Meet The Team
Teen Board Director
Rick was raised in northern Utah and has lived experience in the Utah Foster Care system. Rick was in foster care for four years before he aged out at the age of 19. Rick attended Weber State University where he studied Social Work and went on to work various jobs within the social work field. He has worked at a youth shelter (Ogden Christmas Box House), residential treatment and day treatment centers (working with teenagers running group sessions and recreational therapy), worked with DCFS as a TAL Coordinator (mainly focusing on establishing Regional and State Youth Boards and providing support for teens in northern Utah transitioning into adult living), he was Utah’s first FosterClub summer internship recipient (a national organization dedicated to training, educating, and connecting foster youth to various resources), served on the Board of Directors for First Star (an organization focused on providing support and guidance in higher education pathways for foster youth in Utah), and is currently serving on the Advisory Board for 1999 Collective (a non-profit with a mission of providing ongoing support and resources to adults who have lived experience in the foster care system).
Rick is an ultra runner. He loves snowboarding, surfing, fishing, rock climbing, meditating, and practicing yoga. He enjoys reading, listening to his favorite podcasts, and watching YouTube videos on different fly-tying techniques.
Executive Director and Founder
Rachel Garrett has spent the last decade of her life working closely with Utah teens in various capacities. She is a licensed foster parent, certified Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), and former high school teacher and coach. Rachel has a master's degree in Psychology: Child and Adolescent Development. Her thesis focused on how trauma impacts brains and behaviors. She is passionate about incorporating the latest research into society and supporting generational healing and connection. Rachel is currently a part-time program manager for Trauma Informed Utah, educating organizations and businesses around the state about trauma-informed practices.
Rachel is a mother to two young children and a bonus mom to multiple teenagers. Striving to care and support these teens as they navigated extremely difficult realities with very little support is how Common Thread originated. She founded Common Thread in May of 2022, an organization and growing community centered on supporting local teens who have experienced adversity.
Teen Board Director, Board
Meet Megan! Megan was born and raised in West Jordan, Utah. She attended Utah Valley University where she got her B.A. in Deaf Studies. She has been working as a sign language interpreter in K-12 schools since 2018 and absolutely loves working in education and interacting with students. This passion and the desire to work with young people lead her to be a licensed CASA with Utah Foster Care. Through this role she is able to support teens impacted by trauma and be an advocate in her community. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time in the mountains, hiking, skiing, and camping, particularly when her dog Harvey is involved.
Board of Directors
As an Entrepreneur, Brian has been involved in over a dozen startups and rapid-growth opportunities. In addition to a tech training business, a private college, and a Natural Language Processing technology he spun out of the University of Utah, he has also served as Entrepreneur and was on the pre-opening team of Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, launched a services business for United Airlines, and while at Tech Data Corporation participated in a billion-dollar merger with General Electric.
He has taught entrepreneurship and business courses at BYU and the University of Utah where he was on the initial board of the Pierre Lassonde Center for Entrepreneurship. He currently teaches as part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program and the Everyday Entrepreneur Program at The Mill at SLCC. The latter in conjunction with Salt Lake County Co-Op’s efforts to teach, mentor, and support underserved communities in the area.
He is well into his third decade of coaching hockey and lacrosse and serves as a Certified Coaching Trainer for USA Lacrosse. At any given time, he serves as mentor for a steady rotation of several dozen startups, working primarily with non-profit organizations and minority entrepreneurs in all industries.
Brian was the founder of Young Entrepreneurs of America and has a weekly podcast, Strangers You Know, that shares long-form conversations designed to break the echo chambers created by our social media feeds. Each guest shares personal stories in Honest, Vulnerable, and Bold conversations designed to give listeners a broader perspective of the world in order to bring humanity closer.
In addition to serving on the Board of Directors for Common Thread, he is also actively involved with the Nomad Alliance and is part of the Immigration and New American Integration task force.
Teen Board Director
Meet Halle! Halle lives in Utah. She was adopted at the age of two by a white family with five older kids, in a neighborhood where she was the only Black child. "Things were different for me than those around me. I didn’t know how much my life would differ from other kids. Once I reached 3rd grade, the microaggressions started, but 3rd graders didn’t know what ‘microaggression’ was. From people touching my skin and hair without asking, to being called dirty because white = clean and black = dirty, I realized how different I was because everyone commented on it.
The first time I saw and talked with an adult Black woman, I was 12 years old. I never learned how to properly care for my hair. I was often pinned as the ‘mad Black girl,’ being told I was wrong about people’s intentions that had racist intentions. I needed a Black hero when I was younger. Today, I want to be the kind of hero for other Black kids I so desperately needed. Now I help Black kids feel beautiful in their own skin, educate them about their hair, and make sure they know they matter."
Volunteer Director, Board
Kate grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband, Merek, and her pet snake, Hot Dog. In addition to a B.S. in Sociology from BrighamYoung University with a focus in racial justice and educational equity, Kate has an M.Ed. in Special Education from the University of Utah.
Kate is a current special education teacher and licensed foster parent. After working with kids and teens impacted by trauma at school and at home, Kate is passionate about fostering resilience in youth through building connections and community. Kate loves to read, rollerblade, and re-watch Avatar the Last Airbender. Kate is very excited to be involved with Common Thread.
Adult Advisory Board
Elizabeth Field is a Connecticut native who moved to Utah in 2020 after living in Illinois for six years. She is delighted to be a part of the Common Thread community by serving on the Parent/Guardian Advisory Board. Elizabeth has a background in both elementary and special education, and volunteered as a high school youth group advisor for several years. Elizabeth is passionate about social justice and while living in Illinois, worked with the Education Justice Project as an instructor, mentor, and tutor to men who were incarcerated at a local prison. She is now a foster parent to a wonderful teenager, as well as a dog mom. Outside of being a parent, Elizabeth is currently employed as a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Utah, and enjoys skiing and hiking in her free time.
Adult Advisory Board
Jeni Isbell is currently a volunteer as a CASA for the State of Utah. A CASA is a Court Appointed Special Advocate who visits with kiddos in the foster care system. She works closely with the children's Guardian ad Litem to help the kids have a say in their wellbeing. Jeni's previous volunteer experience includes service at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Jeni is a single mother to two grown daughters and was led to the Huntsman Institute through her daughter's cancer diagnosis and recovery, years ago.
Jeni's extensive service, and deep love, care and connection to these children has been a life changing experience for her. As a trauma survivor of a mass shooting, as well as other challenging events, it is important to give back and teach, serve, and help those children who have also experienced or are experiencing challenges and difficulty. Helping these children develop skills and cultivate hope for a better future is a commitment she honors and holds in high regard.
Hi there! My name is Dustin Christensen, and I'm thrilled to be a part of the Common Thread team. I was born and raised in Utah, and in my free time, you can find me rock climbing, mountain biking, reading fantasy novels, and exploring new ice cream shops with my three kids and wife Jenni. This past year has been a big one for me. I recently sold three of the construction businesses we had built and acquired over the last 10 years. Now I'm excited to focus on giving back and helping others through Common Thread. My favorite experiences in life have been closely tied to how much connection and safety I felt at that time. I hope to continue Common Thread's legacy by ensuring our events continue to be a place where teens can connect and experience new things without any fear of ulterior motives. A consistent community that offers support, leadership development, and a place to just exist as you are.
Jenni has worked for twelve years with teenage students in school, dance, and volunteer settings. She is a licensed educator, but spent the last eight years outside of the classroom taking care of her children. For the past three years, she has coached Drill at a local High School where she gained the ability to create a community, plan events, and connect with teenagers. She has experience in conflict resolution, problem-solving, and relationship building through the challenges of motherhood and raising young children.
Jenni grew up in Utah and Colorado and graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelors in Education with a Math Endorsement. She spent 9 months of her college career teaching English in China. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, dancing, reading, trying new and unusual restaurants, watching any binge-able TV series, and baking. My friends and family would describe me as quiet and timid when you first meet me, but outgoing, thoughtful, and loyal once you've broken through my initial shyness. My current life motto comes from one of my favorite shows, "Be curious, not judgemental."
Community Outreach, Grants Director
Shannah Parr is from Salt Lake City Utah. Along with working with Common Thread, she is also a Master Aesthetician. She works for a medical spa, but her heart is focused on donating her services to people in need. Shannah connected with Common Thread when she taught an acne class for our teens. She immediately fell in love with the program and continued to helpout in any way she could. Helping others in need, especially those going through trauma is truly where her heart lies. Shannah’s mom was 15 when she had her. Her mother is a great mother, but her childhood was tough. She has experienced some of the same trauma that many of the teens we serve have experienced. Shannah’s late husband also had a traumatic childhood after being kicked out of his house by his mom as a young teen, and had an absentee father. They bonded over going through similar experiences as children. Sadly he was killed in Iraq in 2007, their son was four. She watched her son struggle with the loss of his father, especially during his teen years. Luckily Gold Star children have a program that connects them all through a yearly trip. Shannah saw how valuable this program was. How connecting all the children going through the same thing seemed to jumpstart their healing. Her personal experience, combined with knowing about what her late husband had gone through as a teen, while watching their son go through the trauma of losing a parent, gave her a particular passion to help other kids going through trauma. She always hoped there could be a program that was similar to the one her son attended for Gold Star children. When she met Rachel Garrett and learned about Common Thread, she knew she wanted to be involved. It is now her life’s mission, her passion is to help create a safe space for all teens going through trauma.
Sarah was raised in Orem, Utah and now calls Salt Lake County home. Sarah attended Utah State University where she studied Social Work, Sociology, and International Studies - focusing her research on child welfare policy around the world. Sarah has loved working in education, advocacy and providing support to youth in various capacities. She has experience working with various organizations including: The Family Place - where she helped provide a safe shelter for children in crisis and taught parenting & youth educational workshops to families, Kids on the Move - where she worked as a child autism specialist, Berhan Language Institutes - where she taught English as a second language to teens in Taiwan. Sarah currently works with the state of Utah helping kids and teens in foster-care and providing families in-home services.
Sarah enjoys spending her personal time rock-climbing, hiking, camping and exploring the country's various national parks. She loves to travel the world when given the chance and immerse herself in various cultures, beliefs and ways of living. She enjoys journaling and self-reflection in order to facilitate growth.
Meet Lauren. From the time Lauren was waddling, Lauren has loved people. This love is the driving force that helps her to help vulnerable children. Working with all ages and organizations such as FosterClub, YMCA and in-treatment rehab centers) she has found her true passion. Working with former foster youth is Lauren’s way of paying it forward. As a former teen in care, she brings in a unique perspective to the Common Thread organization. Lauren values vulnerability, resilience and strength. These are things she continues to see in each child that attends Common Thread events. As she reflects on what got her to where she is today, it is by people showing up for her and teaching her the power of her own voice. “They taught me that I can grow through what I go through, and it isn’t just for myself, it is to help those that come after me. I want to repay those that invested and believed in me”. Lauren Is excited to be a part of the Common Thread team. “The activities put on by Common Thread do more than give the kids something to do. It gives them a place to express themselves with people who have a silent understanding of what they have been through. It is a refuge.”
Heidi was born and raised in Utah with my 5 siblings, and is the Executive Secretary at Common Thread. She has always loved helping people how she can, but as she’s gotten older and branched out more, she’s realized the great need in many communities around her. In 2021 Heidi started volunteering at a health clinic in Murray that served those living in poverty, without health insurance as preparation for a humanitarian trip to Peru. After her time at the clinic and the humanitarian trip, Heidi made it a goal to give back to her community how she can.
Heidi is in her last year of college studying Psychology at the University of Utah. Through her study of psychology, she found a love for learning about trauma, and eventually discovered that learning about it and teaching others what she learns is her passion. After Heidi graduates’ college and take some time off school, her goal is to go back to get a Master’s degree in Psychology to become a trauma therapist for teens. She also wants to open a foundation similar to Common Thread wherever she decides to settle, that allows her to continue the great work done here.
This is a Paragraph. Click on "Edit Text" or double click on the text box to start editing the content.