Front Door


The Graves Foundation believes youth development happens all day, every day--at school, at home, and in our communities. We work to support conditions for thriving in all of these areas.


In 2014, John and Denise Graves sold Convey Compliance Systems, the company they had spent 28 years building. From a small business run primarily out of the family home, Convey had become the industry leader in tax information reporting with the help of a strong management team, visionary technologists, and a customer-centric corporate culture with strong employee buy-in.

John and Denise used the proceeds from the sale of Convey to endow The Graves Foundation and asked their son, Bill Graves, to launch and manage it. In early 2017, the foundation moved into its permanent home in the Midtown Exchange building, across the hall from the Midtown Global Market.

The positive impact achieved through The Graves Foundation would not be possible without the Convey team’s professional dedication and proven success throughout the company’s many years in business. The Graves family remains deeply committed to seeing The Graves Foundation realize its full potential as a force for positive change in our community.  

DeSeandra Sheppheard

Vice President, Chief Operating Officer

DeSeandra is a wife and mother with over fifteen years of experience in organizational development, leadership, and human resources management. A Minnesota native, DeSeandra grew up in St. Paul's Frogtown community, graduated from Metropolitan State University with a B.S. in HR Management, and has spent her career working in various leadership roles within the Twin Cities’ non-profit and for-profit sectors.

Kyrra Rankine

Vice President, Policy and Organizing

Kyrra has over twenty years of experience in the fields of education, social work, coaching, and organizing. After graduating from Minneapolis Public Schools, she went on to earn a B.A. in sociology and fiction at Northwestern University and an M.S.W. at Hunter College in New York City. Kyrra spent six years coaching, developing, and organizing educators and community members on issues related to educational equity and social change. Kyrra loves gardening, running, DIYing things, writing short stories, and hunting for good finds on eBay when she isn’t hanging out with her husband and two kids.

Courtney Cushing Kiernat

Executive Director, Peris Foundation

Courtney joins the Peris Foundation as its first Executive Director with experience in family philanthropy, resource development, public education, community engagement and partnerships. Courtney considers herself a generalist who knows enough to be dangerous but whose value is getting the right people at the table to get important work done. Courtney grew-up in Minneapolis and Karachi, Pakistan and now lives in Minneapolis with her husband and their three and a quarter dogs, who keep her busy now that her two children are in college. She enjoys serving on nonprofit boards, volunteering as a therapy team with one of her dogs, gardening and photography.

Bill Graves


Bill is the founding president of The John and Denise Graves Family Foundation. Prior to his work with the foundation, Bill worked in the technology and creative consulting sectors as a business analyst, writer, producer, and resource manager. He lives in Northeast Minneapolis with his wife, Mary, and two daughters.

As President of the Foundation, Bill represents the Graves family’s vision for impact. He works to ensure time and resources are stewarded toward broad impact and invests in the learning and growth of Graves team to effectively execute that vision.

Carla Godwin

Director of Operations

Carla developed experience in operations, logistics, and communications in the non-profit sector where she worked as an organizer of progressive churches and founded and directed a non-profit committed to promoting gender equity in churches. In that work, she has connected people through events, podcasts, writing, and speaking. Carla earned an M.A. in English from the University of Nebraska. She lives in Minneapolis with her kids. 

Jillian Stockmo Chapman

Director of Learning and Impact

Jillian began her career in the classroom, teaching 1st and 2nd grade – since then she has had experience in the non-profit sector in teacher preparation and school and community partnerships. After graduating from Minneapolis Public Schools, Jillian went on to pursue a B.A in Religion and Anthropology from Amherst College, a M.A in Teaching from Hamline University and is currently pursuing her Doctorate as a part of Hamline’s Ed.D program. Jillian lives in Northeast Minneapolis with her husband Tyler; together they love hiking, playing tennis, working on projects, and visiting National Parks.