Founder and CEO
Joe is a nationally-renowned speaker promoting timeless values and personal character to audiences of all ages. He has been recognized by General Colin Powell of America’s Promise as being “a leader in our nation’s effort to rescue America’s young people.” Whether it is the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, a PTA luncheon, an educator conference or a room filled with 200 teenagers, Joe loves to be in front of a crowd (sometimes three’s a crowd!) to share his passion for raising a generation of young people with good character. Joe also speaks about the need for reflective leadership and the critical building blocks needed to create a healthy school.
With more than 30 years of experience working with young people, he is one of the foremost communicators to youth on the topics of respect, integrity, courage and compassion.
Joe has been featured in several local, regional and national media including a 90-minute PBS television special titled “Respectfully, Joe Cavanaugh.”
Joe received his B.A. degree in Humanities from Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. He recently gave the commencement address at his alma mater, where he was given an Honorary Doctorate. He was also awarded the Social Entrepreneur of the Year by St. John’s in 2012.
Joe and his wife, Jane, live in Edina, Minn. with their daughter. He currently serves on boards and committees for Saint John’s University and Employee Strategies.
Director of Operations
Cheri Keepers is the Director of Operations for Youth Frontiers where she is responsible for overseeing internal operations and external relations, including leading the executive and operations teams. Prior to this role, she led the School Relations department at YF for six years. Cheri has demonstrated great leadership abilities during her tenure here and beforehand as an Executive Camp Director at the YMCA. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from St. Catherine University and has participated in Studio/E Leadership Cohort and Activate Talent Leadership Cohort.
A fun fact about Cheri’s professional accomplishments: she was part of a team at St. Catherine University that developed a new minor program for undergraduates titled, Nonprofit Strategies and Operations Minor. During her studies, she also helped develop a social justice and service learning model for the graduate programs at St. Catherine University. The model was nationally recognized as an excellent industry standard to achieve. Cheri and her husband love watching their kids play soccer and ultimate frisbee, camping, swimming and enjoying Friday movie nights.
Abby graduated from UW-Eau Claire with a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology. She spent the next chapter of her career in Human Resources before landing at Youth Frontiers in 2019. If she is not at YF she enjoys spending time with her family and kids, anything that will get her outside or anything other than sitting still. Being a true Wisconsinite she also enjoys cheering on the Packers and the Brewers!
Andrea came onboard with Youth Frontiers in 2019. She joins us after a nearly decade-long career in business technology consulting. There the majority of her time was spent leading healthcare technology integration projects in a Project Management capacity. While Andrea comes to us with an undergraduate degree in Finance from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, she is currently enrolled in Bethel’s Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is passionate about serving YF’s mission to inspire character and feels grateful she can bring her corporate project management skill set to an organization making a profound impactful in our community. When she is not working or schooling, Andrea enjoys spending time outdoors, supporting her church community or exploring the lakes of Minneapolis with her husband, Phil, and two adventurous daughters, Chace and Charlee.
Director of Innovation and Experiences
Sebastian came to Youth Frontiers in 2012 as a Retreat Staff Musician after spending 10 years on the road with his national touring band, Dropping Daylight. He was immediately inspired by YF’s work in schools and continues to grow and be challenged by their mission. Sebastian contributes strategic, technical and creative expertise to craft YF’s unforgettable experiences.
An alumni of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied Songwriting and Piano Performance, Sebastian still makes time to perform music with his party duo The White Keys, who provide entertainment for community celebrations, corporate events, weddings and for US troops serving overseas.
When not behind a desk or on a stage, Sebastian can be found hiking the North Woods of Minnesota, traveling, and cooking delicious meals in his St. Paul home for his wife, Lauryn, and their three daughters Hazel, Juniper and Magnolia.
After a 35-year career as a teacher, coach and administrator in the Osseo, Anoka-Hennepin and Eden Prairie School Districts, Conn is thrilled to join the Youth Frontiers staff as an Educator Retreat Facilitator. As a high school principal, Conn is aware of the impact that Youth Frontiers can have on building a community of character in a school. Conn and his wife Pam have two grown children, who are both living their dreams as professional actors in New York and Los Angeles.
Erin worked at the National Institute on Media and the Family before launching Mind Positive Parenting™ with her dad, Dr. David Walsh. Youth Frontiers invited Erin and her dad to co-create a retreat that explores both the art and (brain) science of connection and achievement. Erin is also on the Search Institute speaking and training team and teaches at the University of Minnesota and the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs. She lives in south Minneapolis with her partner and two sons.
George Dornbach grew up eating spicy food in South Korea and Japan, but originally hails from the Twin Cities. He graduated from Saint John’s University, majored in Storytelling, and feels so lucky that he gets to listen, share, and swap stories with students each and every day.
Jane is a talented performer who spent 12 years studying and performing comedy before returning to Minnesota. She joined Youth Frontiers in 1999 as a retreat director and now focuses on educator retreats and is on the school relations team. Jane loves Youth Frontiers because it emphasizes her personal mission statement, “encouraging people through humor and heart.” In her free time, Jane loves to travel, play piano, salsa dance and spend time with her husband and daughter.
Jim teaches Economics and Civics at Eagan High School (EHS) and witnessed what he calls the “magic of Youth Frontiers work” in the hallways and classrooms at EHS for many years. Jim joined Youth Frontiers in 2009 and feels lucky to be working alongside such amazing people. Jim also coaches golf and is the Link Crew coordinator at EHS. Jim is married to Brenda (a middle school administrator) and they have two children.
Joe has been leading retreats for youth for more than 30 years. Joe also directs retreats for educators. A favorite recent memory was the opportunity to do a retreat in Seoul, Korea. Outside of Youth Frontiers, Joe enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, gardening and traveling around the world.
Josh has been working with youth for more than 20 years. He attended his first Youth Frontiers retreat in high school and was excited to bring it full circle when he directed a Courage Retreat for his daughter’s class in 2013. He has since facilitated Kindness and Courage retreats for each of his three children. He is currently working on his Master’s in Transformational Leadership at Bethel Seminary. Josh is an avid geocacher with quite a YouTube following and enjoys spending time with his spunky family.
Maddie’s first Youth Frontiers retreat was as a fifth-grader at Highlands Elementary in Edina, Minn. Maddie studied Theatre and Social Work at Loyola University in Chicago where she also performed in many productions and studied improv at The Second City. She interned with Youth Frontiers and started as full-time staff in 2013. She enjoys running around the lakes, spending time with her family and feels grateful she is able to combine her passion for performance with YF’s meaningful mission.
Brad joined Youth Frontiers in fall of 2017 after spending a year doing contract work with a variety of organizations. He was looking for a place where his passion for video and storytelling could make a positive impact in the world. That’s when he found Youth Frontiers. Loving YF’s message and mission, he couldn’t think of a better place to be. Always an avid learner, after getting a B.I.S. in Film Studies, Video Production & Management, he is back in school pursuing a second degree in Digital Marketing Technology. In his free time, you’ll find Brad working on his next film, studying, out for a run, or sharing laughs with good friends.
Sarah Kennedy joined Youth Frontiers (YF) in the spring of 2018 after moving back home to Minnesota. After graduating from the University of Michigan, she spent seven years in Washington, D.C. working in fundraising – most recently for The Arc of the United States – before pivoting to focus on data analysis. She is very happy she found Youth Frontiers and is excited to be a part of an organization with so much to offer an ever-changing world. In her spare time, she indulges her right brain as a certified yoga instructor, poet and by seeing the world through the eyes of her niblings.
Ellory graduated from the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn. and worked with Young Americans and 3M before joining YF in 2016. She appreciates that her current role allows her to combine her passion for education and her customer service experience. She also enjoys serving our students and teachers by improving efficiency and building relationships. Ellory is furthermore thrilled to work with an intelligent, supportive team and looks forward to learning from them. In her free time, Ellory enjoys outdoor activities, year round Ultimate Frisbee and letting her husband win at board games.
Nicole joined Youth Frontiers (YF) in the spring of 2018, after 10 years in youth program, curriculum writing and fund development with the Girl Scouts. Nicole is thrilled to be a part of the YF donor relations team, where she puts her research, writing and storytelling skills to work to inspire corporate and foundation support of YF’s impactful programs.
Nicole loves to create, and is currently spending all of her free time launching her jewelry business, Token + Trifle. She also likes to read, explore the outdoors with her two crazy-but-loveable dogs, and set off on local and global adventures with her husband.
As a journalism and global studies graduate, Sarah sought a career that encourages creativity and supports an important cause. In summer 2016, she found Youth Frontiers. Sarah loves that the organization teaches students to value themselves and others for the ultimate betterment of schools and the greater community. When she’s not communicating for Youth Frontiers, Sarah enjoys reading the words of others, stretching her limits in yoga and exploring the world through travel and photography.
Bio to come.
Sarah joined Youth Frontiers in November 2019 and brought with her 4 years of prior experience in various human resources roles; most recently as a recruiter. Sarah graduated from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls with a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts where she studied glass blowing and printmaking and though she still holds art very near and dear to her heart, she has found a TON of joy in working with people in her Human Resources roles. When Sarah isn’t at YF with the rest of the awesome staff she enjoys playing with her dogs (Jones and Fiona), camping, hiking, amateur gardening, and shamelessly binge-watching Netflix.
Joe Cavanaugh, Founder & CEO, Youth Frontiers, Inc.
Karen Hohertz-Jacobs, Senior Director, Procurement Operations and Cost Transformation, Best Buy
Jon Reissner*, President, Activar