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Our team

Marti Beard

Vice President of Early Childhood Programs

Marti Beard joined Nebraska Children and Families Foundation in June 2017 and serves as a Vice President for Early Childhood Programs. Her primary role is to oversee the Communities for Kids initiative and provide technical assistance, connections, and resources to the communities participating in Nebraska Children’s early childhood initiatives.

Previously, Marti spent 25 years working in child welfare, solidifying her belief in the incredible impact that prevention can have on a person's life, especially in the early childhood years. She works with the C4K team to support local communities in developing high-quality child care solutions.   Living in a rural ranching community in the sandhills of Nebraska, Marti brings a unique perspective to the value of Collective Impact and understanding of how local voices can achieve big dreams. 

In addition to her professional positions, Marti serves on several local, regional, and state boards concerning children, youth, and families, and continues to be very active in early childhood and child welfare work.

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Rachel Sissel

Associate Vice President of Early Childhood Programs

Rachel joined the Communities For Kids team in October 2019 and currently serves as Associate Vice President for Early Childhood. Rachel works with communities all across the state through the Communities For Kids initiative, which is focused on building the capacity and enhancing the quality of early care and education in Nebraska. She was previously based in Garden County and loved life in the panhandle but has recently returned to her hometown of Fremont, NE with her two very active, hilarious, and loving sons!

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Noelle Wegner

Associate Vice President of Early Childhood Programs

Noelle joined the team in June 2020 after serving in various child welfare roles in her career in both the public and private sectors and serves as Associate Vice President of Early Childhood on the Communities for Kids team, overseeing multiple grant-funded projects and the coordination of internal and external partners through public and private funding.  She is passionate about improving the lives of Nebraska kids and brings her extensive experience in system oversight, meeting facilitation, data, and child advocacy.  

Noelle lives in Lincoln with her husband and two young children. 

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Shonna Werth

Assistant Vice President of Early Childhood Programs

Shonna lives at Johnson Lake, Nebraska with her husband, Lance.  For the last 14 years, Shonna worked in Central and Western Nebraska with licensed child care providers as a Child Care Inspection Specialist for the State of Nebraska, DHHS, Division of Public Health, Children’s Services Licensing.  Shonna has led the Communities for Kids work in the Lexington area with a focus on early childhood workforce, quality building, and increasing capacity for low-income families. 
Prior to working for the State of Nebraska, she worked in the mental health field for 10 years in Kansas.  Shonna graduated from Fort Hays State University with a bachelor’s in Psychology. Lance and Shonna have two adult children: Andrea, who is a middle school teacher in Texas, and Christopher who is in the US Marine Corps.

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Melissa Polinoski

Assistant Vice President of Early Childhood Programs

Melissa began her career in education and was a certified public-school teacher for 18 years, where she worked with grades Pre-K through twelfth grade in the areas of Art Education, High Ability Learning, Speech, Drama, and S.T.E.A.M.  She transitioned from teaching to small business ownership and eventually served as the Early Childhood Community Coordinator in her community. In her spare time, Melissa enjoys gardening, antiquing, being in nature, and artistically creative endeavors. Spending time with her family, including husband Jeff, son Caleb, and many fur babies is an important part of her life. Inspiring people to pursue positive change for all community members, through collective impact systems, is an important focus of her work at Nebraska Children and Families Foundation.

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Katrina Hurley

Assistant Vice President of Early Childhood Programs

Katrina joined Nebraska Children as an Assistant Vice President of Early Childhood in November 2022 with more than 10 years of experience in early childhood education as an educator and a child care center director. During these years, she focused on providing quality early childhood education for Seward and North Lincoln. She initiated family engagement opportunities and hosted parent advisory meetings on how to improve the center’s quality of care and education. She focused on the importance of parental involvement in all aspects of early childhood education, including educating parents on the extreme significance of quality early childhood education. Katrina has her degree in History and Legal Studies from Chadron State College. She is one of the oldest of 12 siblings, which instilled in her the importance of quality early childhood programs for all children.

When she first started at C4K, Katrina primarily worked with pandemic funding focused on expansion of licensed child care spots, and has since expanded to take on the traditional C4K work to communities in the Southeast Region of Nebraska as well as Blue Hill, Ashland-Greenwood, Platte, and Colfax counties.

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Taeva Hoppe

Assistant Vice President of Early Childhood Programs

Taeva has joined Nebraska Children as an Assistant Vice President of Early Childhood Programs with the Communities for Kids initiative. Previously Taeva has been a teacher in various Early Childhood positions all around Lincoln and in the surrounding Lincoln area. Taeva holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with an endorsement in Early Childhood along with a minor in Spanish and a Lutheran Teaching Diploma. Taeva is currently working on her master’s degree in Trauma & Resilience. Taeva is originally from Milford, Nebraska but currently lives in Lincoln with her two cats, Tito and Barton.

Kara Nickel

Procurement Administrative Coordinator

Kara started with Nebraska Children in June 2022 as the Procurement Administrative Coordinator and joined a team of dedicated individuals. Her goal is to work collaboratively with her team to provide opportunities for communities to engage in the creative process of implementing systems and structures that create positive change for children and families in Nebraska.

Prior to her time with Nebraska Children, Kara worked managing homes and compliance requirements in affordable housing in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program. She wants to continue to be of service to Nebraska families and communities in a meaningful way.

Originally from Omaha, Kara attended UNL and earned a degree in Secondary Education. She currently lives in Lincoln with her spouse and two lovely children. She enjoys learning new things, catching a nap whenever possible, garage sales, spending time with friends, baking, exercising, travel and podcasts.

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Catie Ganzel

Administrative and Logistics Coordinator

Catie Ganzel joined Nebraska Children and Families Foundation in June of 2022 as the Administrative and Logistics Coordinator. Catie handles high-level organization and coordination for the Communities for Kids team. She comes from a background in education and emergency communications.  Catie lives in Fremont with her husband, Ryan, their four children; Charlie, Kellen, Holden, and Cece, and their two dogs; Gus and Max.

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