Denise M. Hanson, Co-Director, is the creator of Root To Rise. She has devoted 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.


Crystal Hutson, Co-Director, is an entrepreneur, community leader, and life and business coach. She is the owner of Company Works, an enterprise that is dedicated to creating success, health and wealth for minority-owned businesses.  Crystal is committed to ensuring that her clients’ lives and businesses transform to powerfully, efficiently, and effectively build wealth.  Company Works has assisted over 15 companies and startup ventures including: Life Force Fitness Center, James Villamar Illustrations & Graphic Design, and Vernee Nycole House of Beauty. She has been instrumental in the implementation of Root To Rise in the Madison Metropolitan School District.  Crystal believes in the best of humanity and through her work helps the communities she serves.  She has residences in both Washington, DC and Madison, Wisconsin.

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.

DJ Elliott, Board member, is the Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Office for Company Works. He is an experienced senior leader managing sales and service centers to deliver on revenue targets and best-in-class service utilizing strategies and action plans that integrate people, process and technology. He is also the President of Intel-esource, providing human resource and leadership consulting to Fortune 500 companies. DJ lives in Washington, DC.  

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.






On-Site Coordinators


Cindy Neusen, West High School Root To Rise On-Site Coordinator 

Laura Glaub, Thoreau Elementary School Root To Rise On-Site Coordinator
Molly Hayes, La Follette High School Root To Rise On-Site Coordinator



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