Board and Staff

Saint Paul Urban Tennis Staff

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Song Thao

Executive Director

Song began his journey with SPUT in high school as a coach at our Harding site.  There he fell in love with the program (and with tennis) and went on to play tennis at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, MN.  He would come back each summer to take to the courts of Saint Paul and bring on the next generation of SPUT players. Thao said of his own coaching experience: “I learned that I needed to demonstrate the values I was teaching the kids in the program. Kids are incredibly honest and when you don’t do what you ask kids to do, they’ll call you out,” he said. “Teaching SPUT values every summer made me think more about how I’m demonstrating them in my own life, especially how I conducted myself around others.” In the years after college, Song worked at InnerCity Tennis (a tennis non-profit in Minneapolis) and, later, Hmong American Partnership.  His experience in tennis and non-profit development are exciting additions to SPUT’s leadership.

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Brandon Kuether

Program Manager

Tennis and Leadership

Brandon's SPUT journey began when he joined the staff as a head coach in 2014. As a standout staff member earning the Rookie Coach of Year Award, he has since seen his role continue to grow as an intern, coordinator, and starting in 2018 the Tennis Program Manager. Originally from Columbia Heights, Minnesota, Brandon moved to Saint Paul once he moved on campus at Hamline University, and hasn't left since. A Piper graduate in 2018, Brandon received a degree in Sociology and Elementary Education. A former captain of the Hamline Tennis Team, Brandon's passion for tennis continues to grow and develop as he is now a certified teaching professional through USPTA as well as PTR. Brandon is excited to continue to use the power of sport to teach life and leadership skills to the young minds of Saint Paul.

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Laura Fedock

Associate Director

Laura joined the SPUT team in December of 2015 after managing student services, programs, events and marketing communications at the diverse Minneapolis Community and Technical College. A Des Moines, Iowa native, she played tennis for Hoover High School and attended the University of Iowa—a proud Hawkeye. She spent her early summers teaching tennis to youth and adults and managing a city park site for the Des Moines Tennis Association. She also taught youth tennis for the University of Iowa’s Upward Bound Program and played on a USTA Women’s Team Tennis team for several years in Cedar Falls/Waterloo, Iowa. Before moving to Minnesota, Laura promoted the achievements of K-12 students at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland as Director of Public Affairs. Laura lives with husband, Bill, and son, Andrew, in Burnsville.

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Hlisnra Xiong

Program Manager

Community Engagement and Employment

Hlisnra first became acquainted with Saint Paul Urban Tennis through her older brother, but it wasn’t until she volunteered to help with the summer reading program in 2014 that she became more familiar with the organization. After attending Johnson Senior High School, Hlisnra then went to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities to obtain her degree in Recreation Administration and her minor in Health Promotion and Wellness. Following graduation, she worked with the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board leading an out-of-school childcare program where she implemented activity programs and managed recreation facilities throughout Minneapolis. Hlisnra loves the integration of sports and self-development skills that SPUT provides. In her new role as Program Manager, Hlisnra is excited to get to know this new community of people. She is looking forward to establishing more community partnerships to ensure that SPUT continues to provide amazing opportunities for Saint Paul area kids.

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Josh Hansen-Connell

Program Director

Josh comes into St. Paul Urban Tennis from a background in teaching, having taught in St. Paul for 3 years and studied Social Studies Education at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. Since discovering tennis at age 13, Josh has been enamored with the sport. Having attended Tennis and Life Camps in high school, he learned the strong connection tennis has with important life skills. He would go on to state in doubles, become president of the club tennis team at Gustavus, and a tennis instructor at Tennis and Life Camps. Josh joined SPUT as a head coach in 2015 and fell in love with the values of SPUT SPIRIT as well as using tennis as a venue to positively impact people’s lives. Since then has continued to grow his role in the organization as operations coordinator and now program manager of outreach and education. Josh is excited to bring together his experience in education, love of tennis, and commitment to the St. Paul community.

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Ava Gross

Communications Coordinator

Driven by her passion for volunteerism and non-profit organizations, Ava is joining the Saint Paul Urban Tennis team as our Communications Coordinator. Growing up in the small, northern Minnesota town of Warroad, Ava discovered that she had a passion for storytelling. After attending Warroad High School, she went on to study at Gustavus Adolphus College where she obtained her degree in Communication Studies. It was in one of her classes at Gustavus that Ava honed in on her enthusiasm for the nonprofit world; she co-founded a 501(c)3 organization in her local high school centered around the issue of food insecurity. Since then, she has been motivated by her desire to help others. Ava was drawn to SPUT because of its community-centered approach and overwhelming passion for teaching, mentoring and employing kids. Before accepting this position, she held the title of Marketing Manager for RCH Home and Design in Detroit Lakes, MN. In her free time, Ava enjoys spending time with her family, being outdoors, singing, acting and cheering on the Green Bay Packers.

Program Coordinators

SPUT programs are lead by a mix of teachers, certified tennis teaching professionals, and high school/college students (age 16-25). We intentionally recruit, train and support over 70 student workers to coach with us in the summer months. Our team of trainers and program coordinators that supervise youth workers and manage programs include:

Koua Yang

Summer Program Coordinator

Ayoub Nigatu

Summer Program Coordinator

Ricky Moua

Summer Program Coordinator

Poem Vang

Summer Program Coordinator

Dave Kuether

Adult Lesson Coordinator

Tom Boulay

Program Specialist

Board of Directors

The success of any non-profit organization is largely due to the strength and ongoing support of it's leadership.  SPUT is no exception to this rule. We are fortunate to have a dedicated volunteer board that invests time, talent and resources to making SPUT successful. Members include:

Emily Blodgett

President

Noah Lipschultz

Vice President

Julian Dehn

Treasurer

Collyn Iblings

Secretary

Megan Gunderson

Rahhel Haile

Ilse Larsen

Anne Cullen Miller

Linda Sauber

Marc Stingley

Bo Vue

Stephen Warch

Gregg Wong

(Ex-Officio)

Saint Paul Urban Tennis Youth Council

The Saint Paul Urban Tennis Youth Council is made up of one representative from each Saint Paul Public School, and two representatives from a non Saint Paul Public School (SPPS). The purpose of this group is to directly engage the youth of our community in the process of planning in order to have our programming better serve kids.

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Emma Clift

Central High School

Secretary

Emma Clift is entering her second year on the youth council. Emma is a senior at Central High School where she is a captain for the girls' varsity tennis and badminton teams. Additionally, Emma plays the alto saxophone in Central's jazz band, orchestra, and symphonic band. Emma has participated in SPUT youth lessons throughout elementary and middle school and has been a part of Warrior Leadership Academy since 2018. Her goal on the youth council is to help make everyone feel included, welcomed, and supported in the community.

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Romeo Sheen

Johnson Senior High School

I am a senior at Johnson Senior High, and I have never been on the SPUT Youth Council. I started playing tennis in freshman year and haven’t stopped since. I first started getting involved with SPUT in the summer off 2019 when I did JTT. I enjoy playing multiple sports, the major ones being tennis and soccer. I did JTT again in the summer of 2021, and worked as an assistance coach for SPUT through Right Track at the same time. I became a Warrior in the winter of 2021, oh yeah. My experience with SPUT was a lot of fun and I want to make SPUT enjoyable for everyone.

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Nhia Lee

Harding Senior High School

Vice President

Hi my name is Nhia Lee and I’m a senior at Harding High School and I am currently the captain for the Harding tennis team. This is my first year being on youth council. I have been playing tennis for three years and I have been involved with SPUT for three years now. My goal for Warrior Leadership Academy is to make it a safe and fun place for everyone. I want to make this year a fun and interesting year. I also want WLA to be well-known because this is a opportunity for families to get their children court time to play tennis and get them involved in the East side community. I wish the best to the players and families and lets make this a fun year. 

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Sophie Kuether

Columbia Heights High School

President

Sophie Kuether is a Junior at Columbia Heights. This is her second on the youth council representing non SPPS schools, and she was Co-President last year. She is also captain of the girls tennis team, as well as a concert band and concert choir student, an avid member of the theater community in Columbia Heights, and well as a member of various clubs including the speech team, Key Club, and the poetry club. Sophie has made it to state for Poetry interpretation on her speech team, and won first in state, qualifying for nationals in Poetry Out Loud through her poetry club. Sophie began her participation with SPUT in her elementary school years and did SPUT's JTT program in 2019, joining Warrior Leadership Academy (WLA) shortly after that. Since being in WLA, Sophie became a part of the Youth Social Entrepreneurship program and was a founding member of SPUT's online store. Sophie also found her first job through SPUT, becoming a coach in the summer 2020 lessons and camps. Sophie's goal on the youth council is to amplify the voices of Warriors to create a better culture in the community.

 
 
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Ywa Eh Hso

Humboldt Senior High School

Treasurer

I am a senior at Humboldt High School. My first job was at SPUT working as an assistant coach through Right Track in 2019. I joined the Humboldt girls tennis team that fall and continue to work as an employee at Employment Plus, a sub-employment of SPUT. This is my second year of WLA and it is my first year to be in Youth Council. I am also part of Humboldt's NHS. For me, SPUT is a place where not only people can learn and enjoy playing tennis but also get the opportunities to grow by being part of the community and the learning lifeskills with the subprogram and workshops that SPUT provides.

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Quang Bui

Como Park Senior High School

My name is Quang Bui. I am a senior at Como Park High School and also a soldier of the Army National Guard. I have played tennis since my freshman year and still keep going up. I was a manager of the Como Girl tennis team for 2 years. I am excited to be in my first year on the youth council. I enjoy some activities like swimming, photography, and watching professional tennis. My favorite player is Andrey Rublev. I have joined SPUT since 2019 by my coach, also my math teacher and I am so thankful to everyone who voted me for the youth council this year. My goal is to learn everything from SPUT that helps me to develop myself more and to help others.

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Vivian Her

Harding Senior High School

Hi my name is Vivian Her.  I am a sophomore at Harding High School and currently captain of the girls Harding tennis team.  I like to listen to music and journal when I’m not on court.  This is my first year on the student council.  I have been involved with SPUT since I was 8.  I want to make SPUT a safe environment to feel vulnerable but to also have lots of fun.