Click on each staff member to view their bio.

  • Founder & Executive Director
    Dr. Patricia Newman
    Founder & Executive Director

    Dr. Patricia Newman is a Clinical Child Psychologist and the Founder and Executive Director of RESPECT. She also holds graduate degrees in Educational Psychology and Special Education. Dr. Newman is in private practice with Family Enrichment, Inc. and works as a Medical Consultant for the Nebraska Department of Disability Determinations. She is the recipient of several professional and community awards including the Y/WCA Tribute to Women Award for her work in the areas of Human Service and Community Advocacy; the Nebraska School Psychologists Association “Psychologist of the Year” award; the Cultural Adult Program Award from the United Way of the Midlands; the Leadership Award for Prevention of Domestic Violence Programming from the Y/WCA; and the Community Service Award from the Jewish Federation of Omaha. Dr. Newman is the playwright of two of RESPECT’s plays.

    Email Dr. Newman

  • Associate Executive Director
    Ilana Weiss
    Associate Executive Director

    Ilana is a native of the East Coast and graduated from Yeshiva University, earning a Bachelor of Arts. Upon graduation, the university awarded her a Presidential Graduate Fellowship, during which she participated in graduate courses related to nonprofit management and worked in the university’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions in the areas of public relations, event planning, and systems management. Prior to moving to Omaha, Ilana lived in such places as Jerusalem, where she worked in the Fundraising Department of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, as well as Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she served as a Jewish educator and program coordinator. Ilana has been loving every minute of her work with RESPECT since she joined the organization in 2010.

    Email Ilana

  • Program & Development Manager
    Paige Brenneman
    Program & Development Manager

    In 2016, Paige graduated with a Bachelors degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha through the College of Public Affairs and Community Service with a concentration in Nonprofit Administration and a Minor in Women and Gender Studies. During Paige’s college career she spent her service learning project with the Women’s Center for Advancement as a group leader for the Girls Leadership Academy. Since starting her work with RESPECT in 2017, Paige has expanded her knowledge in nonprofit development and management. She looks forward to her growth within the organization and continuing to build relationships with community partners.

  • Co-Artistic Director
    Michele Phillips
    Co-Artistic Director

    Michele was born in New Jersey, raised in Omaha and is a graduate of UNO with a Bachelor of Arts/Dramatic Arts degree. She has acted and/or directed in nearly every theatrical venue in the metro. Michele teaches TV Screenwriting at UNO and is a teaching artist for the Nebraska Arts Council. In addition to workshops for WHY ARTS with special needs students, Michele teaches at two area middle schools in the OPS After-School Program for Brigit St Brigit Theatre Company. She is the resident playwright for RESPECT.

  • Co-Artistic Director
    Sam Zarders
    Co-Artistic Director

    Born and raised in Omaha, Samantha has been acting for over 10 years and is passionate about theatre for social change. In addition to her work with RESPECT, she works as a freelance teaching artist, director and actor throughout the metro area. Samantha is currently a student at The University of Massachusetts Amherst, on track to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Arts Management. She has been involved in several productions in Omaha including The Omaha Community Playhouses’, (James and the Giant Peach, Rock of Ages, City of Angels) The Rose Theatre’s, (Newsies) and Kerfuffle’s production of Nested, at The Union For Contemporary Art. Samantha strives to empower communities through her work and discover new ways to create impactful theatre programming.

  • Education and Training Director
    Kathleen McGee
    Education and Training Director

    For more than 35 years, Kathleen Sorensen McGee has worked with, and on behalf of children and teens – as a classroom teacher, a trainer, an author and a public speaker. She has written more than 20 books and articles including Unmasking Sexual Con Games: Helping Teens Avoid Emotional Grooming and Dating Violence, Who’s Raising Your Child: Battling the Marketers for Your Child’s Heart and Soul and There are NO Simple Rules for Dating My Daughter, all published by the Boys Town Press. Kathie has presented workshops nationwide on bullying, teen dating violence, the influence of media, as well as sexual harassment and abuse. She earned both her BA and MA from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.


  • Brandon

    Prior to joining RESPECT, Brandon taught physical education for 2 years at Nelson Mandela Elementary. He has been a golf instructor for 13 years working with kids from as young as 6 to as old as 17. Locally, Brandon has been involved in several plays, notably at the Omaha Community Playhouse, Stick Fly and A raisin in the Sun and has a goal to make a career in film. He looks forward to furthering his experience and growth not just as an actor but also an educator as well.

  • Donovaughn

    Donovaughn is an Omaha native. In addition to his work with RESPECT, he is working with children at the Omaha Children’s Museum during programs and as part of the OCM’s summer camps. He is also currently acting in and around Omaha for the Dinner Detective. His dream is to someday reach Broadway as a performer.

  • Katy
    Katy Kepler is a theater maker and teaching artist currently based in Omaha, Nebraska with a focus in directing, devising, and performing. She has worked and volunteered with many organizations in Nebraska and New York in a variety of artistic capacities, including the Omaha Theater Company (The Rose), Omaha Performing Arts, the Omaha Community Playhouse, The Apollon, BLUEBARN, Nebraska Shakespeare, the Circle Theater, the Papillion-LaVista Community Theater, Bellevue Little Theater, Geva Theater Center, the Rochester Children’s Theater, Blackfriars, and the Rochester Fringe Festival. She also works with Omaha Girls Rock, teaching about advocacy, music, and how to play the ukulele. Katy loves to teach people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities.
  • Nola

    An Omaha native, Paige Nola is an actor, bassist, and fiber artist. A UNO music graduate, she plays for many theaters in Omaha as well as Esencia Latina, a 14-piece salsa band. In October 2018, she joined the cast of The Dinner Detective, an improv murder mystery show in Omaha and Lincoln. Nola spent June 2019 studying at the New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts and fell in love with film acting. Nola is very active in the local film scene and can be seen in A Day with Lily (2021), Bricking and Entering (2021), and Inner Worlds (2022). Nola loves crafting, all things chocolate, a good gel pen, training her dogs, and laughing with her husband.

  • Giovanni

    Originally from Danbury, Connecticut and raised in Iowa, Giovanni moved to Omaha in 2016 to pursue acting.  Since then Giovanni has appeared in local commercials, two local films and performed in theaters around Omaha such as The Omaha Community Playhouse, Florence Community Theater, Bellevue Little Theater and UNO just to name a few.  Giovanni is also a part of The Backline Comedy where he hosts improv comedy shows on the weekend.  He hopes to continue his career in performing arts while also growing as an educator

  • Aiden

    Aiden is a professional actor, visual artist, singer-songwriter, coach, and creator from Shreveport, Louisiana and is a recent transplant to the Omaha area. Aiden graduated from Centenary College of Louisiana with BFAs in both Theatre and Studio Art, and both areas
    of study have allowed him opportunities to succeed not only on stage but behind the scenes, as well. Aiden believes in bringing diverse, inclusive, and truthful story-telling to life and making the arts accessible to all communities. He is excited to have joined the
    Actor-Educator team at RESPECT and looks forward to planting some roots in the Omaha arts community.