HI recently added two new members to its Board of Directors, Miriam Kenning and LaSheila Yates!

Image: Miriam Kenning (left) LaSheila Yates (right)

For Miriam Kenning, performing arts have always been a part of her life.  She has performed extensively, making many connections along the way (and met her husband Greg while performing Oklahoma).  She has toured with an international dance troupe, developed creative dramatics workshops for children and adults, and was known as “Mother Miriam” for hundreds of children during her years with the Greater Ottumwa Vocal Arts Project (GOVAP). She’s directed and choreographed several shows at various schools, colleges, community theater groups, and summer theater festivals, including assistant director and choreographer for the Illinois Theater Association/Illinois High School Theater Festival production of Parade, and several children’s theater shows accomplished at local libraries and communities. Miriam is a successful grant writer, and has built theatres and programs from the ground up - including GOVAP and co-founding the American Gothic Performing Arts Festival in Eldon/Ottumwa, IA. She also co-owned a dance studio and taught dance for 8 years. 

Miriam is a graduate of Iowa State University (Theater, Speech, Dance, English), completed graduate school at the University of Connecticut (Teaching the Talented-Ed. Psych), and has her administrative endorsement from Drake University. She has studied privately with Sydney Spayde in Fairfield, was a Fulbright Teacher in Japan, and has had the good fortune to participate in international educational programs in Brazil and Australia.  Presently, she also serves on the Iowa Community Theater Association Board of Directors.

Miriam grew up in Washington County first on the Jones Farm on the “Old White Way”, and later in Washington, Iowa, where she attended junior high and high school. She lives in Ottumwa with her husband Greg and they have two adult children.


LaSheila Yates is a resident of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She is currently a Producer and Moderator of KCRG-TV9’s Ethical Perspectives on the News and has over a decade of experience in public administration. She was the first Black women to serve as Executive Director of the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission and the City of Cedar Rapids first Chief Diversity Officer while concurrently holding the role of Executive Director for the Marion Civil Rights Commission. 

LaSheila has been inducted into the Iowa African American Hall of Fame, as well as a Corridor Business Journal Woman of Influence and Forty Under 40 Emerging Leaders recipients. LaSheila is also an Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success’ I AM the BRIDGE Honorees. She was named Women of the Year by the Women's Equality Coalition of Linn County 2014, and is also an African American Museum of Iowa History Maker designee.

LaSheila enjoys giving back to her community through volunteerism, serving on numerous boards and committees including the Iowa Department of Human Rights Board, Cedar Rapids Police Chief Advisory Committee, and Wakeup for Your Rights. 

LaSheila received her Bachelor of Science in Sociology and Master of Arts in Social Science from Southern University A&M College, while also serving as a Heavy Construction Engineer in the Louisiana Army National Guard. LaSheila completed Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 2005. She also received a Master of Arts in Sociology for Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL and completed Drake University’s Certified Public Administrator program.