locally based  |  leadership focused

We exist to ignite bold hearted leaders who will influence their families, schools and communities to change the world.

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 15 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.

Our Staff

Cathy DeGraff

Cathy DeGraff


Cathy has worked with youth for over 18 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!