Board of Directors and Gaia Council- Community Faculty-

Dr. Anne Ness, PhD - Board/Council Secretary, Founder, Health and Wellness Consultant (since 2013)

Anne has been a long time Gaia mom, since early SFS days! All 5 of her amazing kids have attended SFS/Gaia over the years. Anne has a Doctorate of Nursing degree and MA in Holistic Health Studies from St. Catherine University. Anne is an artist, activist, aromatherapist and street medic, among many other wonderful things.

​​​​Autumn Cunningham- Founder

​Autumn has a degree in Social Work from Metro State University and is the owner of Mama Luna's Care. She is a certified birthing doula/mentor who was fortunate to train under Pam England, author and creator of "Birthing From Within."  Autumn has worked for the Hennepin County Medical Center Doula Program, enabling her to work with families of many backgrounds and cultures. 

Cara Hobson-Deleon, MA, University of MN- Council member (since 2022)

Cara is a film professor at the University of Minnesota, artist, film maker and mom. 

Elaine Avery- Founder 

Elaine is a DJ, activist, artist, mom.

Diego Juarez- Gaia Staff (since 2018) 

Diego has been part of the Gaia community since he attended as a student in 6th Grade. He graduated from the U of MN in 2023 with a degree in Technical Writing. Diego loves to travel, speaks Spanish, and is known for his dapper fashion style. At Gaia he can usually be found playing Magic the Gathering, chaperoning field trips and doing art or whatever else students want.  

Eve Marie Glidden- Full Spectrum Outreach Staff (Staff since 2022, Volunteer since 2013)

Eve Marie is an herbalist, landscape design specialist and urban farmer. She has spent time living and working  in many collective and activist spaces in Minneapolis throughout her life. Eve has certification through the Permaculture Research Institute, earth activist training, an associates of applied science degree in Western Clinical Herbalism and years of experience growing and making medicine.   For the past several years Eve has been doing guerilla gardening projects,  studying and practicing the art of herbal Medicine in clinic circles, botany classes, permaculture classes, herb groups, herb walks, helping to run free herbal clinic ,  playing with herbal formulas, exploring new and old ways of medicine making, spending days in the forests & gardens where herbal allies flourish and growing as many herbs as she can,  She currently occupies her time cultivating community, building soil, advocating for equal rights and urban food production,  dreaming up a better future,  teaching classes, taking classes, growing things in gardens, and running a small herbal and landscaping company, She is the founder and owner of Pulse Botanicals a garden care, herbal apothecary and community engagement project run out of South Minneapolis. Eve has been in the Gaia/SFS community since the 1990's. 

Hani Jama, Gaia Staff/Full Spectrum Outreach (Staff since 2023, Volunteer since 2013)

Hani has been part of the Gaia community since Second Foundation School days (2008) and has been a volunteer and consultant at Gaia off and on since 2013. Hani has a degree in Psychology, speaks Somali and has worked with youth in a variety of settings. Hani is currently attending a Masters program at Augsburg College focused on Business Management. A fun fact is that Hani played "The Orphanage Lady" and other roles in our 2009 production of John Water's movie "Crybaby." 

​​​Joy Durish-Strand, MA- Board/Council Chair, Ethics committee Chair (Council/Staff since 2014) 

Joy has been the owner and operator of Joy of Pets, a professional pet sitting service, since 2007.  She passionately studied Marine Biology while living in Monterey, California and left a bit of her heart and soul there with the Pacific Ocean. She is a former EMT, Family Support Group Leader with the US Army, Bread Baker at Lakewinds Coop, and Dog groomer. She holds in highest regard, her most important calling of all, parenting and homeschooling two daughters (all grown up now!), and a wonderful teenaged son attended Gaia from 2013 until he graduated in 2021! Joy's interests include; finding her way back to the ocean every chance she gets, reading, pets, science, nature, crafts, finding new and old places to eat delicious food with family and friends, and lots of music.

Kai Joy- Council (since 2022) Gaia Staff (since 2020)
​Kai is an educator, writer, performer and multimedia artist originally from Chicagoland and based here in Minneapolis. Kai went to public school in and around Chicago for the entirety of her K-12 education. As a young budding trans girl, confused about identity and mental health, the public school model of standardization was very difficult for her to navigate. However, she was incredibly lucky to have access to several supportive extra-curricular spaces and opportunities. During high school she participated in the largest youth spoken word poetry competition in the world, Louder Than a Bomb. Kai continued writing and performing through her undergraduate education, receiving a BA in creative writing from Oberlin College. During her time at Oberlin, Kai worked as a poetry TA, an accessibiliy coordinator in a queer BIPOC dining co-operative and was awarded the President's Public Service Fellowship. Her fellowship entailed planning and co-teaching history themed Summer Camps at the local history museum, the Oberlin Heritage Center. For the past few years, Kai has bounced back and forth between Minnesota and Illinois. She worked as an educator at the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary in Northern, Minnesota, interned at the Walker Art Center here in Minneapolis and performed in Pears, an experimental play at the Fogstand Gallery in St. Paul. In Chicago, Kai worked as a creative writing tutor and outreach fellow for 826CHI, a youth creative-writing non-profit. Kai is humbled and privileged to be a part of a community as truly magical as Gaia. 

Keegan Xavi- Gaia Staff, Full Spectrum Outreach Staff (since 2023)

Keegan is a visual artist, passionate about art history with an insatiable desire for research and learning. Her personal work addresses the emotionally brutal realities of American History and its impact on the present and future - with a recurring, broader theme about the human intersection between nature and technology. Art is a vital tool for connection and resiliency, and she uses her strengths to produce community events uniting neighbors through creative action. Keegan has many years of experience working with youth in a variety of settings including Prairie Care (mental health) and PYC Arts and Technology High School. Keegan is currently the Engagement Director at Mudluk Pottery Studio which she helped found. She is also a Master Gardener. 

Kyra Curry- Wynne, BA- Gaia Staff Assistant and Organizer (since 2020)
Kyra graduated from Gaia’s class of 2020, going on to receive an Herbal Studies certificate from Minneapolis College. She has practical experience in herbal medicine, ethnobotanical history, plant identification and herbal preparations. Growing up, Kyra used music and poetry to express difficult inner-conflicts in her adolescence, leading her to participate in community theater, dance, vocal and instrumental ensembles. In high school, Kyra participated in Project Opera’s 2018-19 season as a cast member in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Gondoliers”, gaining hands-on experience with directors at the Minnesota Opera. Kyra also played guitar with the Minneapolis College Jazz Ensemble. She is currently studying for a B.M. in Music Therapy at St. Kate's and is especially interested in exploring the relationship between music therapy and de-escalation in adolescent mental health settings.

Liz VanDerlofske, MA- Founder

Lizhas an MBA from Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University, a BA in Economics from University of Rochester and is a CPA (license on inactive status). Liz is a founding member, Steering Committee member and Treasurer of the Southside Star Community Garden in Minneapolis. Liz has worked in public accounting, in the private sector and in education at a community college. She enjoys skiing (downhill and cross-country), swimming, gardening and reading. Liz has had two children attend Gaia from young ages through graduation. Jack recently graduated from college and Leo is currently attending college. 

Maurine Stenwick, MA- Board Officer/Council, Founder (since 2013)
earned a Biology degree from St. Olaf College and an independent study, interdisciplinary degree from the Paracollege on Implications of Endangered Species Management. She is interested in many aspects of this world and how they are interrelated. Some of Maurine’s favorite topics include: Biology, Chemistry, Medicine, Ecology, Geology, Engineering, World History, Anthropology, Geography, Education, Comparative Religion and World Mythology. 

Mike Harris- Finance Committee, Founder, Staff (since 2013) 

Mike is the type that does Math for fun. He was the bookkeeper for The Hub Bicycle Collective for over 10 years, has been involved with collectives and community art organizations since the '90s. He is the creator of YXY News comedy show and a vendor at local sports arenas for a day job. He loves to travel to his favorite spot up north. Mike can be found at Gaia doing accounting, tutoring and teaching math, physics, chess and other strange fun. 

Nate Dvorak, BA- Board/Council Treasurer, Finance Committee, Staff (since 2014) ​​

​Nate has a BA degree in History or something like that but doesn't really think much of it. At Gaia, Nate can often be found rocking out in the kitchen. Nate is a professional baker and shares bread and other delights with the Gaia community. He also plays hackysac, Soccer, Magic and many other games including bananatag.

Riva Garcia- Gaia Founder, Full Spectrum Outreach Founder/Staff

Seren Stenwick- Council, Staff, Founder (since 2013)
Seren is a 2019 alum of Gaia who also attended Second Foundation School. Seren has been a Family Tree Clinic certified peer sex educator since 2015 through their KISS program and has also trained in peer support and education at RECLAIM via Project CLEAR, both of which gave them the necessary skills to assist in facilitating discussions of sexual health and mental wellness among students. Their other passions for art, writing, philosophy, media analysis, and social change are all happily shared with the community, and welcomed from others in turn. They hope to be here for many years yet.

​Starri Hedges, MA -
Executive Director, Founder, Staff, (nonvoting) Board/Council Officer
Starri graduated from democratic school Second Foundation in 1989 and went on to earn: a Women’s Studies Certificate from Minneapolis (Community and Technical) College, a B.A. in Holistic Education (with a minor in Intermedia Arts) from Metropolitan State University, and a Masters of Arts in Human Development and Educational Psychology from St. Marys University. During undergraduate studies, Starri was a Kopp Scholar, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and won several awards including the GLSEN Teacher of the Year award and first place in the Fuschian Student Association Literary Contest.
In addition to academic achievements, Starri has completed in-depth studies of expressive art therapies, martial arts, and several holistic healing techniques including Reiki, Qigong, Yoga and Ifa. 
Starri served as a Teacher's Aide, Lead Teacher, Board Member and Co-Director at Second Foundation School from 1988-2013. During this time, Starri developed multi-disciplined curriculum, managed testing, state reporting, and various grants including United Arts, Waste Reduction, Youth Employment, Community Mural, Art, Drama, Job Training and Nature Awareness programs. 
Starri has also worked at a Montessori childcare center, the Edina Art Center, as an Education Advocate and HIV Coordinator at District 202 (a GLBTQ youth drop in center), as a Housing Advocate for YouthLink, as a baker, community organizer, and founding member of the collectively-run Hard Times Cafe. Starri also enjoyed time as a Teaching Artist for the City of St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department and the nonprofit East Side Arts Council. Starri loves speaking on the subject of democratic education, sexual health education and more to college classes and other groups. 
Starri is an artist, writer, and performer, working with local and national arts organizations since 1992. Some highlights include 25 years with Barebones Production's Halloween Extravaganzas and many shows with Bedlam Theater. Starri especially adores time in nature and with family. Starri is incredibly grateful for community and family support, sending special thanks to: Mike Harris, mama Diana Hedges (a fabulous artist and Gaia supporter) and the marvelous Duo Adore- Cirque du Soleil performers daughter Jazmin LeFae (who was unschooled), her partner Ivan Mokrousov and their frenchies, Olive and Figaro.

Tonya Skorich- Board/Council Vice-Chair (since 2017) 

Gaia Consultants:

​Adam Arnold, Consultant, Mental Health Support 
Adamis a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Adam holds a Master of Arts in Counseling & Psychotherapy from Adler Graduate School, and an Addiction Studies Certificate from the University of Minnesota. He has worked as a counselor in several residential treatment centers, a group psychotherapist in the addiction and domestic violence fields, and a family therapist in private practice. Adam is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor, and is a member of the LGBT Therapists Network, the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy as well as the Minnesota Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. Adam serves on the board of Interfaith Children’s Advocacy Network (ICAN). He also serves as Executive Artistic Director for blank slate theatre, a personal growth-oriented theatre for youth, and was awarded “Outstanding Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist” by the Minnesota Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.

​Amoke Kubat, M.Ed., Culture Bearer- Consultant, General and Special Education, Wellness
Amoke is a writer, artist, community elder, and Life Coach. She is also a Minnesota Special Education teacher holding licenses in Learning Disabilities, Cognitive Developmental Delays, Emotional Behavior Disorders, and Early Childhood Special Education. Amoke earned undergraduate degrees in Feminist Studies and Creative Writing, and a Masters in Special Education. She has taught for the Los Angeles, Pasadena Unified, and Minneapolis School Districts. She loved working for middle and high school students with learning and physical disabilities. She also holds a Specialist Credential for Early Childhood Special Education from California State College. Amoke has written for the Association for the Education of Young Children’s publication, NEWS, and Recovering the Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing. She published her first novel, Missing Mama: My Story of Loss, Sorrow and Healing in 2012 and is currently performing her second play after touring her first play all over Minnesota.

Drake Powe- Consultant, stress reduction

Modern life has more than its share of stressors and challenges. From a young age, chronic stress in my life led me to search for knowledge and solutions. I began to study spiritual masters at age 11. Meditation became a tool I used regularly from my early teen years. Yoga plays a vital role in mitigating pain from sports-related injuries and remains a vital component of my relationship to wholeness.
I became a certified yoga instructor in 1999. Blending stress-reduction and meditation techniques with my unique approach to Kripalu yoga, I help myself and clients cope with adverse effects of injury, aging, and uncertainty with more equanimity.
The invitation to genius has been a lifelong, overarching theme. When leading individuals or groups in techniques for calming, grounding, and manifestation space is created for greater inspiration and genius. A gradual awakening can pave the way for great leaps into personal empowerment and more joy in life. We are more powerful than we realize. This is an opportunity to wield that power for the benefit of ourselves and the world. It is my passion to encourage you to realize your own genius. More info at

In Memoriam:

Audrey Dolby

Bob Vincent

Collen Cook

Frank Yellow- Writing and Wellness consultant, Storyteller, Life Coach (heh) 

Francis Yellow- Artist and Teacher- Dakota Culture and Language, Lakota Lifeways, Wellness 

Ike Russell-Hart- Music Teacher

Lucy Cutler

We will remember and love you forever!

Gaia Democratic School employs people and admits students: of any race, color, religion, gender, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, national and ethnic origin and affords every student to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available  at the school. GDS does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, economic status, national or ethnic origin or any other reason.



1219 University Ave. SE Minneapolis, MN 55414

​​​Gaia Democratic school

Gaia Democratic School provides a multi age environment for learning together in fun and freedom. We strive to create a school that: -celebrates and honors each individual and the community as a whole --is anti-oppression, anti-racist,  -is inclusive of learning diversity and needs -is "Full Spectrum" in regards to respecting all community members' gender identities, neurodiversity and learning styles. We promote cooperative and self-directed learning, academic freedom, social justice, youth rights, environmental stewardship, and of course, democratic education. Flexible options, small groups and individualized plans are always part of the deal at Gaia. Gaia Democratic School admits students and hires staff of any race, color, religion, gender, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, national and ethnic origin and accords to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to all students at the school. GDS does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, national or ethnic origin or any other reason.

Gaia Staff and Consultant Photos: 

Mike Harris

Frank Yellow




About the Faculty and Staff at Gaia Democratic School
Gaia offers students competent, caring faculty who are committed to consent, open education, learning in freedom, independent thinking, and group problem solving. We encourage active learning through movement, experimentation, and real-world projects rather than trying to force learning through coercion, conformity, or consequences. We strive to respond to individual student needs while nurturing one’s natural desire to learn. Our faculty members are experienced teachers, mentors, and are able to guide students of all ages and backgrounds with respect and insight.
Our core faculty are supported by community faculty members who include parents, college students, alumni, and other members of our community who are interested in participating with the learning life of our students. We also have partnerships with local artists and arts and educational organizations. Everyone at Gaia is a teacher, so we use the term "Staff" to designate people who are there to help, if needed.