Our Staff

Heidi Wallace: Executive Director

Heidi’s life experiences as a sixth generation, non-Indigenous Montanan led her to pursue a life of creating positive change in individuals and communities. Heidi has a Bachelor’s of Social Work and a B.A. in Native American Studies from the University of Montana where she was honored in 2010 with the Distinguished Alumni Award. For the past 18 years, Wallace’s focus has been on advancing youth leadership and creating just institutions by assisting organizations and communities to dismantle oppressive practices. Through her work with EmpowerMT, Wallace has influenced policy change and trained thousands of individuals to build safer and more inclusive schools, organizations and communities.

Kim Spurzem: Director of Programs

Kim developed a passion for social justice work beginning in high school when she worked with a collective of youth and adult mentors to create the first enumerated anti-bullying policy in the state of Montana.  She continues her passion for creating inclusive learning environments and has focused the past several years on positive youth development and empowering youth to be engaged citizens in their communities.  Kim has helped launch multiple new programs, co-guided strategic visioning, and has been integral in expanding EmpowerMT’s youth development work across the state of Montana.  She has a strong passion for research and institutional policy work and thrives in creating leadership opportunities within community groups for youth.  Kim has also trained thousands of youth, educators, and community members on developing skills for building safer and more inclusive schools and communities for everyone.

Katie Koga: Organizational Specialist

Katie has been deeply passionate about correcting injustices and building power for marginalized groups ever since she first noticed the inequality and disparities in her own community.  Since joining EmpowerMT’s staff in 2012, Katie has helped increase the organization’s capacity in numerous ways through her administrative, training, and event coordination expertise.  Her commitment to amplifying the visibility and voices of people of color and their intersecting identities, has played a key role in expanding EmpowerMT’s racial justice work.  Katie firmly believes that empowering individuals to see, listen, speak and act is one of the most important ways to create positive change in the world.  

Jesse Jaeger: Development and Communications Specialist

Jesse and his family moved back to Missoula after being gone for 14 years and shortly thereafter he  joined EmpowerMT’s staff.  He was worked in nonprofit organizations for over 20 years including six years as the National Director for Youth Ministry for the Unitarian Universalist Association and most recently as the Executive Director of UU Mass Action, a small advocacy organization that mobilized people of faith around progressive causes in Massachusetts.  Jesse is honored to be part of an organization that has such a large impact in empowering all people, and especially young people, to transform their communities into more just and inclusive places.

Claire Michelson: Youth Programs Specialist

Claire was raised by parents who taught her the importance of giving kindness and respect to all people, regardless of any single identity or characteristic. It was growing up through the Missoula schools where she saw the need for more inclusive and empowering environments. Claire was saddened by how many of her peers (including herself) faced oppression and mistreatment, and experienced mental health issues as a result of this. She became an EmpowerMT enthusiast when she joined Respect Club (now EPIC!) back in the sixth grade and found a place that valued her wise, loving attitude and helped her gain confidence and a voice in her community. Claire currently attends University of Montana as a Presidential Leadership Scholar and studies Psychology as well as Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Claire facilitates the after school program EPIC and continues to help other young people (and people of all ages) find their ally skills, passions, and voices.

Our Practicums

Alston Crudup: UM BSW Practicum

Alston is a senior in the BSW program at University of Montana and is completing a practicum for the 2016 Summer and Fall terms.  She was born and raised in South Carolina and likes to romp around outside, play guitar, and write poetry.  Alston is passionate about youth, the LGBT population, and marginalized communities.