Denise M. Hanson, Director, is the creator of Root To Rise. She has devoted over 30 years to working in K-12 public education as a Spanish and French teacher and Restorative Justice and Engagement Coach. She also taught and trained pre-service teachers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds Master’s degrees in School Counseling and Teacher Leadership. Denise has received grants for second language acquisition at the elementary level and leadership development for high school students of color. She has authored several publications, including: “Crossing Bridges of Culture, Color and Language”, “Language Lessons: Using Student Assistants to Bridge Culture & Language” and “The Deep Approach: Second Languages for Community Building”. Her mission is to build equity in schools by empowering young people of color to become active leaders in their communities. Denise lives with her family in Madison, Wisconsin.



Caty Abrajan, Board Member, is a Bilingual Resource Specialist at Madison West High School. She has been at West since January of 2018 and aspires to become a guidance counselor and eventually get into administration to give voice to the Latinx/Multilingual community. Caty is a mom of three children, and part time student in the Liberal Arts Transfer program at MATC, soon to transfer to UW. Her goal in both career and personal life is to see more Latinx students thrive not only in school but also in the workplace and help newcomer ELL students transition with more ease and support into American schools. Her goal is to get more multilingual students on the path into teaching roles, leadership roles, and in the community as well. Having grown up in Madison WI and in Puebla Mexico, Caty has seen many different pathways to education and strives to help our Latinx students succeed regardless of their situation.



Maureen Geraghty, Board Member, has been teaching for nearly thirty years. Her focus has been on alternative school settings where she works with students from a wide variety of cultural, socio-economic, and academic backgrounds. Her position at the Milwaukee County Juvenile Detention Center led to her passionate work around social and criminal justice issues. Her poems, essays, and stories are published in The National Writing Project, Re-Thinking Schools, Watch My Rising Anthology, Tacenda Literary Journal, Evening Street Press, Teaching with Heart, The Grief Dialogues,,, Look Up-Poems of a Life and most recently a children’s book, Grandpa Ron’s Bird Food. She and her two teenagers live in Portland, Oregon.




Michael Jones, Board Member, is currently President of the teachers’ unit for Madison Teachers Inc. A proud Special Educator, Mike has experience as a case manager, PBIS Coach, and Dean of Students at the middle and high school levels in Milwaukee, Middleton, and Madison. Mike’s work has also been recognized by the local chapter of the 100 Black Men of Madison and he is a proud member of the Black Educators Network in Madison.





Paul Krc, Board Member, has been an educator and editor since 1981.  A native of Chicago, Illinois, he is a graduate of the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin Law School. Paul is pleased to be on the Root To Rise board. He has seen the significant beneficial effect that Root To Rise has on all those who participate in it. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.





Sandra Watkins, Board Member, has worked with the Allied Drive Neighborhood Association and Community Action Coalition to support issues affecting people in the neighborhood – specifically helping with the integration of Cambodian refugees with the predominantly Black neighborhood, including converting a building into a neighborhood center. Sandra wrote grants to the city and got funding for afterschool and summer programming, to bring a neighborhood police officer into the community and a Joining Forces social worker to work out of the neighborhood center. As a Vista Worker, she advocated for women who were the heads of their households, to increase their financial literacy and support the educational needs of their children. Starting in 1992, she was a hall monitor and Special Education Assistant at Cherokee Middle School. She coordinated tutoring and coached Girls Basketball. In 2000, she was hired as a special education assistant at West High School.




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