Board Members

Derek Appleyard – RVPE Foundation, Vice Chair

Derek has lived in Dakota County since 1988 with his wife Anne, who was an elementary teacher in District 196 for over 25 years (teaching English Language Learners and Reading Recovery). Derek became the coordinator of Project Explore in 1991 and was instrumental in shaping the program until his retirement in 2017. Since retiring, he volunteers with the Adult Basic Education program in District 196 helping adults with their English reading and writing in order to improve their skills so they can move ahead in their jobs, prepare for further education and improve their daily lives. He frequently is seen helping out at Project Explore dances and other large events.

Derek’s lifetime passion to help and encourage others is just part of his DNA, and he officially became a member of the Foundation in June 2017 so that he can continue to help enhance, enrich and expand opportunities for adults with disabilities.

 

Elaine Becker – RVPE Foundation, Treasurer

Moving from North of the river to Apple Valley in 1999, Elaine continues to volunteer with the disabled community.  Previously she served on a community Adaptive Recreation Board.  She believes that educational and recreational programs need to be available to individuals with disabilities throughout a lifetime.

She has volunteered on the Project Explore Advisory Board for 15 years, assuring her son and others benefit from the Project Explore classes.  She believes that cooking and other educational classes have helped her son develop and maintain the skills that allow him to live independently for many years.  Elaine knows first-hand how Bingo and Pizza, and the many dances increase the opportunities for social interaction for all. She values the Project Explore activities that allow all those served by the programs, to remain active all year long.

As the Treasurer of the Foundation, she is able to use her career experiences in accounting and incredible skill of attention to detail to help administer the Foundation’s finances. In 2008, Elaine championed completing and submitted the paperwork required to become a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit allowing the Foundation to receive tax-deductible contributions.

 

Nick Cookas – RVPE Foundation, Chairperson

Nick has lived in the South Metro area since 1977 and he and his wife Barb have four sons and three daughters-in-law. He has been involved on the RVPE Foundation board for eight years and his son Max has enjoyed participating in a variety of Project Explore activities and classes for several years. Recently retired, Nick worked in the recognition industry for 37 years for MTM and Jostens Recognition Division in sales, sales management and sports marketing. He has a M.S. in Education. Prior to his career at Jostens, he taught and coached.

 

Jeanne Finch

Jeanne has lived in the Twin Cities area for 30 years. She raised two children as a single parent. Jeanne was introduced to Project Explore eight years ago by a young lady who is an active participant in Project Explore’s program. Jeanne has supported students and young adults for many years, working for ISD 191 and has recently become a licensed provider. Jeanne is new to the Foundation board. She sees tremendous value in the programming Project Explore provides to the community and is dedicated to seeing the Program expand its offerings and reach more people.

 

Monica Jensen

Monica moved to Minnesota over thirty years ago.  After being injured in a car crash, she and a friend who is blind co-founded Awareness Training, Inc.  As part of her research, she learned about the wonderful opportunities Project Explore provided to adults with a disability and volunteered as a Board member.   She continued to advocate for those with disabilities by joining the Foundation, and now works behind the scenes to make opportunities for social, emotional and a side of education, a reality for this community and support the hardworking staff.

Monica lives in Burnsville with her husband Steve.  They have two adult children (Britt and Tom) and three grandsons (Jack, Walter and Hank) they adore.  When not working in community relations, they enjoy traveling and lake living.

 

Kallie Swartz, RVPE Foundation, Secretary

As a resident of Apple Valley since 1973, Kallie Swartz has always been an advocate for any opportunity for those with a disability.  Kallie’s daughter was part of Project Explore from its beginning, almost 30 years ago.  She has watched her daughter develop new friendships and learn new skills by participating in many Project Explore classes and events. Knowing firsthand how valuable RVPE is to the growing community of adults with disabilities has inspired Kallie to take an active part in the leadership of the Foundation.  She wants to continue to support this group striving to make each life easier, with new skills, friends, companionship, and fun!

 

Jeff VonHoltum

Jeff is a Minnesota native and has two daughters and two grandchildren also living in Minnesota. Jeff is new to the Foundation board. His interest in the Foundation developed through people he supports that are avid participants in Project Explore classes, activities and events. Jeff is a veteran, has worked as a construction manager and trainer for 30 years, and has recently become an office manager at a group home in Dakota County.