Business Outreach Coordinator

Mary serves as the Business Coordinator. She has nearly 20 years of non-profit experience working for organizations like United Way of Central Iowa, Goodwill Industries and the Pinky Swear Foundation. She had previously spent 21 years with Principal Financial Group in various roles. Mary brings her business and community knowledge and connections to the team. Mary is excited to support scholars by connecting them to area businesses and a path to insure they are successful.  

Carla Miller

Administrative Assistant

Carla Miller is the Administrative Assistant for Avenue Scholars Des Moines. Before coming to Avenue Scholars Des Moines in April 2022, she was employed by Des Moines Public Schools for 25 years. The last 7 of those years as the Executive Assistant for the Leadership and Learning Department. She chose Avenue Scholars Des Moines because this position allows her to build relationships and provide support for the students in our program.

Sara Wodka

Career Coach Roosevelt HS

After graduating from Iowa State University, she entered the human services/social work field. Sara has worked with many different, diverse populations over the past seven years. The majority of her experience in the field was as a counselor at a youth crisis shelter, where she learned that she most enjoyed working with young people, particularly high schoolers. Working with and partnering with students gives her energy; they have fire in their steps and the world at their fingertips, sometimes all they need is a little guidance along the way. When the opportunity arose at Avenue Scholars, it seemed too good to be true. Avenue Scholars provides her a front row seat to guide and coach, utilizing skills developed over the years as a counselor, case manager, and mentor. Most importantly though, Avenue Scholars gives her the privilege to watch young people grow, learn, and become who they desire to be -- and that's pretty remarkable.

Diana Echeverria

Career Coach East HS

Diana Echeverria is Ecuadorian, born and raised on the east side of Des Moines, IA and a North High School alumnus. In 2020, she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Supply Chain Management and a minor in Biology. As a first-generation Latina student, it was important to her to learn how to locate resources and connections to assist her with planning the next steps of her academic and professional goals. It not only positioned her to develop herself, but also to support and assist others with similar backgrounds. For two years, Diana worked for Al Exito as an after-school facilitator to support the Latino youth in their personal and academic endeavors in Des Moines, IA. In 2021, Diana was appointed as the Executive Director of the Latina Leadership Initiative, an organization that empowers and uplifts emerging Latina leaders in Iowa. What brought Diana to Avenue Scholars as a Career Coach is the opportunity to work with East High School student and equip the students to succeed in their academic and professional endeavors. Her willingness to learn, take on responsibilities, build relationships and work with the youth stem from the desire to uplift and pave paths for future generations.  

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Jason Parkin

Business Outreach Coordinator

Jason grew up in Le Mars, Iowa. He attended the University of Iowa, receiving a degree in Communications, and Iowa State University, where he received a degree in meteorology. He has worked in television for 20 years at KCCI-TV, WeatherNation, KCWI-TV and now WHO13 forecasting and covering Iowa’s ever-changing conditions. Jason joined Compass Financial Services in a business development capacity in 2016 and worked there for four years. He then moved to a similar job with Clear Mortgage and is now a Business Outreach Coordinator with Avenue Scholars. Jason is a past board member for Community Support Advocates and Polk County Health Services and has also been an Urbandale Parks commissioner.  Jason also serves on the board of the Urbandale Chamber. He lives in Urbandale with his wife Kelly and sons Nolen, Maddox and Hudson along with Radar the dog. He enjoys cycling and being outside in general.

Carol Mendez

Career Coach North HS

Carol Mendez is a proud daughter of immigrants and first-generation college graduate. Her personal experience with public education led to a career in education. Shortly after graduating from Central College Carol served two years in AmeriCorps under Teach For America in St Louis. In 2017 Carol was recognized as Charter Teacher of the Year. And, in 2022 Carol led her building to score in the top three state assessment scores in the city of St Louis. Carol served 12 years in St Louis working as a teacher, teacher coach/dean, and principal. She then spent a year doing consulting work with a charter school in South Carolina and finally relocated to Des Moines, to be closer to her family. Carol joined Avenue Scholars as she deeply believes that everyone not only deserves a quality education, but quality support to ensure students not only land dream careers but a life full of opportunities. In her spare time Carol enjoys walks, puzzles, yoga, documentaries, house projects, traveling, and spending time with her family!

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