Article Index

Scott StewartScott Stewart, YMWLS Co-Dean

Scott serves as the Director of Religious Education and Youth Group Leader at Eliot Unitarian Chapel in Kirkwood, MO and has served on the YMWLS staff since 2014.  He’s an enthusiastic supporter of UU youth and eagerly attends and supports as many UU youth events and leadership opportunities as possible.  Scott and his wife Jennifer have been married for 16 years.  He enjoys reading, traveling throughout the country, playing games with family and friends, hiking, viewing wildlife, and bird watching. Scott is also an avid supporter of the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Blues.

Nancy Combs Morgan Dec 2016 2Nancy Combs-Morgan

Nancy has been immersed in Unitarian Universalist faith development for the last 17 years, including 6 years as a Director of Religious Education, and 11 years on UUA district and regional staff, as the Faith Development Director in Heartland District, and the MidAmerica Coordinator for Emerging Models in Youth and Young Adult Ministries.  Throughout this progression she has remained passionate about the transformative impact of our faith for children, youth, and young adults.  She has worked closely as a regional liaison with our national Youth and Young Adult staff. Outside of the realm of faith development, she radiates a love of music and movement.  One particular joy is DJing for multigenerational events as NC<* (NCLight), and spending time with family and friends in her hometown of Lexington, KY.

Heather GodboutHeather Godbout

Heather Godbout is the youth coordinator at Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Oak Park, IL. She has been active in youth ministry as a volunteer advisor and/or youth ministry staff since 1996. Heather also serves as a youth conference consultant for the MidAmerica region's Northern Area. In her work-a-day life, Heather is the literacy coach at Crete-Monee High School in Crete, IL. She loves books, drawing, her garden, and all things nerdy.​​​​

Will CannonWill Cannon

Will Cannon is a sixteen-year-old homeschooler from Indianapolis, IN. He has been UU all his life and attends All Souls Unitarian Church of Indianapolis. He is involved in planning events for the youth group at his church and is a trained youth chaplain. Will is very excited to be returning to leadership school as Lead Youth Staff this summer after attending in 2017 as staff and 2016 as a student. As a student, Will loved leadership school and believes it was a very unique and life-altering experience for him. Will is most excited to meet all the amazing youth that will be attending.

Sarah CannonSarah Cannon

Sarah is excited to return to YMWLS! Sarah is an adult advisor to the Heartland Area Youth Council. She has been a UU for more than twenty years, and much of her involvement with UU churches centers around RE and youth programs. She is currently a member of All Souls Unitarian Church in Indianapolis, IN. Sarah is the author of Oddity, a middle grade novel published by Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. Her next novel will be out in Fall 2019. She's also a homeschooling mom and ESL teacher. In her spare time, she likes to garden, knit, and read..

Rev. Leslie MillsRev. Leslie Mills

Leslie Mills is the minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Elgin, Illinois. As a third-generation UU, she has a passion for empowering teen voices and leadership, giving them the support and resources they need in order to become powerhouses of our liberal faith. Leslie has worked with youth for over a decade, from running a youth volunteer program to leading youth pilgrimages. She has served our denomination as the youth director of Camp StarTrail, the minister-in-residence at Summer Seminary for youth contemplating becoming religious professionals, and most recently as a youth chaplain at YMWLS. She’s thrilled to be back this year, and can’t wait to meet you!

Tim MurphyTim Murphy

Tim Murphy is a youth advisor at the UU Church of Indianapolis and served on the staff of YMWLS from 2010-2015 and 2017! He loves to work with youth and promotes youth empowerment every chance he gets. He's been to tons of cons and trainings as both staff and attendee. He works as a cataloger at a public library, serves as the merchandise coordinator for Naptown Roller Derby and in his spare time watches lots of movies and rides as many roller coasters as he can find!

Tessa HallTessa Hall

Tessa Hall is a Senior at Washburn Rural High School in Topeka, Kansas. She has grown up in the UU family and attends Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka. She is involved in Girl Scouts as well as staying plenty active in her UU community. Tessa is excited to return as a staff member, as she knows this will help deepen her faith as well as further her leadership abilities.

Evan CannonEvan Cannon

Evan is a slightly (extremely) ridiculous fourteen-year-old homeschooler from Indianapolis, IN. He is a Unitarian Universalist and an Eclectic Witch and attends All Souls Unitarian Church of Indianapolis. He attended YMWLS in 2017 and he’s ecstatic about returning as staff. When he isn’t drawing, writing or enjoying many fandom-related things, he volunteers as an At-Large on the Heartland Area Youth Council. He has been a member of the council for the past two years (and hopefully many more to come) which has allowed him to plan and run youth CONs, as well as events at his church. Evan is a trained youth chaplain. He is always happy to talk about anything on your mind.

Colleen LeeColleen Lee, Young Adult Spiritual Director

Colleen Lee is a college student at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she studies social work. Colleen is a life long UU, who is a YMWLS alumni, chaplain trained individual, former General Assembly Youth Caucus Worship coordinator, as well as a Summer Seminary alumni. She will be serving as YMWLS’s Young Adult Spiritual Director. Colleen enjoys art journaling, is an avid tea drinker, and an active advocate for reproductive justice. She can’t wait to be back in the YMWLS community for the third time.

Gene McCrackenGene McCracken

Gene McCracken is a volunteer youth advisor at First Unitarian in Des Moines Iowa. He's been a church member for about 12 years and has worked with youth programming for about 10 years, including Coming of Age and high school youth group. He spent 30 years working in healthcare and taught at risk High School the last 12 years of his working career. His first leadership development experiences were in 4H as a teenager. Over his work life, he has had leadership development responsibilities in a variety of settings. Teaching at risk kids frequently involved creating a nurturing and growful environment; a setting where their personal leadership emerges. For the last couple years he has taught a leadership class for AARP.  He attended Midwest Leadership School for adults in Beloit in 2015. Youth from Des Moines attended the youth school and always returned "pumped." Being an Iowan and loving both Decorah and MWLS, he wanted to help the first year in the new setting. He volunteered, was accepted and found it rewarding. So he's coming back! Gene gardens, cooks, watches grandkids play soccer and enjoys being out in nature.

Chris TwomblyChris Twombly

Chris Twombly is an active UU member from Eliot Unitarian Chapel, located in Kirkwood, Missouri. He is involved in his local UU community as the current leader of SAYC (Southern Area Youth Council) and in the national UU community as a current participating Luminary Leader. Outside of the UU world, Christopher is an avid drummer, a self-proclaimed poet, and a shameless lover of the physical sciences. He is delighted to have an opportunity to help make YMWLS an amazing and meaningful experience for this year's attending members, much as it was a moving experience for him as an YMWLS attendee in 2015.

Many thanks to past YMWLS staff for 2017:

Aislynn PasierbAislynn Pasierb (Lead Youth Staff)

Aislynn Pasierb is a Youth Member of Eliot Chapel located in Kirkwood, MO. She enjoys the advocacy, inclusion of everyone’s ideas, and guidance  that Eliot’s congregation and Youth Leaders support and encourage.  When she is not involved with Eliot Chapel, Aislynn focuses on her studies at Kirkwood High School where she is a Senior.  She also enjoys acting, dance, and voice--combining all of these in musical theatre productions both at school and various other companies in the St. Louis area.

Izzy SpriggsIzzy Spriggs

Izzy Spriggs is thrilled to be a YMWLS staff this summer! She went as a YMWLS student in 2013 and has been a part of the Heartland Area Youth Council for over 5 years. Izzy experienced an exchange year in Germany as a Congress-Bundestag scholarship recipient with Youth for Understanding for the 2015-16 school year and is about to graduate high school in Indianapolis, Indiana. Since her study abroad, Izzy has traveled to South Africa and Mexico. She hopes to major in English with an interdisciplinary in African and African American Diaspora Studies and a minor in international relations so that she can continue her love of traveling. Izzy loves her UU community and cannot wait to be apart of YMWLS once again!

Jennica Davis-Hockett

Jennica Davis Hockett

Jennica is the Youth Ministry Associate for our UUA's Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. She supports Youth Caucus at General Assembly, Summer Seminary for youth exploring a career in UUism and the network of Luminary Leaders. She co-organizes the SURJ-SLC (Showing Up for Racial Justice) chapter, plays the ukulele and just got a slow cooker but doesn't know how to use it yet.



Spencer ThomasSpencer Thomas

Spencer Thomas has been involved in UU youth ministry for over a decade, serving in such roles as Coming of Age mentor, YRUU advisor, and member of the Heartland area youth council. He was an RA at the MWLS in 2012 and found it to be a transformative and energizing experience. Spencer is a 3rd generation UU, and has been a member of the First UU Congregation of Ann Arbor since 2002.

Henry Hill GormanHenry Hill-Gorman

Henry attended YMWLS in the summer of 2016, found the experience to be truly transformative, and can't wait to be on staff for 2017. Hailing from the First Unitarian Society of Madison, Wisconsin, Henry is an active member of his congregation and Madison community at-large; currently organizing around immigrant rights and the New Sanctuary Movement. When he isn't doing schoolwork in his bedroom (homeschooled), or lip-syncing to the latest Taylor Swift song (if you attend YMWLS you can count on several performances), Henry is taking the bus down to Chicago every weekend to study and perform improvisational comedy.  He is so excited to be spending part of his summer with you and the wonderful (i.e. unlimited!) cafeteria food of Luther College. Henry also finds it awkward to write about himself in the third person.


Many thanks to past YMWLS staff for 2016:

YMWLS Shannon HarperShannon Harper - Chaperone 2016
Shannon is excited to join YMWLS for the third year!  She currently works as Director of Religious Education at the Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Dayton, OH.  She also serves as adult advisor on the Heartland Area Youth Council and youth consultant for MidAmerica Region.  In addition, Shannon teaches art classes at a local community center.  She has two teenage daughters of her own, but when she's not hanging out with young people she tries to spend as much time as possible visiting Chicago, collecting beach glass and making art.

YMWLS Rhianna GironRhianna Giron - Lead Youth Staff Member 2016
Rhianna is a seventeen year old from Omaha, Nebraska, and became a UU when she was ten when her parents discovered Unitarian Universalism. Rhianna is the Lead Youth Staff member for the summer of 2015, was a member of the staff for 2014, and was a student for 2013 at Midwest Leadership School.  She is a member of the First Unitarian Church of Omaha. She is involved in the youth group at her church and is the President of the Youth Adult Committee for the group. Rhianna recently finished her Junior year in High School and loves participating in school and in the drama department there. Rhianna is looking forward to her last year at Midwest Leadership School and hopes to help make it a wonderful experience for all the youth and adults involved.

YMWLS Colleen LeeColleen Lee - Youth Staff Member 2016
Colleen Lee will be a junior in high school and attends Eliot Unitarian Chapel in Kirkwood, MO. She has been UU all her life and is also a trained youth chaplain. Colleen loves traveling and new experiences and is excited to be staffing YMLS this summer and is most excited to meet all the amazing youth that will be attending. As a student Colleen loved leadership school and believed it was the most unique and life altering experience for her: meeting new people, discovering herself, UUism and acquiring new leadership skills.

YMWLS Caleb LemanCaleb Leman - Youth Staff Member 2016
Caleb Rakesh Leman is a Junior at Deerfield High School and is on the youth staff for Youth Leadership School 2015. He has a leadership position in his youth group at North Shore Unitarian Church and his greatest passion is all things UU- the ideologies, people, and spiritual exploration. Caleb’s extracurriculars include Marching Band, Student Congress, and Mountain Biking. His favorite subjects in school are English and History, and he has a particular fondness for poetry and transcendentalism. His favorite bands are Muse, Pink Floyd, Arcade Fire, and Cage the Elephant. His favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut, and his favorite book is The Ox-Bow Incident (Catcher in the Rye is a close second). And above all, he is very excited to help staff YMLS this year.

ymwls-schuyler-vogelSchuyler Vogel - Youth School Chaplain 2016
Schuyler Vogel serves as minister to congregations in Waukesha, Wisconsin and the greater Rock Valley region, where the Youth Midwest Leadership School is located. A recent graduate of Harvard Divinity School, Schuyler grew up in Milwaukee and attended Carleton College. He has served as the Director of Faith Development at River of Grass Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Plantation, Florida and as the Director of Religious Education at North Shore Unitarian Church in Deerfield, Illinois.

YMWLS Dori ThextonDori Davenport Thexton - Co-Dean 2016
Dori has loved working with youth and young adults for most of her 30 year career in Unitarian Universalism.  She has served two congregations as Director of Religious Education prior to joining the UUA’s fieldstaff group in 1998.  Dori also works with congregational growth and staff team development and training in the MidAmerica Region.  She is married to former youth advisor Arthur Thexton and lives in Milwaukee, WI where she enjoys time with her 5 grandchildren and pets.

YMWLS - Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace - Co-Dean 2016
Ben is a fourth year staff member and MWLS Adult School Alumnus.  Ben is a member of First Unitarian Church of Omaha and is involved in various regional efforts including as an advisor for the MidAmerica Region Youth and Young Adult programs.  Employed by TSYS Acquiring Solutions since 2008, Ben is currently an Assistant Director of Sales Support for TSYS.  Ben enjoys sharing puns with others but most of all Ben enjoys learning and teaching about leadership, empowerment, and inspiring others to follow their dreams.

Many thanks to PAST YMWLS Staff for 2015:


Mary Grayson Batts is an artist, violist, actress, teacher, and activist from Bowling Green, KY. Mary Grayson spends her days creating art, listening to and making music, baking cookies, drinking coffee, teaching art to children, sleeping, scrolling through Tumblr, and not doing her homework. Perhaps her proudest accomplishment to date is her success in founding and leading her high school's first Gay-Straight Alliance. Mary Grayson loves listening to records, watching Star Wars, and spending time with interesting people. She plans to study Fine Art in college.

Nancy Combs-MorganNancy Combs-Morgan has been immersed in Unitarian Universalist faith development for the last 17 years, including 6 years as a Director of Religious Education, and 11 years on UUA district and regional staff, as the Faith Development Director in Heartland District, and the MidAmerica Coordinator for Emerging Models in Youth and Young Adult Ministries.  Throughout this progression she has remained passionate about the transformative impact of our faith for children, youth, and young adults.  She has worked closely as a regional liaison with our national Youth and Young Adult staff. Outside of the realm of faith development, she radiates a love of music and movement.  One particular joy is DJing for multigenerational events as NC<* (NCLight), and spending time with family and friends in her hometown of Lexington, KY.

Andrew Connet has lived the entirety of his 17 years in Lombard, Illinois and as a UU. He loves making and performing music, be it on the clarinet, Bb or Eb, or as the lead vocalist in a metal band. He enjoys listening to excessively loud music, playing games, watching movies, good or bad, reading, writing lyrics and poetry, making up and solving math problems, and doing pretty much anything that may occupy his spare time that he has because he is probably procrastinating on something, even if he doesn't realize it.

ymwls-andrew-singletonAndy Singleton debuted in 2014 in the supporting role of CHAPERONE/Resident Assistant in the live production of YMWLS, showing that summer in Beloit WI. He has over 10 years of ‘acting confident’ with UU youth and leading religious education classes and activities. He and his wife Deb have been members at North Shore Unitarian Church since 1991 where they both continue to be Youth Group advisors as well as participate in Social Action and Sustainability activities. In his free time, Andy is employed at I-CAR as the Application Development Manager, working for a UU boss.

ymwls-luke-stevens-royerRev. Luke Stevens-Royer serves as Assistant Minister at White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church in Mahtomedi, MN. He is a native of southern Minnesota, and a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. He served as Coordinator of Youth and Campus Ministries at Unity Church - Unitarian in St. Paul, MN, and as Intern Minister at the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, MN. Luke enjoys music, good coffee and poetry, paths around lakes and lots and lots of laughter.


Caitlin Warren is from Kansas City, MO. She has been a UU all her life and attended YMLS in 2013. She enjoyed and grew from the experience and loved every single person she met. Her goal in 2014 was to make every single youth feel included and comfortable and help them grow as much as possible. When she is not at leadership school, she enjoys learning other languages and gardening.

Nolan Watts is a rookie eighteen year-old from Wayzata, Minnesota. He served twice as a youth leader. Writing poetry and performing his spoken word at talent shows is something he loves to do. Also, he has been writing and recording music in his basement for three years. He has a knack for bad jokes and attracting bad nicknames.