locally based  |  leadership focused

Helping to ignite students and adults into bold-hearted leaders.

Ignite Leaders is a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization


Started by Tucson residents Chris & Cathy DeGraff, who have over 40 years combined leadership experience in youth development organizations.

Both have curated and executed all facets of youth and adult leadership programs – nationally and internationally – over the past 12 years.

Ignite Leaders is led by a talented and compassionate board of students, business professionals and educators from Tucson and across the US.

Student Leadership Experience

Students participate in workshops, relevant curriculum and service learning, with the goal of helping develop students from across the US into bold-hearted leaders, who will influence their schools, families and community… to change the world.

2021 Student Leadership Experience

iTrip 2022

The international program is an eight-day trip, with a maximum capacity of 36 high school students.

The 2022 iTrip will be to the Czech Republic (Prague & Ceský Krumlov) and Austria (Salzburg & Hallstatt)

2022 Dates are TBD.

Students who attend will participate in workshops and experience relevant curriculum designed to help them dig deep, develop self-awareness, learn humility & integrity, and become bold-hearted leaders ready to change the world.

Learn More

Our Staff

Cathy DeGraff

Cathy DeGraff


Cathy has worked with youth for over 15 years, with a focus on helping develop the next generation of leaders. She has a BA in Education and began her career teaching in inner-city Minneapolis. Her experience there sparked her passion for the next generation. After developing a successful business that taught her hands on about leadership and encouraging others to succeed, she worked for the international educational organization, Up with People. She then worked with the Tommy Spaulding Leadership Institute where she planned and coordinated youth programs and corporate leadership retreats.

Cathy would say that at this stage of life her passion and skills have intersected as she gets to work with future leaders on her staff and students and that there is nothing better! She is eager to bring it to Tucson and is excited to see how we can change the next generation of youth!

Board Members

Chris DeGraff

Chris DeGraff


A veteran of nonprofit work, Chris has forty years of leadership and management experience, and has consulted with small and startup nonprofits. He serves on the board because he believes in the amazing life change that can happen. He’s known for bad dad jokes.

Dennis Van Lannen


A successful executive in the transportation industry, Dennis is now retired and loves serving. He’s on the board because he enjoys investing in causes that truly make a difference and believes one of the biggest differences we can make is through our future leadership. He’s known as “Bumpa” to his grandchildren!

Tim Johanson

Dr. Tim Johanson


Tim is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the U of Arizona College of Medicine, and feels honored to train the next generation of pediatricians. He is an author and researcher who speaks to teachers, parents, churches and mental health providers across the US on issues related to parenting and the impact of trauma in childhood. He serves on the board because of his passion to see youth become the leaders of tomorrow.

Kristie Dunnigan

Kristie Dunnigan


A successful entrepreneur and socially-conscious startup expert, Kristie hails from the Rockies (Montana & Colorado). She’s on the board because she has a huge heart for students, a really huge heart. She brings a younger perspective and sincerely, authentically…cares about all people.

Ethan Fernandes


Ethan is an Operations Finance Analyst for Amazon. He loves watching and playing sports. His passion for developing leaders led him to serve on our board. Ethan has visited 6 of the 7 continents, with only Antarctica to go. Maybe one day he’ll lead an iTrip there!

Lead with Influence and Impact.Passion and Integrity.Bold Hearts.

Lead with Influence and Impact.Passion and Integrity.Bold Hearts.


ignite…bold-hearted leaders