Raising Readers in Story County

Our Board

Executive Committee

President: Lynne Carey, Nevada*

Lynne recently retired from the Ames Public Library after 36 years of service. At APL, Lynne developed a strong passion for community building through collaboration. She has experience with strategic planning, human resource management, budgeting, fundraising, and policy development. While literacy efforts of every stripe are important to Lynne, she believes that a focus on early literacy and parent education is vital. Lynne received a BS from ISU in psychology and women’s studies. She is one of the rare Story County natives who stayed put.  She and her spouse, Navid Emami, live in Nevada in Lynne’s childhood home and appreciate the small-town living that Iowa offers.

Vice President: Julie Popken, Ames 

Julie joined the board of Raising Readers in Story County in December 2021.  The mission of the organization had already inspired her to volunteer for the StoryPals and Reading Buddy programs where she loves seeing young children light up as a book catches their attention.  As a life-long reader and the parent of an even more passionate reader, Julie has seen how reading and access to books not only adds joy to life but is a cornerstone to educational and life success.  Julie received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and went on to enjoy a 32-year career in human resources, serving as a senior human resources business partner in the financial services industry during the final years of her career.  She retired in 2019, giving her time to pursue a variety of interests which include volunteering her skills and experience to the mission of Raising Readers.  She and her husband, Jim, have lived in Ames for over 30 years.  

Treasurer: Janeen Christy, Ames

Janeen joined RRSC as Treasurer in December 2021.  She is a professional accountant and lives in Ames with her spouse Jon.

Janeen’s love for reading started at an early age and has continued throughout her life.  She enjoys reading books that expand her understanding of other cultures and historical time periods.  When not reading, Janeen enjoys cultivating her garden, walking, cheering on the Iowa State Cyclones, traveling, attending live music and theater, and promoting community gardening and environmental stewardship.

Her favorite books are “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean and “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams.

Secretary: Carolyn Jons, Ames*

My dream is a future in which all children grow up healthy, with loving relationships, and with a strong foundation in literacy and learning in order to maximize their potentials.  This passion has guided me as a parent and grandparent, a school board member, a member of Raising Readers in Story County and Story County Reads, a Rotarian, a neighbor, and a philanthropist. Every day I look forward to working with dedicated partners to contribute a little more toward this vision. 

Board of Directors

Malai Amfahr, Des Moines

Malai has over 20 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector dedicated to engaging
and supporting marginalized youth. She now serves as the Senior Program Officer of
Constituency Outreach and Engagement with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR). In
her role, she works with the network’s 400+ communities to support mobilization towards the
shared agenda of addressing generational poverty with children’s literacy as the primary
vehicle. Prior to this she was the Story County Reads Director with United Way of Story County
managing our local GLR community work. Malai serves on several nonprofit and philanthropic
committees and is a member of Mid-Iowa Health Foundation’s HealthConnect Fellowship
where she concentrated on a project involving equity in education and early childhood. She’s
facilitated workshops and conducted presentations at the national, state, and local level.

Connie Beecher, Ames 

My former work experience was teaching children with and without disabilities. The majority of my teaching was Pk-3, but I have taught all ages up to and including post-secondary. My current work is community-based education and intervention around language and literacy development. This includes the use of technology for intervention, progress monitoring, and engagement of children and families. I also continue to develop my research skill set with quantitative methodology that is suited for a developmental framework. My passion is working with communities to improve awareness and practice about the importance of talking and reading with young children.

Specialties: My expertise is in the areas of early intervention and literacy. Community-based research, intervention development using human-centered design and rapid cycle testing.

Diana Claus, Ames*

As a Raising Readers Board Member for ten years, Diana Claus is committed to supporting literacy achievement initiatives for children in Story County, with a special emphasis on working with the underserved population.  Diana has a B. S. in Elementary Education from Drake, an M. S. in Curriculum and Instruction from Drake, and Literacy Coaching Certification from ISU.  She taught elementary school for thirty-four years, supervised the administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress for seven years, and served at ISU in the School of Education as a lecturer and coordinator of the Duffelmeyer Reading Clinic. Interacting with families while working with students from preschool through college ages has provided a broad perspective of literacy development.  Diana enjoys designing literacy programs that focus on interventions for struggling readers by examining best practices, incorporating instructional strategies, and using assessment to inform instruction.  Being a part of the collaboration between Raising Readers and community partners has been a rewarding, synergistic experience. 

Samantha Cross, Ames 

Samantha N. N. Cross is an Associate Professor of Marketing in the Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business at Iowa State University. She studies how diverse entities, identities, perspectives, beliefs and abilities co-exist in consumers, households and the marketplace. Her work has been published in top marketing journals, including the Journal of Marketing, Journal of Consumer Psychology and Journal of Public Policy and Marketing. She currently serves on several boards and committees in her field, including the Transformative Consumer Research (TCR) Advisory Committee; the Board for the Association for Consumer Research (ACR) and the Academic Council of the American Marketing Association (AMA). She was selected as one of the 12 honorees on the 2022 Women Impacting ISU Calendar. Samantha received her Ph.D. in Marketing from the University of California, Irvine; her M.B.A. in International Business from DePaul University and a B.Sc. in Management Studies from The University of The West Indies. Samantha believes that it is important to champion and encourage reading as a basic life skill and a joy. She is honored to serve as a Board Member for Raising Readers of Story County.

Dan Franklin, Ames

Dan Franklin has been a member of the Board of Directors since August 2018 and focused on the Little Free Library program.  He grew up in northwest Iowa and attended the University of Northern Iowa while planning for a teaching career.   After 1 ½ years at UNI, transferred to Iowa State University and graduated with minors in three areas of interest – Education, Math, and History.  Dan retired after 43 years with Iowa Highway Commission/Iowa Department of Transportation in June 2016 and immediately began volunteering with Raising Readers in Story County.

L. Wesley Harris, Jr., Ames 

Bio forthcoming

Joni Kellen, Ames 

Joni Kellen is in her first year of service as a member of the Board of Directors. Having
grown up in northwest Iowa, she and her husband recently moved to Ames. She holds a
Bachelor’s Degree in Art and Design from Iowa State University and spent many years in
brand marketing. Later she went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Education in
Leadership and Learning (also from Iowa State) and spent time in institutional research,
strategic planning and also taught GED/HSED. Currently she is a wealth advisor at
Northwest Bank where she uses her creative and analytical skills to help clients find
simplicity in the complex. Joni is passionate about the arts and literacy and focused on
supporting her community.


*Photos by Brittany Barlow Photography  
© 2024 Raising Readers in Story County. All Rights Reserved.