Board of Directors
As a participant in one of the earliest sessions of FAST more than 20 years ago, Cathy has a uniquely personal stake in the program that she has diligently supported ever since.
“I was single, laid off from my job, and suffered from serious health issues. I was emotionally unavailable to my son, who subsequently acted out in response to the disruptions in his life. FAST turned our life around. Through FAST, I met people who helped me through those hard times – some of these individuals are still my friends today. My son and I became much closer as he felt more secure and understood, and his behavior and grades improved. I was also able to build a strong relationship with his school, which helped me feel empowered to be an advocate for my son.”
After participating in FAST, Cathy took on a leadership role in FASTWORKS and served as a FAST Team Member. She became the editor of the FAST newsletter for several years and was instrumental in organizing a FAST Parent Advisory Council. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and her Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy from Edgewood College in Madison, WI.
Cathy is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and is currently working as a Clinical Lead in the Functional Family Therapy program for Rock County Human Services in Janesville, WI. She is also the Past Board President of the Wisconsin Association for Marriage and Family.
Dianne was one of the original people who collaborated with FAST Founder, Dr. Lynn McDonald, to launch and build FAST into the dynamic, growing non-profit organization that it is today. Both a social worker and a lawyer, Dianne has more than 30 years’ experience as a public interest lawyer on behalf of persons with disabilities, especially those with mental illness.
Prior to her retirement in 2010, Dianne was a supervising attorney at Disability Rights Wisconsin, the protection and advocacy agency for persons with disabilities in the State of Wisconsin. She has worked on legislation and policy relating to mental health services for children, guardianship, protective services, employment and housing discrimination, and other issues related to integrating people with disabilities into society. Dianne has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Stanford University, a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Smith College and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dianne talks about the bridge between her public interest career and her work with FAST. “Most of my work focused on the rights of persons with disabilities and training them to be advocates for themselves and others. The principles in FAST are the same, including belief in the individual, respect and empowerment….and I am a very firm believer in empowerment. FAST helps parents and children empower themselves to lead more productive and satisfying lives.”
Deirdre has continuously pursued her passion to create pathways for children to succeed through working in a variety of family development roles. She is currently the Executive Director of Human Resources at the Madison Metropolitan School District in Madison, Wisconsin.
Previously the Vice President of Workforce Development, Inclusion and Retention at the Urban League of Greater Madison, Deirdre understands the importance of employment stability for a family and the well-being of children. She worked for many years at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, with positions ranging from Diversity and Inclusion Advisor to Team Leader and Leadership Development where she focused on the education and professional development of the staff members.
Deirdre explains her passion for the FAST Program: “FAST has a long-standing track record and commitment to children and families, and I am always looking for opportunities for community partnerships. I believe that collaboration paired with action is the key to success in addressing education, career, and advancement issues in our community. I’m excited to support an organization that does so much to engage families and improve learning for students.”
Deirdre has served as a member of the Board of Trustees at Edgewood Campus School and on the Board of Directors for the Rainbow Project. Passionate about the importance of inclusion within our communities, Deirdre is Co-Chair of the Madison Area Diversity Roundtable. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and Communications and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dr. Derek Johnson
Education and youth development have been a career focus for Dr. Johnson, as he has worked in a range of roles that center on students and youth. A FAST participant himself when in elementary school, he is currently the Assistant Director for Engineering Outreach at the UW-Madison College of Engineering. Dr. Johnson was formerly Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Edgewood College.
Dr. Johnson’s strong ties to non-profit organizations demonstrate his passion for helping children reach higher standards, and he explains his unique perspective on how FAST truly makes a difference. “As a participant in FAST years ago, I can honestly say FAST helped shape me into the person I am today. I know first-hand how the program inspires and empowers families, and how it helps families build better relationships with schools. And now, FAST is needed in our schools more than ever. It is a proven program to help ensure the child – very importantly – is at the center of everything.”
Earlier in his career, Dr. Johnson served as both a manager and lead mentor for Phredum Mentoring and Growth Mindset Mentoring, organizations for youth with a focus on mentoring and tutoring services, and which also connects youth and their families to positive community resources and educational opportunities. Dr. Johnson founded the organization Generation SPOKEN! which seeks to help people express themselves through the art of spoken word poetry. He also founded The College Station, which provides underserved students and families with the knowledge and access to information and resources needed to navigate the college search, admissions, and financial aid process.
Dr. Johnson holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Criminal Justice, Master’s degree in Education Administration, and Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership. Dr. Johnson enjoys spending time with his family and friends, gardening, traveling, and writing poetry.
Jerry’s ties to FAST date back to 1988, when he was an advocate for the early implementation of FAST in the Madison, WI area, and his support of the organization has continued ever since.
Jerry served in a wide range of positions during his 34 year career with the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD): early on as an elementary school teacher and sports coach, and later as a principal of numerous elementary and middle schools. Jerry developed and supervised various pilot programs – FAST among them – for at-risk students at the elementary and middle school levels. He was a member of the Early Childhood Advisory Council for eight years, and a member of the Council of Exceptional Education for five years.
From the early days of FAST, Jerry understood the program’s power of connecting parents with schools. As he explains, “I have been a big fan of FAST since I met Dr. McDonald years ago, because the organization centers around many of the principles and focus areas I know make a critical difference for our youth today. We cannot underestimate the importance of positive and engaged parental and school involvement to ensure a bright future for all our children.”
His tireless support of the program earned him a special award presented at the FAST 25th Anniversary Conference: “First Principal to Support FAST in Madison.” Jerry holds a Bachelor of Science and Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from University of Wisconsin-Superior, and completed post-graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Mary Beth Collins
Mary Beth is passionate about community and non-profit organizations. She currently serves as Executive Director of the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies, as well as Director of Centers Engagement and Professional Skills Courses, at UW-Madison’s School of Human Ecology. Since 2009, Mary Beth has also served the nonprofit sector as an attorney at MBC Legal and Consulting Services, her own practice, helping mission-based and creative enterprises achieve their goals.
A strong commitment to the “third sector” is demonstrated by Mary Beth’s involvement and leadership on a number of committees, boards, and projects dedicated to bettering the campus and the community. Her experience includes, but is not limited to, roles with Wisconsin nonprofit organizations serving children such as Wisconsin Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Association and Natural Circles of Support, Inc. Mary Beth is excited to bring her educational, legal, and executive experience to her position on the FAST Board.
Mary Beth graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor’s degree in English Education. She received her Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she also earned a Master’s degree in Latin American Studies.
Merideth was managing a Juvenile Justice Evaluation Center project in Washington D.C. when she read a bulletin by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention highlighting FAST as an Exemplary Program in 2000. She remembers announcing to her husband, “Now this is an organization I’d like to work for.” A couple years later, Merideth joined Dr. McDonald’s research and development team at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research as the program manager.
Currently, Merideth is the Chief of Staff at the WIDA Project at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, which supports the language development of multi-lingual learners in 40 state entities and over 400 schools internationally. She believes children thrive when schools, families, and community agencies are resourced and honored through strong public policies and innovative programming like FAST.
Merideth earned a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Western Michigan University, a Master’s degree in Management from Aquinas College, and a Master’s degree in Sociology of Family from Michigan State University.
Yvonne started her career in bilingual education in 1996. She knew from early on her passion was working with families and building a bridge between families and schools; she volunteered for communities in schools and spent much of her time as an educator helping with family events. Currently, Yvonne is the Director of Educator Engagement for the Wisconsin Center for Educational Products and Services (WCEPS), an organization which supports WIDA’s consortium school districts in professional learning.
Yvonne believes that communities, families and educators are all shareholders contributing to student success, and she is committed to honoring those who are trying to build a better future. As an immigrant – her parents immigrated from Mexico – Yvonne knows first-hand the power of the words: “It takes a village to raise a child.” She believes that FAST, by empowering families and promoting that village and unity, can foster a bridge between schools and families.
After spending 25 years in education, Yvonne aspired to influence more than just one district and pursued national positions. Previously, she worked as a District Family Engagement Coordinator, creating professional learning for both educators and families. Yvonne also spent three years as Professional Learning Specialist at WIDA, working in both international and domestic settings, before taking on her current role.
Yvonne earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Angelo State University in Texas, and her Master’s degree in Bilingual Education from NOVA Southeastern University in Florida.
Erika works statewide, partnering with various organizations to meet diverse needs and to help bring better awareness of information that could help empower individuals to live their best life possible, with extra efforts for reaching underserved populations working with Medicare and Medicaid. As founder of Salud First, she also hosts networking meetings and socials to connect professionals and community members of many cultures and backgrounds to share information, resources, and referrals. These individuals are able to support each other in reaching personal and career goals while keeping health a priority for themselves and the communities they serve. Erika serves as a board member for a few other organizations that advocate on behalf of Latinos and the socially and economically challenged.