Chat with us, powered by LiveChat
  • Emily Smith Leadership Specialist

    Emily Smith: Leadership Specialist

    About Me

    I grew up in a small suburb just south of Atlanta, Georgia. Being raised in a family of 8 kids and living in such a diverse area has given me a love for others. I value spending time with people and developing deep relationships. My siblings mean the world to me and I am proud to say I have southern hospitality in my roots. My favorite way to rest and spend time with others is outside, whether that be hiking, biking, or sitting by the lakeside that is where I see God’s beauty most clearly.

    Why do you love student leadership development?

    I love student leadership development because I believe if we name growth in young people and invite them into God’s higher calling for their life, they will jump into it! Students are hungry for adults they trust to pour into and invest in them. I get to both practice and grow in this area here at LeaderTreks.

  • Ella Knowlton Leadership Specialist

    Ella Knowlton: Leadership Specialist

    About Me

    I grew up in Waupun, WI, where I committed my life to Christ as a kid and first understood what it meant to be a disciple. In May 2019, I graduated from Wheaton College where I studied Christian Formation and Ministry and discovered a passion for youth ministry. Besides spending time with students at my church’s youth group, I love reading, making music, and catching up with friends at coffee shops.

    Why do you love student leadership development?

    Growing up as a middle and high schooler, I longed to go deeper in my relationship with the Lord and be challenged, but I had no idea what that could look like. At LeaderTreks, I have been blown away by how student leadership development does just that–students are called to take risks and step up, and through this they are transformed into the leaders God has created them to be.

  • Hannah Nokes Leadership Specialist

    Hannah Nokes: Leadership Specialist

    About Me

    I grew up in Big Rock, Illinois, a small farm town west of Chicago where I first really became involved with the faith. During my time at Wheaton College I discovered my love for youth ministry and, after graduating with a degree in Spanish and Christian Formation and Ministry, joined Summit Staff right away! In my free time though I love kayaking, exploring the city, watching musicals, and finding any excuse for a bonfire.

    Why do you love student leadership development?

    Everything changes when students see that it’s ok to step out of their comfort zones and risk failure! They become more aware of their need for Christ, their role in the bigger picture of the Kingdom, and become willing to pursue what God is calling them to do in their circle of influence.
  • Kayla Costley Editor

    Kayla Costley: Editor

    About Me

    Growing up in Winfield, IL, I was an avid participant at school, church, and youth group. My involvement in youth group grew me as a disciple and created a desire to disciple others. As a result,  I began working with the junior high and high school youth groups during my time at Wheaton College, where I earned a Psychology degree. Spending my college summers working at Timber-lee Ministries led me to discover even more my love for investing in students, as well as for summer camp and the outdoors. I love seeing students grow and rise to embrace challenge both through youth group and LeaderTreks.

    Why do you love student leadership development?

    Every student is full of unrecognized potential, in need of someone to name it and challenge them. It is an incredible joy to see students respond to challenge, recognize their potential, and begin to identify how God is at work in and through them.

  • TARYN PHIRI Director of Training

    TARYN PHIRI: Director of Training

    About Me:

    My husband, Jerry, and I live in Glendale Heights and attend a nearby church where we serve in the youth ministry. I grew up going on LeaderTreks Mission Trips and Leadership Training Events, and I was thrilled to join the LeaderTreks team after I graduated from college. Following several years of serving as a trip leader, I began working in the Training Department. The best part of my job is creating tools and resources to help youth workers be more intentional with students.

    Why do you love student leadership development?

    I love how leadership development makes students into Spirit led world-changers. It challenges students to not settle for what the world may expect of them, and it empowers students to realize their God-given potential to influence others toward Christ.

    Trip Leader Certification

    Foundations of Leadership

    Team Up

    Inner Armor

    Master Trip Leader

    Gold Certified

    Gold Certified

    Gold Certified

  • JENNY DAAB Publisher

    JENNY DAAB: Publisher


    Born in Canada, I grew up experiencing the joys of snow, camping in all seasons, exploring the rich natural history of the Niagara Escarpment and Great Lakes, and (of course) hockey. I loved being empowered as a leader and learning the value of teamwork while hiking/camping, serving the community, and living out the motto of the Girl Guides of Canada, “Be Prepared.” When I was halfway through high school, my family headed south to seek warmer climes…in Holland, Michigan. I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2000, where I met my husband, Luke. Since 2001, we’ve called the western suburbs of Chicago home. Luke and I are active members of Glen Ellyn Bible Church, where we are both involved in leading worship, and where I have enjoyed leading and teaching in women’s ministries. I love to read book and comics, watch movies, try new recipes, play Nintendo, camp, travel, learn new languages and instruments, neglect the plants in my garden, make stuff and find new ways to goof off with Luke and our two dogs, Rory and Daphne.


    Deep Discipleship


    I was drawn to LeaderTreks because leadership development permeates everything we do. Leadership development is not just for the students we serve, it’s part of our culture. I love being part of an organization that recognizes that everyone can be a leader, and that leadership development is a life-long process. I love seeing that moment when someone gains a new skill or deepens their understanding of God in a way that brings them greater confidence and purpose. It’s transformational!

  • ANGIE FRANKLIN Director of Operations

    ANGIE FRANKLIN: Director of Operations


    Born, raised, and still living in West Chicago. I now live here with my wonderful husband, Doug, and our dogs, Diesel and Penelope (who we love way too much). I’m a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, and I still love to take in the city life of Chicago. (If you ever visit, I recommend the Grand Lux Cafe on Michigan Ave.)

    Much of my focus and time is spent on those who are considered the “least.” The refugees in our community are some of the greatest people I know, and have become some of my good friends.


    Deep Discipleship
    Journey To Awareness


    I work at LeaderTreks because I see the impact and intentionality of this ministry. Developing leaders is a great way to cause change and make disciples, and multiply influence. If student’s don’t learn to lead now, when will they? My favorite part of the job, though, is getting to support our staff and partners around the globe in the quest of growing kingdom leaders.

  • DAN COLWIN Director of Trips

    DAN COLWIN: Director of Trips


    I grew up in Wisconsin (lifelong Packers and Brewers fan!) in an amazing Christian home and was very involved in youth group my entire life. My wife Clare and I live in West Chicago with our sons Everett and Oliver, and little puggle Roxy. We love our church family (Life Church in Wheaton), and have a true community there. We enjoy spending time outdoors (I love canoeing), taking walks, having fires, reading, building Legos, working in the garden, and watching movies. I love my job because I get to build relationships with youth pastors all day long, while also training our staff on better ways to develop students.


    I love them all! I have to say that, but I really do. From the mountain towns of Kentucky to the rainforest in Costa Rica, all of our trip sites offer students a chance to reach beyond their experience and grab ahold of God’s calling in their lives.


    Student leadership development is amazing because it challenges students not only to own their faith, but to truly live out the mission God has placed on their lives. When students know and understand the potential they have to create lasting positive change in this world through the power of Christ, they are truly unstoppable.

  • DOUG FRANKLIN President

    DOUG FRANKLIN: President


    I love youth ministry and the people who serve in it. I work with an incredible team creating tools and resources that enable youth workers to develop students into leaders. I want to influence youth workers to challenge students and prepare them for leadership in the kingdom of God.

    I am married to a wonderfully creative woman named Angie Jones. We live in West Chicago, Illinois, but we love to serve those in the world that don’t have enough.

    I am passionate about leadership development in the church. I was a youth pastor for 12 years and during that time I had many different focuses in my ministry: evangelism, discipleship, missions, teaching, community, and service. All were good, but one thing made all of these focuses better: students leading them.

    I’m focused on innovation; when I started LeaderTreks in 1994, all I wanted to do was create exceptional resources and experiences for students to grow into leaders. Not just for the sake of leadership, but because I wanted students to see early on God had something incredible for them, and I didn’t want them to wake up years later regretting all the years they had missed out on impacting His kingdom.

    So here’s the end goal: I would love to see youth ministry move towards preparing students to lead the church by allowing them to be the church now. Youth ministry is not the ministry of the church to students. Youth ministry needs to be the ministry of students to their world.


    The Sweet Spot


    I want to put students in leadership roles and let them lead. And I mean truly lead, even if it means students will go through failure or the event they are leading will fail.