About Us

Our Mission

Our mission is to foster academic, social, and emotional growth for children living in low-income communities around metro Denver.

Our Vision: Our organizational vision is an unwavering commitment to empower students to achieve academic and personal success.

Our vision and mission are on the foundation of our values in the belief in every child’s potential, the belief in cultivating life-long learners, and the belief in the power of every child, family, and community.

Our History

It all started in 1993 with one child, named Chanel. She was in first grade at Hallett Elementary in Denver. And she was a struggling reader. Hallett’s principal lamented to Cyndi Kahn, a volunteer at the school, that he wished there was money available for a summer school program to help Chanel and others like her. Cyndi was inspired to do something.

So she raised some money, rounded up two teachers, and set up a summer literacy tutoring program to help Chanel and 19 other students at Hallett. The program was so successful that Cyndi and many, many others – most in the Park Hill community – decided that the program should not only continue, but expand.

 

Plan, Build, Thrive

We are very excited to share our 2022 Annual Report with you!

Our Team

Site Directors

Tanjala Chineth

Tanjala Chineth

Site Director

Angela Norris-Hawkins

Angela Norris-Hawkins

Site Director

Denese Laney

Denese Laney

Site Director

Kristie Pride

Kristie Pride

Site Director

Ralph Prieto

Ralph Prieto

Site Director

 Kym Watson

Kym Watson

Site Director

Our Board of Directors

Tina Martinez - Chair

For more than twenty years, Tina Martinez has worked and volunteered with organizations that aim to build stronger communities by enabling children and families to thrive.
As Director of Experiences & Partnerships at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS), Tina works with community members, educators, scientists, partners, and Museum teams to co-vision and create meaningful experiences that connect people across Colorado with nature and science—at the Museum, virtually, and in their communities.
Prior to joining DMNS, Tina was the Chief Program Officer for Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver.Tina is the recipient of several awards including Southwest Professional of the Year from BGCA, RM-SAHM’s President’s Recognition Award for Outstanding Service to Improve the Health and Well-being of Adolescents, Volunteer of the Year at Edison Elementary School, and Colorado Rockies Hispanic Leadership Award finalist.
Tina and her husband Jason have two daughters, Santiana and J Senia.

Nikki K. Holmlund - Vice Chair & Treasurer

Nikki is a Colorado native who is currently the Program Financial Administrator for the Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center at the City and County of Denver. She has been a proud public servant for more than twelve years and is dedicated to the betterment of Denver through helping the youth of our city succeed on all levels. Nikki works with regional leaders and partners, community members, and several non-profit organizations to ensure that she is doing all she can to expand the range of what’s possible in Denver’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Nikki graduated Magna Cum Laude from CU Denver with a BFA in wood sculpture and a minor in business management. She has worked in finance for over 20 years and brings a unique perspective to the world of numbers. She loves gardening, spending time with her wife and daughter, and would rather ride her bike more than any other mode of transportation on the planet!

Kristin F. Rozansky - Secretary

Kristin currently serves as the Secretary for the Scholars Unlimited Board. She has loved serving on the Board since 2018 and is continually impressed by the Scholars and the Scholars Unlimited leadership.
Kristin is the Division Director for the Board of Assessment Appeals in the Department of Local Affairs. Prior to this position she has served the state as an Assistant Attorney General, Administrative Law Judge and Chief Operating Officer. In her free time she loves traveling, visiting friends, reading and knitting. She is married to Allen, an estate planning attorney, and the proud parent of two grown children both of whom are teachers! Kristin has read all 100 of Penguin’s top 100 classics.

Sean Choi - Director

Sean Choi is a Colorado Native. He attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and graduated with a B.A. in Political Science. After obtaining his B.A. he later attended the University of Colorado at Denver graduating with an M.B.A. in Finance.
After joining FirstBank as an intern in 2011, Sean has since progressed to become a Senior Vice President of FirstBank, where he specializes in residential and commercial real estate financing.
Sean is currently the Board Chair for Scholars Unlimited. In addition, he currently serves as a Board Member for the Havana Business Improvement District in Aurora, CO and is a former Board Chair for the Asian Chamber of Commerce.
In his free time, Sean is obsessed with music, film, and art. He is a two-time Westword Music Award winner for Best Hip-Hop DJ in Denver and has toured nationally as the DJ for local music group The ReMINDers. He lives near City Park in Denver with his wife Angela and their miniature wiener dog Nacho.

Rosanne Fulton - Director

Dr. Rosanne Fulton has 38 years of experience in public education. She served as chief equity and engagement officer in Aurora Public Schools; executive director of Curriculum and Instruction in the Denver Public Schools; director of schools in the Douglas County School District, and; K-8 principal in the Mapleton School District.
At the beginning of her career, she taught middle and high school mathematics for 11 years. Additionally, she taught mathematics and teacher preparation courses at four different universities and colleges in Colorado. She currently serves as the director of the Center for Urban Education with UNC. Dr. Fulton has devoted her career to addressing educational equity and meeting the needs of all students. In each of these leadership roles, she has taught people of all ages and supervised central office leaders, principals, content specialists, school-based instructional coaches, teachers and classified staff.

Olga J. Garcia - Director

Olga has served people across the Denver Metro Area in various capacities throughout her professional career. Currently she is with Denver Human Rights and Community Partnerships Office of Aging. She manages the Denver Connect mobile unit that provides resources and information to assist older adults – regardless of ability, health or income – to age in place.
Prior experience includes Denver Health Medical Center Government and Community Affairs. She was honored in September 2017 with the Denver Latino Library Lena Archuleta Community Service Award. Other notable honors include the Athena Award from the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Businesswoman of the Year and Corporate Advocate of the Year from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver, Latin American Educational Foundation Corporate Advocate of the Year and the Latina Leadership Foundation’s Unsung Heroine award.
She resides in Denver with her husband and son.

Ramiro Jiminez - Director

Ramiro Jimenez, is a Senior Vice President with FirstBank’s TreasuryManagement Department. His career started in 2013 in theCalifornia Market where he focused largely on Mortgage lending and business development. Looking for an opportunity to expand his commercial knowledge, he moved to Colorado in 2021 to join the Treasury Management department where he specializes in business development, commercial banking, treasury management product development, and project management. Ramiro was raised in the Coachella Valley of Southern California and earned his Bachelor’s degree in Management from the University of California, Merced. Ramiro spent the last 3 years serving on the board of the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Consortium for Early Learning Services and Martha’s Village.

Alexandra Lansing - Director

Alexandra Liscia Lansing was born and raised in the historic Park Hill neighborhood in Denver, Colorado. She continued her studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Design and certificates in Community Leadership and Conflict Resolution. She has an eclectic career background in Architecture, Interior Design, Marketing, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, and Education. She currently runs her own business doing Architecture and Interior Design and is involved in numerous passion projects to combine arts and social justice and equity. She will also be teaching at Metropolitan State University of Denver this coming Fall 2022, in which she is creating a curriculum based on Upcycling materials into furniture and home goods, and how designers can make an impact on the world through product design. She is delighted to be a part of the Scholars Unlimited program as it influenced who she is today and will continue to have an impact on her role in the world.

Jonathan Levesque - Treasurer

I attended the University of Denver where I earned a Masters of Accountancy in 2005. After graduation I worked in public accounting and corporate accounting. In 2010 I joined Littleton Public Schools (LPS) and found my passion for public school finance. I am currently the Director of Finance for LPS.
I live in Denver and enjoy getting outdoors.

Scholars Unlimited lettermark.
Esmeralda (Esme) Rodriguez - Director

Born and raised in Denver, Esmeralda (Esme) attended Montbello High School before continuing her education at Colorado State University where she majored in social work along with an interdisciplinary leadership studies minor. She was the first in her family to attend college and believes there is something powerful in giving back to the community. Over the past 10 years, Esmeralda’s work has focused on nonprofit organizations and higher education. As a proud Denver Public Schools (DPS) alumna, Esme feels a wonderful sort of deja vu, being able to work at a DPS school and with remarkable students and families who carry the dream she once carried. Esme serves as the co-chair of DSF’s Alumni Advisory Committee and is inspired by DSF’s culture and dedication to the values of equity, relationship building, and leadership. In her free time, Esme likes to travel, go to the mountains, explore new restaurants, and spend

Melissa Rosas- Director

As the first generation in her family to attend and complete college, Melissa understands the importance that education has and its path to lead to successful outcomes.  She earned her bachelor’s in civil engineering from Marquette University and has worked as a transportation engineer for a private consultant working on public sector projects for over 20 years.  She thrives being part of community-based organizations and has had experiences as a board and committee member for numerous local organizations and is passionate about the work that Scholars Unlimited is doing to foster growth of our future and therefore leading them down the path towards successful outcomes. She has proven to be an incredible leader and represents Scholars Unlimited as a Board Member with the awareness of how important it is to provide opportunities and to foster thriving communities.  She resides in North Denver with her husband and two sons.

Stephen Rousey - Director

Stephen lives in Parker, Colorado and enjoys all the outdoor activities this great state offers. A favorite family activity of Steve’s is to cheer on Colorado sports teams. He has been in the software development industry for 20 years managing teams building web and mobile applications. Stephen’s interest in Scholars Unlimited comes from his belief in the value of STEM based learning in a safe, diverse, and inclusive environment. He is married to his wife Ashley, a 2nd grade teacher in the Parker area. He has two children, Ellie, an active competitive dancer and Easton, an avid football and basketball player. As a family they enjoy the outdoors, traveling and experiencing new places.

Kathleen Sgamma - Director

Kathleen is the President of Western Energy Alliance, which engages in public affairs, federal legislative, public lands, environmental, and regulatory issues on behalf of oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in the West. Kathleen has testified before several Congressional Committees on energy and environment topics, and is regularly quoted on western issues in national and international media including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, BBC, Fox News, NPR, Washington Post, and National Journal. Prior to joining the Alliance in 2006, she spent eleven years in the Information Technology sector, including establishing the European consulting practice and a German subsidiary for a software company; and three years as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army.
She holds a BS in Political Science/Defense and Arms Control Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MS in Information Technology from Virginia Tech. Prior to serving on the Scholars Unlimited Board, she served on the Denver Asset Building Coalition and Advocates for School Trust Lands board

Yareli Tapia- Director

Yareli attended Metropolitan State University of Denver for Biology, but decided banking is for her and is currently an Associate Relationship Manager in the Corporate Trust department at UMB Bank. As a child Yareli was part of Scholars Unlimited, and as an English as a second language student, she benefited tremendously from the program. Yareli is currently on the board and is excited to help the program grow and continue to help kids in need. In her free time Yareli enjoys spending time with her young two children and her husband, watching movies, playing board games, and taking walks to the local park.

Jamie Villarreal-Bassett - Director

Jamie Villarreal-Bassett is an experienced leader with fifteen (15) years of leadership
experience, including more than six (6) years leading equity, diversity, and inclusion work. As a Mexican American woman, Jamie has a proven track record of impactful contributions, driven leadership, and passion for ensuring team members feel included, honored, and uplifted
regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexual orientation, or other social identity markers. Her formal education in Sociology at Colorado College and a Masters of Science in Organizational Leadership at Colorado State University provide foundation to her life’s work to
drive the advancement of a more just, more inclusive, more diverse, and more equitable
experience for all.

Throughout her career, she has set visions for, led and empowered teams to provide a high standard of equity, inclusion, and diversity. Her personal and professional lived experiences have prepared her to excel in her 10+ year tenure in Denver Public Schools, most recently as the Director of Culturally Responsive Education and in her current role as Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Pinnacol Assurance, the largest workers compensation company in Colorado. Jamie partners with multiple stakeholders to guarantee every single team member and community member, especially those who are Black, Indigenous, People of Color and other marginalized identities thrives, not by accident, but by design.

Ken Warner - Director

As a corporate attorney, Ken brings insights regarding fund raising and business strategy to the Board of Directors at Scholars Unlimited. His professional background, prior to practicing law, involved positions as an educator abroad (Costa Rica), as well as in the Denver area (Metropolitan State University). Being a Denver native, Ken is deeply concerned about providing educational and future vocational opportunities to the underprivileged to the communities in which he was raised and educated. Both his mother and grandmother were also educators for Denver Public Schools and Ken considers their legacy living on through his work at Scholars.