AWP Team

Ascent Wellness Program Manager

Grant Heffelfinger

Ascent Wellness Program Youth and Community Manager

Grant is the Youth Services Manager and Fitness Provider in the Ascent Wellness Program - Youth and Community at ASCENT for Life, Inc.

He is a Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer through American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and received a bachelor’s degree from UW-Milwaukee in Kinesiology.

Grant also received a Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders while attending UW-Milwaukee and has knowledge of Autism research, methods, and supports. Collectively, he has worked with and supported individuals with disabilities for over 10 years. Additionally, Grant has coordinated and developed youth leadership events and community programs that have served over 600 youth and counting.

Outside of his work at Ascent For Life, Inc., he has facilitated workshops, presentations, and classes on topics including: Sex, Sexuality, Relationships, Independent Living and Disability History. Grant has experience serving as an active member and leader on national disability advocacy committees where he applies his local efforts to a national platform for equal rights for people with disabilities. Grant has a passion that is in line with the Independent Living Philosophy and continues to advocate for his community.

Recently, Grant has completed his first half-marathon and looks forward to his next outdoor challenge!

Our Providers

A W P Youth & Community Program (click here to learn more about both!)

Yoga & Mindfulness

Kristen Kmetz

AWP Youth

Kristen Kmetz graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is currently pursuing Arts Therapy Studies, in order to be an Art Therapist. Her love of studying world cultures and civilizations led her to travel and volunteer in Europe and Asia.

She fostered her passion for yoga by completing her 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh, India. Kristen was specifically trained in Hatha and Ashtanga yoga postures, yoga philosophy, anatomy, pranayama (breath-work), and meditation. She has experience teaching children, young adults, and seniors. Practicing yoga has brought a sense of joy and calmness into her life and she brings this joy into each of her classes. Kristen focuses on teaching mindful and gentle yoga in a safe and restorative way. Her classes target alignment, breath-work and being in the present moment. She strives to make yoga sequences that are thoughtful, beneficial to the body & mind, but also creative and fun. She enjoys teaching yoga not only because she gets to share and spread the knowledge she has learned, but also because she loves seeing the difference it can make in people's lives. Teaching yoga has helped her appreciate the benefits yoga creates including increased physical health and confidence, greater body awareness, and an overall sense of balance in one's physical and mental health. Kristen is fond of balancing her teaching and practicing of yoga with a healthy diet, nature walks, reading, and creating art, especially drawings. Kristen is a yoga teacher at Ascent for Life and is looking forward to growing and learning with the Ascent Mental Wellness Program. She is excited to work one on one with clients to ensure their yoga goals are met.

Molly Maloney

AWP Youth

Molly Maloney MSW, RYT-500 is a practicing yoga teacher in Milwaukee, WI. As a previous public school educator, school counselor and clinical social worker Molly blends her background in clinical services with yoga to provide safe, client centered yoga practice for individuals. In 2015 Molly earned her Master’s in Social Work with a specialization in early childhood development. Also trained in Trauma Sensitive Yoga, Yoga for Youth and Pre & Post-natal yoga Molly has been teaching since 2011 and has taught in a variety of settings including: private studios, non-profits, gyms, public schools and corporations. In 2016 Molly earned her 500-hour certification and has dedicated her career to working across cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds to make the tools of yoga and mindfulness feel accessible and relevant to a diverse body of populations. In her free time Molly loves hiking, eating cookies and spending time with her family and young daughter!

Jessica Popp

AWP Community

Jessica Popp is a trauma sensitive yoga teacher who specializes in offering practical tools and techniques for stress management, resiliency, and self-care. Her passion is to share her love of Yoga with others interested in the practice, and offer her heartfelt support on the recovery road. Jessica received her Bachelor's degree in Community Education and Engagement from the UWM School of Education and completed her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training in Alignment Yoga in October of 2013. She's been teaching in public schools, universities, studios, non-profit organizations, and churches ever since. Jessica has been a dedicated leader of the Parkinson's Group Exercise class at the YMCA for over two years, and is a recent graduate of both the Yoga for First Responders and Eat Breathe Thrive training programs (once affiliated with the Give Back Yoga Foundation. She couldn't be more honored to be a part of the Ascent Wellness Team and looks forward to offering her kindness and expertise.

Adaptive Fitness

Erik Queoff

AWP Youth

Erik Queoff graduated from Luther College with a Bachelor's degree in exercise physiology and a minor in psychology. He then went on to earn his Master’s degree in exercise physiology from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. Outside of Ascent, Erik works at Marquette University in their exercise science department as an exercise researcher. Most of his work relates to exercise training treatment for individuals with multiple sclerosis. Additionally, Erik has over 10 years of youth coaching experience. In track and field, he has worked with youth ages 7-22 throughout the years. He is currently an assistant coach at Nicolet High School. He’s also worked at numerous sports and enrichment camps during his summers. Furthermore, Erik has volunteered at the Pediatric Fitness Clinic in Madison, WI working with youth in need of fitness intervention.

Erik has also dedicated time to work with individuals with adaptive fitness needs. This began with undergraduate courses in adaptive PE, then continued as he worked respite care for families who were in need of specialized child supervision. Erik also continues to learn through his exercise research at Marquette University where he works directly with participants with Multiple Sclerosis.

Whether in a large group coaching session or a one-on-one, Erik truly enjoys facilitating positive change through fitness. Getting to know his clients far beyond their needs is very valuable to him and is essential for wellness development. Erik is currently a resident provider at Ascent Wellness Program and he is looking forward to continuing this exciting experience.

LaQuita Brooks

AWP Youth

LaQuita Brooks graduated with a Masters in Counseling Education from Winona State University. While pursuing her Masters, she worked as a Track and Field coach. In undergraduate LaQuita competed as a D1 athlete as a triple and long jumper in Track and Field. She has a passion for mental health, physical wellness, empowering others, and youth development.

LaQuita enjoys lifting, running, going on walks, general strength, and bootcamp. She utilizes exercise as a tool to help individuals manage stress, reduce anxiety, improve mood, and build confidence. LaQuita was born and raised in Milwaukee and feels honored to be working in the community that raised her. LaQuita is a fitness provider at Ascent Wellness Program and is looking forward to building relationships with clients, making fitness fun, and expanding her levels of expertise within the program.

Steve Gayhart

AWP Community

Steve is a strength and conditioning coach with a Master’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His graduate research studied the effects of jump rope training on firefighter cadets. Steve’s fitness clients have ranged from the adolescent to professional athlete. What he enjoys most about training, is showing clients what they are capable of doing. Steve provides his clients with variety, challenges, and fun during their workouts. His graduate studies included sport psychology coursework and he learned Olympic weightlifting instruction from a Russian Master of Sport.

Richard Gaeta

AWP Community

Richard graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising. After working in Public Health, writing and implementing grants to control Asthma/Lead poisoning in residential housing, he became a Certified Personal Trainer. Rich’s own experiences with trauma and loss informed and motivated his second career choice. He volunteers leading a weekly exercise class for elderly residents at a local facility. Richard joined the Ascent Wellness Program in November of 2018 as a fitness provider and has been an active member of the Ascent community since then.


Julie Steinle

AWP Youth

Julie Steinle is passionate about all things nutrition. She enjoys cooking, creating new recipes and gardening but she is most passionate about educating people about the connection of healthy food and wellness in all aspects of their lives. “Food as medicine” started resonating with her as she was faced with chronic diseases in the lives of her loved ones (Multiple Sclerosis and Type 1Diabetes). Julie concentrated her studies in nutrition on these specific diseases, but learned that food can be used in the management and treatment of all types of illnesses.

Julie enrolled in Milwaukee Area Technical College in the Dietetic Technician Program and graduated in 2015 with an Associates Degree in Science and Nutrition. Her clinical experience included four months at The Behavioral Health Complex in Milwaukee. She worked closely with mental health patients in all units within the hospital and this experience generated her interest in making the connection between nutrition and mental health. Julie’s work with the special education teachers and their students was especially rewarding. Teaching children about healthy food choices and using fun educational tools to support their learning, inspired further aspirations to work with this population.

Julie’s work within Ascent Wellness is a wonderful opportunity to use her love of learning, research in chronic disease and nutrition and passion for sharing all she has learned in living the healthiest lifestyle possible. Collaborating with the team of Fitness, Yoga and other Nutrition Providers to help clients reach their goals is so rewarding, and learning from each specialty is something she values tremendously. She is most happy when she can help others make the association with healthy foods and overall wellness.

Along with her work as a Mom, a small business owner and Nutrition Provider, Julie finds much joy in her house full of kitty cats and fine feathered friends. Julie believes that living a healthy lifestyle includes more than good food choices and exercise. Surrounding yourself with people, animals and activities that make you happy, will enhance every aspect of your life.

Melanie Roemer

AWP Youth

Melanie Roemer is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a Master of Science in Public Health Nutrition. She graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and a Certificate in Global Health from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, followed by the completion of her graduate work at Case Western Reserve University in a combined dietetic internship program. In her dietetic internship, she completed over 1,500 hours of supervised practice, gaining experience in: public health, community, research, counseling, clinical, and food service settings. Melanie is passionate that everyone deserves an equal opportunity for good health. She focuses on each client’s personal nutrition goals by providing them with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to achieve them. She is passionate about establishing a positive, lasting relationship with food and utilizing the power of nutrition to help heal the body and mind.

Melanie is also currently undergoing her 200-hour yoga teacher training and hopes to be able to provide both nutrition and yoga services to her clients in the future! In addition to practicing yoga, Melanie enjoys spending her free time cooking, traveling, camping, hiking, climbing, snowboarding, listening to music, and being with friends.