Ben Edwards, Youth Communications Coordinator
Start Date: 2018
His role is to understand, reach, and engage teens throughout Colorado in a way that most effectively supports them in their own positive development and to "rise above" substance misuse and addiction.
Ben brings more than 10 years of youth work experience to his role from a variety of contexts representing a very diverse population of youth. His most recent experience with the Colorado Division of Youth Services gave him the most intimate view of how intelligent, fun, and extremely talented youth can lose so much of themselves in the midst of drug misuse and addiction. Ben worked alongside these youth, keeping them engaged in their treatment programs, and relationally supporting them, equipping them for success following their release from DYS.
Ben earned his bachelor's degree from Sterling College, married his college sweetheart shortly afterwards, and enjoys his never dull life with his wife, 2 young kids, and their canine companion, Zero.
Joon Baang, Youth Partner
Start Date: 2018
Joon ensures youth voice is represented in the organization's strategic priorities and activities. Joon is currently a first-year student at the University of Colorado Boulder, majoring in Business Administration with a minor in Ethnic Studies in the hopes of one day establishing his own high school in the Denver Metro area to provide all students a quality and accessible education. He was previously involved with Rise Above for three years as a Teen Action Council member, was the President and the original founder of the Peers Against Impaired Driving at his high school to reduce teen related accidents associated with impaired driving, and loves volunteering on the daily - proven by completing 400+ community service hours during high school! At CU Boulder, Joon is a part of student government and involved with helping students in under-resourced schools to get to college and making sure that they have the supports to finish on time.
Joon's passion for youth engagement stems from the belief that an engaged, healthy young person produces a productive one that further progresses society.
Kavitha Kailasam, Director of Community Partnerships & Capacity Building
Start Date: 2017
Kavi's role is to work with partner communities in applying Positive Youth Development principles and leveraging statewide collective impact efforts in their local prevention work.
Kavi has worked in various aspects of prevention and community development in Colorado, most recently as the director of the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program, funding community-based organizations working in positive youth development across the state and working closely with various statewide youth initiatives in Colorado, including Colorado 9to25. She has also managed the community initiatives programs for a Colorado based community bank, finding shared vision and creating partnerships with community organizations around the issues of education, wellness, and environment. Prior to that, Kavi spent time in direct prevention services with adolescent girls through a locally based organization in rural India.
Kavi enjoys building capacity and quality to promote opportunities for all youth to thrive. She holds a master of arts in International Administration focusing on global health and humanitarianism, and a bachelor of arts in International Studies and Spanish from the University of Denver.
Sara Jean Cardona, Community Partnerships Coordinator
Start Date: 2018
Sara Jean's role is to implement a comprehensive, statewide outreach strategy through Rise Above's Constellation partner community and statewide Teen Action Council.
Sara Jean brings with her over 15 years in positive youth development and prevention services. Sara Jean worked with Girls Inc. of Metro Denver from 2006-2017. She served mainly as a community educator, and spent her last three years as a program manager. For six years, she also worked at Denver Health as a Health Educator at Lake Middle and North High School-Based Clinics. In this role, she provided sexual health counseling to prevent teenage pregnancy and risky behavior.
Sara Jean's passion is to work with youth and the community to collaborate on providing a positive learning experience. She loves to empower youth to make better, healthier choices. She holds a bachelor of arts in Behavioral Science, with an emphasis in Psychology, and a minor in Business Management.
Stazi Snelling, Youth Partner
Start Date: 2017
Stazi works closely with Rise Above's community partners to support efforts across the state at engaging youth in their prevention work. Stazi's role is to provide youth voice and input through the cultivation of youth-adult partnerships.
Stazi has always had a passion for helping people and has felt the call to helping youth through structured programs that utilize Positive Youth Development and mentoring roles. Previously, Stazi worked at Teens, Inc, which is an organization designed to help youth and their families make healthy choices. Stazi is currently a student at Front Range Community College pursuing Wildlife Biology.
Kent MacLennan, Executive Director
Start Date: 2008
Kent MacLennan brings more than 15 years of progressive leadership experience in the nonprofit sector. He has spent more than 10 years in the development field for both youth-serving and educational organizations. He returns to Colorado following three years in his post as Acting Director of Development for Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. In Denver, he served as Vice PresidentDevelopment for Young Americans Center for Financial Education from 2001-2005. MacLennan holds a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a Master of Education from the University of Denver.
Jonathan Judge, Director of Youth Engagement
Start Date: 2017
Jonathan Judge brings significant curriculum design and program management experience to his role leading the outreach efforts for Colorado Meth Project. As Director for the International Towne program at Young Americans Center for Financial Education from 2003-2008, Judge led the curriculum creation and modification as well as overall program management of a middle-school hands-on education program in global economics. Judge was responsible for training middle school teachers on the curriculum and directed staff and volunteers in the daily implementation of the hands-on culminating field trip for each school. Judge holds a Bachelors degree from University of Nebraska-Wesleyan and a Masters in International Studies from University of Denver.