Helping girls code their own futures

The Code Girls United team is made up of a hard-working, collaborative and highly-skilled team passionate about making a difference.



OUR staff

Marianne Smith


Marianne Smith is a founder of Code Girls United and created and taught the Code Girls United program. She was an adjunct Computer Science Professor at Flathead Valley Community College.  She is an engineer with BS and MS degrees and has over 25 years of technology and business experience including NASA engineering experience..

Jennifer Turcotte


Jennifer was born and raised in the state of Montana.  Formerly a high school English teacher, purchasing manager, banker, and tiny home builder, she is excited to join the executive team of Code Girls United as they advance their mission to empower young girls and teach them the skills necessary for success.

In her spare time Jennifer enjoys hiking, hot yoga, reading, puzzling, and hanging out with friends and family.  She is hoping that she might even learn how to program code herself and add that to her list of new favorite pastimes.

Melissa Dunning

Fund Development director

Melissa comes to us from a varied career background in education and non-profit work. Having been a certified English Educator, she taught in the State of Georgia and at Rossyln Academy International School in Nairobi, Kenya before entering the non-profit sector in managerial and development roles with City Year Denver and Boys & Girls Clubs. Though a North Carolina native, she is mother to a Montana native, Asher. They enjoy skiing together and exploring the rivers and wild places in this beautiful state. .

Jessica Johnston

chief program Officer

Jessica is a proud third-generation Montanan. She has a myriad of passions, but those held in the highest of love are her two adult children, with her first grandchild coming soon!

Jessica brings an array of experience in administration, operations, and community relations and is honored to be the Program Director of Code Girls United.  She intends to carry on its mission and further advance the Code Girls United dynamic programming throughout the state. 

caity Dyson

executive Administrator

Catherine is the Technical Administrator for Code Girls United. She is responsible for providing technical support for all programs and for our organization in general.  She is a lifelong Montana resident and loves all things outdoors, gardening, cooking and exercise and mom to two wonderful boys. As part of Code Girls United, she brings her diverse background in bringing innovative ideas and fun to the team.

kathy eckhart

Program director

In her tenure as Program Director for Code Girls United Kathy has led double digit growth in both program locations and number of girls served in Eastern Montana. Kathy has extensive experience in management, operations, and training. She is passionate about providing Montana girls STEM and business education opportunities as a way of setting a path toward exciting career choices.

Kathy loves meeting new people and networking, she is always ready to make a new friend over a good cup of coffee. Outside of work Kathy enjoys crafting, hiking and paddle boarding.

crystal evans

Program coordinator

Crystal is Blackfeet and was born on the Blackfeet Reservation in Northern Montana. She is a first generation college graduate. She has an extensive background in clinical psychology, human services, and higher education including both direct instruction and academic research.  During her interview, she confided that she is looking forward to joining an organization that is making a difference in the lives of young women throughout the state. She is excited about being part of such a great opportunity.

Ashleigh Lebron

program coordinator

Ashleigh and her family are newer additions to the Flathead Valley. She dove right into the community taking a position formerly with the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and brings with her a background in hospitality, marketing, and event management.

Eager to join the Code Girls team, Ashleigh is excited to have the opportunity to work alongside and inspire the next generation of young women in Montana. 
She loves going on adventures with her husband, two boys and two German Shepherds – whether that is right in her backyard or off visiting far away places. 


PROGRAM COordinator

Darian’s love for Code Girls and their mission began when she instructed two Code Girls classes, and led one of her teams to place 2nd in the CGU App challenge. She is now a Program Coordinator for CGU and is excited to continue making an impact.

In her free time, she loves herself some sunshine. You can find her on a pickleball court, at the CrossFit gym, or on walks with her family, which includes her husband, two year old future Code Girl, Murphy, and adorable Corgi Aussie pup. 

Darian is perennially curious. She loves to read, learn new things and expand her capabilities. She has a knack for graphic design and problem solving, and Code Girls United is the perfect outlet for those things.

makayla davenport


Makayla Davenport is a homeschooler entering her sophomore year of high school. She first joined Code Girls United as a participant in fourth grade and is now enjoying a summer internship with the program. She hopes to use her experience with Code Girls United to help pursue a future degree in computer science.

isabelle ashley


Isabelle Ashley is a homeschooled high school senior. She joined Code Girls United as a participant in fifth grade, and found her love for computer science through the program. She plans to pursue a computer science degree after high school.

kelsea beMIS


Kelsea Bemis is a senior attending Glacier Highschool. She has been volunteering with Code Girls United upwards of two years and was a student in the program years past. She is excited to expand her knowledge in the background of all things business  through her internship. She hopes to take her internship experience onto whatever undecided career she pursues in the future after getting a college education. In her free time, she loves rafting, camping, going to concerts, music, and other community service events. 




ben thiem

board president

Ben is the Membership Director at Montana West Economic Development, an organization dedicated to supporting economic development and promoting business growth in Northwest Montana. He has Midwestern roots, growing up in the Red River Valley of northern Minnesota. Ben graduated from DePaul University in Chicago and has more than 20 years of experience working with and for non-profits as the Director of Member Services at the League of Chicago Theatres. He was also a co-founder of the Chicago Green Theatre Alliance, a coalition of theatre-makers dedicated to environmental sustainability, and has experience as a director, dramaturg, and a Company Member at TimeLine Theatre. Ben lives in Kalispell and is a board member of the Rotary Club of Kalispell Daybreak.

kary meschke

vice president

Kary is a CFP and CDFA.  She was born and raised in Miles City, Montana, but has a heart for the mountains and has found her forever home in Flathead County. When Kary is not working, she is adventuring with her husband Reed and their three dogs in the wilderness and enjoying the beautiful National Parks our great state has to offer. 

Laura garbacz


 Laura recently retired from a 36-year career in technology. Most recently she led Deloitte Consulting’s Technology Alliance Relationship teams and led IT-enabled business transformations for large global companies. With a degree in Management Information Systems from Simmons College in 1986, she was one of few women studying computer science at that time.
Laura and her family have called Montana’s Flathead Valley home for the past 16 years. Her son said “the best decision the family ever made was moving to Montana” as he enjoyed all that Montana outdoors and schools have to offer as a skier, athlete, and debater.

kate mayer


Kate is a Sr. leader for go-to-market strategy and revenue marketing with Insight Enterprises. She graduated from Gonzaga University and has more than 16 years of experience in the B2B technology solutions industry, with expertise in building and executing go-to-market strategies that deliver results. Kate has a passion for volunteering, building strong partnerships, exemplifying daring leadership and supporting efforts to drive technology equity. She is a troop leader with Girl Scouts of America and a member of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance and has previously served as a C.A.S.A. (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for children in foster care, as well as a business skills educator for incarcerated females. She lives in Whitefish with her husband and two daughters, where you can find them on a ski run, bike trail, boat dock or around a fire pit in the backyard.

Mary Ann Cummings


In 2018 Mary Ann retired from the Department of Defense as a Principal Computer Scientist.  Armed with a PhD in Software Engineering, she is now an associate teaching professor of Computer Science at Montana State University.  Passionate about fostering inclusivity and diversity in the tech realm, Mary Ann serves as the Faculty Advisor for the Association of Women in Computing at MSU. She and her husband moved to Bozeman, MT from King George, VA. They have fallen in love with the breathtaking landscapes and vibrant community, solidifying their decision to make Montana their forever home.   Mary Ann is mother to 3 adult daughters and grandmother to 2 granddaughters.

John Ghekiere


John is a father of five daughters and one son. He is a Chemical Engineering graduate of Montana State University and currently works as Vice President of Product & Technology with ClassOne Technology of Kalispell where the job is to work miracles of technology on a schedule. John is a stalwart believer in people who come to believe in themselves.


Jen Cinq-Mars


Jen is an officer in the Montana Air National Guard with over 24 years of military service and works for the US Forest Service as a biologist team leader. She was born and raised in Whitefish, Montana and graduated from the University of Montana. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial Hygiene from Montana Tech. Jen and her husband currently reside in Great Falls and enjoy the amazing recreation, supportive community, and big skies of North Central Montana. In their spare time together, they like to fish, kayak, hike and bike as well as explore the history of our state.