Center Leadership

Director of Operations: Jessica Polacek

Personal gender pronouns: she/her/hers

Jessica first learned of The Center shortly after moving to the La Crosse area in 2012 and found a strong sense of community here. Prior to this, she dedicated her life to military service and medical care in which she experienced a variety of work environments, encountered many different people, and filled numerous roles including combat medic, laboratory supervisor, recruiter, instructor and manager. Coming from both an Army and healthcare background she has a heart for people, a desire to help those in need, and a determination to heal the hurting. Since her first support group meeting, Jessica has taken on increasing responsibility at The Center first as volunteer and now in her current position. She views The Center as a place to learn, grow, connect and revive, and foresees great things for the future of The Center. Jessica is described as a coffee snob, musical eclectic, cornucopia of useless knowledge, and is a self-professed geek. In her free time she enjoys reading, rollerblading, playing her guitar, volleyball, kayaking, riding her motorcycle, superhero movies and bingeing on Netflix.

In addition to serving as Director of Operations, Jessica facilitates several support groups, is a member of the Wisconsin Transgender Health Coalition policy committee and serves as a board member for Fair Wisconsin.

Director of Outreach: Alesha Schandelmeier

Personal gender pronouns: she/her/hers

Alesha is a mother of three, artist, photographer, and non-traditional student. She grew up in Northern Illinois and was living in the Chicago area prior to moving to Wisconsin in 2004. Alesha has a vast amount of professional experience, working in a variety of industries, most recently in the Marketing department of Organic Valley. As a Senior Event Coordinator she was responsible for planning the Kickapoo Country Fair and other smaller events for over six years. In 2011 she returned to college and is currently studying Psychology, Women’s Studies and AODA Counseling at Viterbo University. Prior to assuming duties as Director of Outreach, Alesha was Vice President on our board of directors and chairperson for the Outreach and Events Committee. She enjoys working with teens continues to facilitate our youth group GALAXY.

Board of Directors

President: Eddie Luker, MA, LPC, CSAC — Clinical Therapist

Personal gender pronouns: he/him/his

Professionally, Eddie Luker specializes in issues relevant to LGBTQ community, trauma, addictions and mood disorders. Eddie is currently licensed in WI as a Licensed Professional Counselor and Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor.  He has extensive experience in developing programs for families and couples struggling with addiction and other co-occurring disorders. (Eddie created The Family Program at Seabrook House inpatient treatment program and developed a weekend ‘coupleship’ experience titled:  Couples in Recovery.) He has trained under Connie Miller, creator of Souldrama: a spiritual approach to psychodrama that addresses our spiritual intelligence and has extensive experience utilizing EMDR and CBT to treat individuals who have experienced  trauma. Eddie is a passionate runner and is proud to call La Crosse home since 2013.

Vice President: Jessica Cook

Personal gender pronouns: she/her/hers

Secretary: Willem Van Roosenbeek

Personal gender pronouns: he/him/his

Will Van Roosenbeek works at UW-La Crosse and serves as the Director of LGBTQ Programs and Services. He also teaches EFN 205, Understanding Human Differences, and is one of the advisors of Awareness Through Performance (ATP). Will also serves on the board for Fair Wisconsin. Will does a lot of trainings and educational workshops on and off campus. He is a Trans* Advocate. GALAXY and the LGBT Center have always been a part of Will’s life. He has worked on the Pride Committee and has offered different educational trainings for GALAXY and collaborated on programs with the Center. Will is originally from Milwaukee, but has lived in La Crosse for 27 years. Will and his partner, Tara have been together for 23 years. They live in La Crosse with their dog, Lily.

Treasurer: Rob Zellers

Personal gender pronouns: he/him/his

Originally an Illinois native (we don’t hold that against him), Rob Zellers has been in the La Crosse area for almost 13 years and currently resides in Onalaska with his 3 wonderful children, Liam, Olivia and Cecelia, and his lovely partner, Alesha Schandelmeier.  He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and is currently the Director of Mergers & Acquisitions for Ashley Furniture Industries in Arcadia.  He has been a frequent volunteer for The Center (as can be evidenced by a certain promotional photo still in wide use) and is very grateful for this opportunity to lend his support.

James Parlow

Personal gender pronouns: he/him/his

Jim grew up in rural Central WI. He moved to La Crosse when he was 19 to begin working for the La Crosse Police Department. He became an officer and worked as a street cop for 15 years. He retired in 1994 and began an academic career, obtaining first a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology/Criminal Justice Law Enforcement from Winona State and a Masters in Criminal Justice from St. Cloud State. He is now employed at Winona State as an Assistant Professor teaching Law Enforcement in the Sociology Criminal Justice Department. He is also the Coordinator of the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training Professional Peace Officer Education Program at Winona State. Jim is the father of two daughters and married to his wife Laurie. He enjoys volunteering for a multitude of agencies and events. He plays golf and enjoys fishing. He also is a trainer for law enforcement agencies on working with the transgender community.

Dr. Janelle Cooper, MD

Personal gender pronouns: she/her/hers

Dr. Janelle Cooper is a retired Neurologist who specialized in Dementia and Alzheimer’s care.  As a respected member of the medical community, she looks forward to helping us expand our Elder Network training and Outreach.  Dr. Cooper practiced in the Gundersen Health Care system and has already helped The Center make inroads into working with Gundersen to provide a comprehensive LGBTQ Friendly and welcoming Health and Human Services Directory. She is an expert marksman who provides firearm and marksmanship training and in the process has built relationships with a law enforcement in a few Minnesota counties.  Janelle’s retirement sanctuary is as the owner of the certified organic apple orchard in Houston County with her dog Jackie.

Deb Bassett

Personal gender pronouns: shee/her/hers

Kellen Holden

Personal gender pronouns: he/him/his

Kellen is currently a director at the La Crosse Area Family YMCA where he oversees a youth mentoring program. He is newer to La Crosse, having relocated here from the Green Bay area in 2015. He has worked in youth development for a decade, serving in different roles at various youth serving organizations. He holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and is a licensed school counselor in the state of Wisconsin. Kellen enjoys outdoor activities including boating the Mississippi during the Summer.

Cory Patrick

Personal gender pronouns: he/him/his

My name is Cory Patrick. I am a Licensed Psychologist and work for an area medical center where I specialize working with veterans who have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am also an Associate Lecturer for the Department of Psychology at The University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.  As part of my professional training and practice, I have established mental health outreach programming and provided clinical services to LGBTQ veterans. I have also provided cultural sensitivity and ally training for staff at medical centers. I have experience with a wide range of mental health disorders and with a variety of medical populations, including working with HIV positive  patients in an infectious disease clinic.  I also have extensive teaching experience. I am driven to educate others and to help people live more enriched and fulfilling lives. I am originally from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I grew up in a very rural working class family. In fact I was the first person in my extended family to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree. I therefore know firsthand what it is like to grow up in a rural area and to be socially mobile. I am thus interested in helping guide others along their own journey of growth and self-discovery. I attained a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology and Criminal Justice from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI. I then uprooted and moved to Milwaukee, WI. where I earned my Masters of Science and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. My travels then took me to Buffalo, NY. for a doctoral internship, and then to San Antonio, TX. for a post-doctoral residency. I finally settled in La Crosse in September 2014. I have been a member of The Center since arriving in La Crosse and attending The Center’s events has been instrumental in my attachment to my new home. I have very much fallen in love with La Crosse and the community here; and therefore, I wish to help support the community.

Chandra Cox

Personal gender pronouns: she/her/hers

Kayden Carpentier

Personal gender pronouns: he/him/his


 What does being on the Board of Directors entail?

Interested in participating on our Board of Directors? Contact our Directors.