Reaching Higher Iowa is committed to advocating for a more effective Iowa K-12 public education system to provide opportunities for every child and foster long-term economic growth in the state.

Mark M. Jacobs Founder

Mark Jacobs founded Reaching Higher Iowa to improve public education in restore Iowa’s position of leadership. Mark is a native Iowan and a product of Iowa public schools, having graduated from Roosevelt High School in Des Moines.

Prior to founding Reaching Higher Iowa, Mark had a successful business career. Mark served as President and CEO of Reliant Energy. Originally joining Reliant as CFO in 2002 when it was near bankruptcy and under state and federal investigations, Mark was part of a team that managed a turnaround that saved the company. In 2007, at the age of 45, he was named CEO, one of the youngest at the helm of a Fortune 500 company. Earlier in his career, Mark spent 13 years working for Goldman Sachs in New York and Houston advising companies and business owners on high-level strategic and financial matters.

Mark has a long track record of leadership in civic and social issues, especially public education. He served as Board Chair for KIPP Houston Public Schools, a high-performing charter school network serving over 9,500 economically disadvantaged students and one of the great success stories in education reform. He holds a undergraduate business degree from Southern Methodist University and a Master of Management, with distinction, from Northwestern University.

Betsy Shelton Communications Director

Betsy Shelton is a native of Lamoni, with a BS from Graceland University. She has spent her career working for non-profit organizations and for state and federal governments, serving in a variety of roles. She has worked as Director of Public Engagement at the U.S. Department of Education and as a communications consultant for the Colorado Department of Education, and served as Chief of Staff for former First Lady of Iowa Christie Vilsack. Betsy has recently returned to Iowa to be closer to her family.