Staff

Lara Gerhardson

Students First Program Consultant

Lara Gerhardson

Lara was born and raised in Bemidji, MN. She has a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. from Boston University's College of Communications. She is also a certified Gallup Clifton Strengths Educator and Blandin Community Leadership Program alum.

Lara has a passion for encouraging students of all ages and helping them to realize their dreams for the future. In her work with both Students First and the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, she sees the positive impact that we can have in students' lives if we take the time to recognize them for their unique talents and help them to develop those talents into Strengths. It has an incalculable impact not only on the individual student but on the community of which they are a part.

Ebony Warren

Students First Program Coordinator

Ebony Warren

Ebony is a wife, mother, mentor, speaker, and author. She is very outgoing, thoughtful, and passionate about helping people. She is a South Carolina native, who grew up in a small town surrounded by lots of family. After graduating from high school, she attended The University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she received her bachelor?s (2002) and master's (2004) degrees. While attending Tennessee and after graduating, she worked in athletic ticket operations, and fundraising and development.

Ebony and her husband moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where they lived for twelve years before relocating to Minnesota. In Birmingham, she worked in marketing, sales, and project management. She was also a yearly PTO member and volunteer at the local elementary school, and was very active at leading small groups and volunteering in her local church.

Currently, Ebony lives in Bemidji with her husband, their two boys, and their family dog. She loves spending time with her family, volunteering in the community, and helping people. She is passionate about mentoring married couples, women, and youth. She is also a success coach with Students First. Some of her hobbies are writing, playing sports, reading, traveling, cooking, listening to music and photography. Ebony has learned that ordinary people can do extraordinary things, and she hopes to convey that message of hope to students and coaches through Students First.

Missy Thomas

Students First Strengths Educator

Missy Thomas

Missy Thomas has lived in Bemidji for over 20 years and considers this area her home. After graduating from Oak Hills Christian College with a Bachelor's Degree in Applied Psychology, she was hired with Northwoods Caregivers and has served in many different capacities, for more than 2 decades.

Missy has a heart for this community and a passion to be a champion for the students here. It is her desire to help students discover what they are good at and understand what is right about them. She is excited to get to know our youth and connect them with adult mentors who want to invest in them. She says, “It is one of my greatest joys to see others succeed. I will embrace the opportunity to come alongside our youth with the chance to spread hope, give direction and provide a greater chance of their success! I am honored to have a part in showing these kids they are wanted, needed and valued.”

Missy and Trent have been married for 18 years and have 2 boys: Jonah (10) and Eli (5). They enjoy camping, family time and lots of laughter.