Dana is a public health professional with over 20 years of experience.   After many years of working in the field of nursing she was convinced that some very important health determinants were being ignored; such as housing, education, socioeconomic status and environment.  Dana has an extensive understanding of how one’s surroundings play an important role in health and wellbeing.  She attended Illinois State University where she had the honor of being a Stevenson Center Applied Community and Economic Development Fellow and received a MS in Politics and Government.   She also attended the University of Illinois, Chicago where she received her MPH in Policy and Administration.  

Her passion drives her determination while her many years of career and life experiences provides her the roadmap for innovative social based program and project development. 

Dana learned about Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the Oglala Lakota Tribe when she was conducting research on health care statistics.  She was immediately drawn to the staggering numbers that revealed a story that she felt was not being told.  Upon returning home from a trip to Pine Ridge she founded kaga:create with a mindset of developing an organization and program of empowerment.

Zach Kennedy


Zach Kennedy provides state leadership in participatory community planning, leadership and organizational development, and community economic development as an Extension Specialist in Community and Economic Development with University of Illinois Extension.  He has been an Extension employee since 2009. His previous role within Extension was as a Community and Economic Development Educator serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties.  He has particular interests in helping local governments and non-profit organizations build their capacity to engage in data driven decision making and planning. 

Kennedy is a native of Champaign-Urbana and holds two degrees from the University of Illinois including a Bachelor's degree in Economics, and a Master's degree in Urban and Regional Planning with a concentration in Economic Development.  He is currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of Illinois in Regional Planning.  He is a member of the American Planning Association (APA) and the Illinois Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (IL-ACDEP).

Amanda Swartzendruber


Amanda earned her M.S. in Public Service from Illinois State University.  She served as an AmeriCorps Fellow working on behalf of older adults with the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging and created Maturing of Illinois Report for the State of Illinois, a compilation of research related to aging readiness in the state.  She spent a decade in retail sales management prior to studying political science and is passionate about workforce development and elevating the lives of Americans in poverty.

Amanda has most recently been writing and has completed a chapter of a high school text book focused on issues related to social media and privacy rights.  She also volunteers at Jefferson Elementary School, Inspired Arts Academy and is active in her community.    


brett kepley

Brett is an attorney practising law in Champaign, Illinois since 1986. He is a principal with the firm O'Byrne, Stanko, Kepley & Jefferson, PC. He holds a BA degree in History from the University of Illinois and a JD from Northern Illinois University.

He has been counsel for many not-for- profit corporations including Habitat for Humanity.  He has had a lifelong passion for history and is an avid student of the history of North American Native Americans. He believes that Kaga:Create is a great avenue for elevating the lives of Native American children.

While active in community organizations, he still finds time for his astronomy so as to star gaze every cloudless night; and, by virtue of the recent resurgence of the Chicago Cubs, he has had his Cubs pacifier successfully removed from his mouth.


maddy peters

Maddy Peters is a student at Central Michigan University, who is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is a classically trained cellist and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in music education.   Maddy started playing in 2007 and has expanded into learning other instruments as well. She enjoys performing, writing, and arranging music, plus performs in a band, and in the worship team at her church.

Maddy first became involved with Pine Ridge in 2012 while on a mission trip with her church, and fell in love with the culture and the residents. She has returned to “The Rez” twice since then, and plans to do so many more times in the future. Her trips out to Pine Ridge changed her life and gave her an entire new perspective. Maddy hopes to combine her creativity and passion for serving others to be an asset for Kağa: Create. She highly encourages any of you to visit Pine Ridge if you have the chance. 

Ashley Pourier

Born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Ashley Pourier (Oglala Lakota) is currently the curator at the Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School. She earned her bachelor of fine arts degree from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, majoring in studio art with a focus in three-dimensional art, Asian studies, and Japanese language with a minor in art history.

After returning home from her undergraduate studies, Pourier stayed true to her interest and applied at art organizations in the area. Ashley received a funded internship from the Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School. Having interned and holding every job in between, she now serves as curator of at the Heritage Center. Her time at The Heritage Center has lead her down a path of museum studies and collections management as well as honing her knowledge of Native American arts and culture both historic and contemporary.

She also serves on the Dahl Arts Center’s Exhibition Committee in Rapid City, SD and has also served as a judge at art shows and history day competitions.






Adam has a passion both for elevating the quality of life for Native Americans and serving this population through not-for-profit business models. He is the founder of the Kola Foundation; a non-profit focused on improving living conditions for the Oglala Lakota in Southwest South Dakota, and is excited to be involved with kaga: create. His background includes 6 years as a business management and strategy consultant and 2 years in product marketing and brand management for Fortune 150 companies. He has worked in the following industries: financial services, technology services, airline/transportation, insurance, logistics/distribution, and consumer products. He is a published author in business and economics journals, and is also passionate about global economic development. Adam continues to be involved with business start-up activities and assisting not-for-profit businesses in achieving expansion goals as well as implementing strategic projects.

Adam received his B.A. from DePauw University in Greencastle, IN, his MBA from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and is working towards his MSW at Aurora University to better serve diverse and challenged populations.

Lee steffen

Lee is an award-winning creative director and photographer. For over a decade, Lee has developed major brand campaigns for Fortune 500 companies, major non-profits, countless Grammy-winning artists and globally-renowned individuals ranging from Maya Angelou to Johnny Cash. The campaigns Lee has directed have garnered tens of millions of hits online, and have been seen in over 130 countries.

Some of Lee’s clients include MTV Networks, Random House and Capital Music, and his work can be seen in outlets like TIME, The New York Times, Nike and CNN. Lee is a recipient of a Gold Folio award for magazine art direction, one of the highest achievable editorial awards. He has also been named one of the “Top 100 Photographers” on Twitter. 

Lee has been at the heart of travel and adventure for years. He’s jumped off the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere, climbed to base camp of Mount Everest, scuba-dived with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef and mountain-biked down the ‘World’s Most Dangerous Road.’ 

A former non-profit founder, Steffen’s extensive travels around the world have given him a unique understanding of global trends and cultural insights and have made him a passionate proponent for social justice and equality.