Young Adult Leadership Team

Israel Juarez | Youth Strategist

Israel Juarez is 22 years old and works for the Denver Opportunity Youth Initiative (DOYI) as a Youth Strategist. Israel went from an intern to a full-time employee with DOYI. Israel has taken on many leadership roles in his position from speaking at the State of the City, Think Big and the Aspen Institute Conference. These have shown him the value of opportunities, bringing change to his community, and putting together events for young adults. Israel also sits on the State Youth Council and is inspired to tackle the issue of workforce and job opportunities for youth in the city and is ready to advocate for his community.


Katalina Garcia | Temporary Aide

Katalina Garcia works at Park Hill Collective Impact. Previously, she worked at the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce and Colorado Workforce Development Council, assisting with the TalentFOUND initiative, events, and other projects. She is involved with the State Youth Council and the Denver Opportunity Youth Initiative. While in school, Katalina interned at the Denver District Attorney’s Office and at the Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Clinic. Other work experience includes food service, corrections, and retail.
Katalina is passionate about being an advocate for workforce opportunities for youth and adults continuing their education. She aspires to continue her education in Political Science and Legal Studies and become a Judge for the supreme court. On the way, Katalina wants to be involved in her community, and help neighbors identify how they could be involved and get them connected to organizations in the community. 



AmandaLee May | Student

AmandaLee May is a 16-year-old student currently attending Strive Prep Smart (a college preparatory school in Denver, CO).  AmandaLee is also currently in the foster care system. She is in the C.A.S.A program that helps the homeless by making them care packages, providing education and advocacy to the Colorado State Foster Parent Campaign, and enhancing the legal representation to ensure that each foster child finds a permanent loving home. She helps as much as she can in with any project that she can. AmandaLee wants to become a stockbroker when she is older because she is good with numbers and to help her grandmother financially. She wishes to help others in the foster care system by giving them advice and helping get them out of the system and back with their original families. AmandaLee hopes to one day have a family of her own that she would keep together.


Delwin Maben | Student

Delwin Maben has three years of working on youth issues in Colorado, primarily in the Denver metro area. He is currently the Chairmen for the City of Centennial’s Youth Commission, which helps advise Centennial’s city council on policy issues related to youth. He also serves as a member of the Arapahoe Douglas Works! Young Adult Workforce Committee. His three years of leadership has led him to work as an expert for youth mental health issues on several occasions like the Colorado Department of Health SNAPS program or by participating in a panel on teen suicide for the Colorado Association of School Executives. He also has held leadership positions in many smaller groups around the South Denver metro area. His work in youth issues has had an emphasis on serving disadvantaged youth and promoting restorative systems where mistakes can be learning opportunities. He is a firm believer that Colorado is a great state, and that we have many tools in our state that can help us solve our youth issues. Along with the rest of the communications team and the State Youth Council, Delwin looks forward to connecting all of the existing resources in this great state. However, despite Delwin’s achievements, if you were to ask him to describe himself, he would say that he is simply another kid from Horsham, PA.


Isabelle Johnson | Student

Isabelle Johnson is a 16-year-old student attending Centennial High School in Pueblo, Colorado. She is a youth leader in her school and throughout her community participating in many organizations such as Girls Cabinet, Peer Leadership, and is an active member of the Youth Partnership for Health. In these organizations, she is able to help give a voice for her community toward youth engagement throughout the state. By making an impact, she thrives to change the future for the next generations to come.


Sharai Conde | Youth Advisor

Sharai Conde is a proud Latina from the Metro area doing community outreach to spread awareness of the issue of human trafficking. She is a strong believer that if decisions are going to be made about youth, youth should be present and be their own self advocates.  Sharai recently accepted a position as a Youth Advisor for the Department of Human services Office for Children, Youth, and Families Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program. Personal quote, “ One day at a time, One person at a time.”


Walker Bargmann | Student

Walker Bargmann is from Brighton, CO and is a current sophomore at Eagle Ridge Academy (ERA) and is a youth leader on the State Youth Council. At ERA, he is an active member and officer of student council, is a Thespian and participates in theatrical productions, is on the school Improv team, and gives back to his community through Interact Club. Walker is enrolled in the concurrent enrollment program and will graduate high school with his Associates of Science, and currently holds a 4.18 GPA. Outside of school, Walker is a member of the Brighton Youth Commission (BYC) which is a group of 22 youth and six adults that are appointed by, and work with Brighton City Council to study matters that impact youth in their community.


Isaiah Jiron | Student

Isaiah Jiron is a 19-year-old entrepreneur, youth leader, Community College of Denver student and a recent graduate of the Denver Opportunity Youth Initiative's first Youth Leadership Academy. Jiron has overcome many life obstacles including financial barriers to become a local activist within his community, and is working to redefine what it means to create a social impact in the digital age by publishing and producing community oriented projects on social media. Isiaiah has also helped launch the Denver Opportunity Youth Initiatives’ first podcast in partnership with Israel Juarez. At only 19, he has made a mark on society and we cannot wait to see what his future holds.



Quintaisha Wake | Intern

Quintaisha is an intern at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce in the Accounting Department. Prior to her tenure at the Chamber, Quintaisha studied Business Administration at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado. The following year Quintaisha returned to Denver and became a mother of two beautiful girls, Dykota and Mahogany. Quintaisha also recently completed a 9-week self- sufficiency program, Cross Purpose. During the program, she completed her Legal Office certification at Emily Griffith Technical College and continued her career path at the Darrell S Elliott Personal Injury Law Firm. Quintaisha has aspirations of owning her own real estate company and earning her MBA in the future.



Libby Waechter | Student

Libby Waechter has over the 2 years’ experience working alongside The Women’s Foundation  of Colorado to help advocate for young women in the workforce, as well as in the educational system. In addition she was nominated as Miss Teen Colorado in 2017. She has also been an active volunteer for the American Legion. She is passionate about helping all young people.


Bhawana Acharya | Student

Bhawana Acharya is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Denver double majoring in International Relations and Political Science with a minor in Economics. She is actively involved in her community. She has been a part of Colorado Youth Partnership for Health at the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, and Teen Advisory Board at the Denver Public Library. She is involved in her campus with community services and student leadership organizations such as Food Recovery Network, DU Service and Change (DUSC), DU Sustained Dialogue Initiative, and Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL). She serves as a Student Ambassador for Save the Children Action Network where she advocates for children locally and internationally. She is passionate about topics in global health, education, human rights, immigration, gender equality, and the environment. After graduating, she plans to either go to graduate school for International Relations or a law school to bring positive changes in her community and work with global organizations.   


Executive State Youth Council

Jenny Smith | Talent Pipeline Liaison, Opportunity Youth Initiative

Jenny Smith is the Talent Pipeline Liaison for the Opportunity Youth Initiative. In her role, she works collaboratively with local foundations, public agencies, education, community-based organizations, business, and workforce centers to build an effective career pathway system that includes work-based learning opportunities for youth. Prior to her current position, Jenny worked as a WIOA Youth Supervisor for Arapahoe/Douglas Workforce Center. Jenny brings more than seven years of experience working with opportunity youth in educational, workforce, and correctional settings which have brought her to the State Youth Council as the new chair.


Steve Wright | Governor’s Summer Job Hunt Coordinator, Youth Coordinator

Steve Wright is the Governor's Summer Job Hunt Coordinator on the Work Based Learning team within Workforce Programs at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Steve has worked at the state for over 14 years, and with youth services and special populations capacities since 2004.  His skills and abilities are a mix of strategic thinking, combined with adaptability, execution, and commitment to his customers and partners. He's passionate about improving cross-agency partnerships regarding services for youth, especially youth with barriers in Colorado.   He utilizes his youth employment knowledge and the vast network of youth-serving professionals, built over the last 14 years at the state, county, and local level, to create linkages between systems, share effective practices, and spread knowledge.  He brings the lens of youth employment, career pathways, and the mission and vision of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to dozens of cross-agency councils, grants, projects, and workgroups where he participates.


Abigail Ault | Technical Assistance Coordinator

Abby Ault is the Technical Assistance Coordinator at the Colorado Workforce Development Council. Abby has been with the Council for nearly four years, after working with local non-profit agencies. Abby is passionate about ensuring all young adults in Colorado have access to meaningful employment and training opportunities. She enjoys serving on the State Youth Council, and believes collaboration across youth-serving agencies is key to increase impact and improving service.


Cheryl Carver | Youth Services, Transition Unit Manager

Ms. Carver works with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment in the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation where she has been for the past eighteen years. She is a certified vocational rehabilitation counselor and vocational evaluator who maintains her professional standards by being actively involved both at the local and national level. Having worked in the field of vocational rehabilitation for over eighteen years, Ms. Carver has dedicated time to a wide variety of disabilities serving primarily the chronically mentally ill, brain injuries, and addictions. She has worked in several different environments including assisted and independent living, quasi-hospitals, mental health centers, and state vocational rehabilitation. Focusing on the larger portion of her professional career in state rehab, she has assisted individuals with disabilities where that disability presents a barrier to employment to overcome impediments to becoming employed competitively in integrated environments. Thirteen years ago, Ms. Carver joined DVR’s Youth Services and Transition Unit to promote collaboration with education for young adults with disabilities exiting the academic environment and transitioning into the adult world of work. Ms. Carver serves as a leading authority for vocational rehabilitation statewide in the area of transition services critical to the successful shift from school to work and community.  She works to develop inter-agency processes and systems that direct the day-to-day collaborative service delivery to young adults and participates in the evolution of Colorado’s policies which impact young adults with disabilities.



Alexandria Boyer | Apprentice

Alexandria is currently a high school student at High Tech Early College in Northeast Denver. She recently began working as a paid apprentice in the CareerResidency program. In the program, Alexandria is working to achieve a Project Management Certificate, while simultaneously working in school to achieve college credit. Through the program Alexandria has been working as a Project Assistant with the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC), to assist and support them. Some of the tasks she supports CWDC with include scheduling meetings, analyzing data (results) then consolidating that information into a report,  and supporting the State Youth Council as well. Looking forward to the future she does plan on attending a 4-year university, and possibly going for Criminal Justice, but that may change. 


Katie Oliver | Senior Consultant

Katie Oliver is a Senior Consultant for the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and has been with CDE since 2008.  Katie’s responsibilities include overseeing the School to Work Alliance Program (SWAP) in partnership with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), providing technical assistance and training to school districts around transition services for young adults with disabilities in school and coordinating with other adult service agencies.  Katie has been a member of the State Youth Council for 3 years and has worked previously in the local workforce centers and among adult agencies. Katie has a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and Business Management.


Our Partners

Becca Bolden | Program Director

Becca Bolden is the Program Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs in Colorado, overseeing grant management, training and technical assistance for Colorado’s 17 Boys & Girls Clubs organizations, representing 37 communities around the state. Her prior work experience in youth health and development at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and statewide nonprofit Colorado Youth Matter included roles of project management, grant writing, research and evaluation, capacity building assistance, community engagement and communications and marketing. She is passionate about systems change, health equity and incorporating positive youth development into youth-serving organizations. Becca received her Master’s Degree in Social Work and bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Denver.


Michael Vente | Director of Research

As Director of Research for the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Mr. Vente manages the Department’s research agenda and various research projects to make data-informed decisions related to education policy and student success.  Mr. Vente has worked as a policy fellow for Colorado US Senator Michael Bennet, Florida State Senator Mike Fasano, and the UK House of Commons. Just before joining CDHE’s team, Mr. Vente worked for the Colorado Department of Human Services on the implementation of Colorado's statewide Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline. Mr. Vente holds a Master of Public Policy and a Master of Arts in International Administration from the University of Denver with concentrations in education policy and comparative/international political economy.


Amber Palmeri | Program Manager 

Amber is responsible for oversight of the YouthBuild Program, including providing a link between the job site and the classroom, curriculum development, grants management and general program enhancement. She has a strong commitment to community service, having dedicated three full years to volunteering, both domestically (Urban Servant Corps) and internationally (Peace Corps: St. Lucia, Eastern Caribbean). Prior to MHYC, Amber spent 12 years working with organizations providing leadership development and educational programming to support low-income and under-advantaged youth in developing the skills they need to become self-sufficient contributors to their communities. Her experiences include direct service, human resources, data management, volunteer management and program management. She received a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Colorado Denver and a BA in Psychology from Midland University.


Tammy Schneiderman | Professional Counselor

Tammy Schneiderman is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Colorado and holds a Masters and Specialist Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.  She is currently the Client Services Coordinator for the Division of Youth Services in Colorado. As such, she provides oversight to the statewide Client Management system and serves as the liaison to the Juvenile Parole Board as well as the Administrative Review Division.  Tammy's responsibilities include activities related to supporting the continuum of care through actuarial risk assessment, overarching case management, multi-disciplinary team decision-making and transition/parole planning. She has also developed advanced supervision strategies for Supervisors, and is a trainer for the Division in Motivational Interviewing.  Tammy is providing leadership to the Division’s Family Engagement and Transition Initiatives including system enhancements to support family engagement and effective transition practices at all points in the continuum. Prior to working with the Division of Youth Services, Tammy worked as a Therapist, Program Manager and then Clinical Program Director at Jefferson Hills, a privately operated residential treatment program for high-risk youth in Colorado. Her other experience includes facilitation of outpatient groups focused on substance abuse and domestic violence issues as well as working as the Clinical Coordinator for an inpatient substance abuse program in California.


Fumnanya Camara | Re-engagement Coordinator

In January 2018, Fumnanya joined the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) as the Re-engagement Coordinator. In her role, she coaches school districts and adult education programs in best practices around student re-engagement. Before joining CDE, Fumnanya was an academic advisor for TRiO Student Support Services ESL, a federal grant, where she advised students in successfully completing their Associate's Degree at the Community College of Aurora. Within 2 program years, she supported over 30 students in applying for and receiving scholarships totaled over $87,000. Fumnanya also worked as a college and career facilitator for Goodwill Denver and served as a Co-Chair of Goodwill’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.  In addition, she worked with adult refugees and immigrants to help them find dignified employment while also a facilitator for eighth-grade students at Place Bridge Academy, which is a magnet elementary-middle school in Denver Public Schools for immigrants and refugees. As a first-generation immigrant from Nigeria, Fumnanya intentionally focuses her attention in giving back to and strengthening communities. Fumnanya enjoys traveling, reading, building relationships, and touring beautiful homes.


Katherine Jarvis | Business Development Manager

Katherine Jarvis has been working in business development for two years, following seven years of nonprofit experience. While in the nonprofit sector, Katherine worked for five years at a statewide child welfare organization, the Nebraska Children’s Home Society (NCHS). During this time, her roles included grant writing, program evaluation and community outreach. Most recently in her time at NCHS, Katherine oversaw the expansion of programming across the state of Nebraska. For the past two years, Katherine worked for Briljent, a consulting firm specializing in training consultation, project management and organizational change management. As part of the state business development team, Katherine worked to support the missions and goals of state government agencies and build relationships with strategic partners. Now Katherine is excited to be joining JVA as the business development manager and combine her social sector and business development backgrounds.


Ann Symalla | Monitoring Specialist

Ann has both public school and facility school experience, working for Denver Public Schools and Denver Children’s Home in a variety of capacities from Special Education teacher to Special Education/Education Program Director.  Ann is now working for The Colorado Department of Education as a Monitoring Specialist working with the Office of Facility Schools. Ann has strong knowledge of facilities, expertise in special education, and a strong drive to ensure that all children can be successful in school and future careers.


Cody Buchanan | Senior Consultant/Community Partnership Specialist

Cody is a Senior Consultant and Community Partnership Specialist for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), a federal grant program funding out-of-school time programming.

Having joined CDE in 2013, Cody supports quality and compliance to ensure high impact programming at 21st CCLC sites across the state. He is a content specialist in the areas of service-learning and positive youth development, and regularly provides trainings and consultations on these topics throughout the state. He also serves in a leadership role on several statewide collective impact initiatives, including the Colorado State Youth Council, Colorado 9to25, the Colorado Service-Learning Council.  Prior to his work at CDE, he spent 5 years managing a neighborhood center based in a middle school in Denver.


Lauren Jones | School Counselor

Lauren Jones (sometimes Austin), is a licensed school counselor, nationally certified counselor, past expeditionary learning instructor and past teen adventure guide. She is in her 9th year as the Career & Technical Education (CTE) Program Director for Special Populations, Counseling and Equity serving statewide  school districts and postsecondary institutions by providing trainings & resources that help support the programming for implementation and collaborative efforts that parallel Colorado’s education initiatives that support Career Literacy and Meaningful Career Conversations, important acronyms such as: ICAP, PWR, ACE; Graduation Guidelines, Career Pathways, equity and more. Her passion for students and their authentic, meaningful learning can sometimes be contagious. Her advocacy for School Counselors within the CTE family is prominent in the work she does. Lauren also began and coordinates the implementation of Middle School CTE programs, serves and wears many other hats including: Project Manager for Equity in CTE within the context of non-trad, co-supervisor of Colorado’s statewide PWR/ICAP Facilitators, Subject Matter Expert for Equity in CTE with Advance CTE and US Dept of Ed, Region V representative for ACTE Guidance & Career Development Division, one of the founding members for the CCCS Equity and Inclusivity Council, constant advocate for Special Populations and everything CTE in Colorado! She’s a mama to four chickens (one is a chick), a rabbit, a cat, handful of fish and oodles of garden vegetation. When not working, you can find her on the river, on a cruiser bike, in her backyard or at the Jersey Shore.


Eric Dunker | Dean of Business

Eric currently serves as the Dean of Business, Technology, and Workforce Partnerships at Arapahoe Community College. Eric is co-leading the academic and program planning for ACC’s new Collaboration Campus and will lead campus operations. Eric is also leading ACC’s efforts to increase its industry and community engagement in an effort to co-create more work based learning opportunities across the learning continuum alongside industry. Eric has 15 years of experience in higher education in areas such as Engagement and Extension, Extended Campus/Continuing Education, Academic Support, and Assessment. Prior to ACC, Eric served as the Coastal Regional Director for Oregon State University Extension/Outreach and Engagement from 2015-2017. Eric led 6 county extension offices and helped implement new strategic initiatives for engagement, formed new industry and community partnerships, and worked alongside community and industry stakeholders in an effort to leverage the full complement of OSU resources. Eric graduated from high school in Castle Rock and earned his PhD from the University of Denver and is thrilled to have the opportunity to help create a hub for higher education and community engagement in his hometown.