YESS Institute Board Members
Joél Contreras, Board Chair, worked in the Information Technology area of pension fund giant TIAA-CREF for nearly 19 years! He played significant roles in almost every area of the company's technology division including Database Management System, Network Infrastructure, Project Management, Disaster Recovery, and Systems Programming. In 1995, he was selected as one of two IT managers to help expand TIAA-CREF's business operations from New York City to Denver, Colorado. Together with his wife (Giovanna), Joél started a language interpretation and translation company in 2004. The company, named Cesco (pronounced "Chesco") Linguistic Services, Inc., has become a viable local entity contracting hundreds of local language professionals. In addition to his work with Cesco Linguistic Services, Inc.., Joél is part owner and the President and CEO of an online foreign language learning company called Learning Like Crazy, Inc.
Thomas M. Doherty, Chair of Product Development Committee, is currently Chief Operating Officer of Domino, Inc., a designer, manufacturer and wholesaler of equestrian rider apparel in Boulder, Colorado. Prior to Domino, Inc., Tom spent 11 years at Classic Sport Companies, a high growth developer and marketer of innovative sporting goods products. As the first employee of the company, Tom was involved in all aspects of the company from sourcing, product development, procurement, sales and operations. In 2001, Tom was part of the executive team that successfully completed the sale of the company to Endeavour Capital, a private equity firm in Oregon. In 2005, Tom joined the not-for-profit National Inventors Hall of Fame, a national provider of fee based after-school programs and summer science camps for elementary school children. As the National Manager of Elementary School Programs, Tom was responsible for the development and implementation of the national camp strategy. During his tenure at NIHF, Tom was also responsible for streamlining procedures and the creation and successful execution of a national fundraising program.
Kyle Henderson, Treasurer, currently works for FirstBank of Colorado. Prior to this he attended the University of Oregon where he worked with a number of non-profit agencies geared towards helping disadvantaged families both domestically and abroad. These agencies assisted people from Oregon, India, Kenya, Peru, and Brazil. Since moving to Colorado he has found a calling from the at-risk youth of Denver. Many schools in the area are subject to the same pressures he was exposed to throughout school. This connection has inspired his efforts to improve children's situation in Colorado public schools.
Portia Prescott, Chair of PR & Marketing Committee, is the CEO and President of The Prescott Group and Managing Member of Panorama Consulting Solutions, has served as the driving force behind a thriving professional staffing, HR, business marketing, and technology evaluation operation recognized as a finalist for the Denver Chamber of Commerce’s Minority/Woman-Owned Business of the Year.
A Brown University-educated HR executive and business development leader, Portia leads an international consulting practice offering IT strategy, change management, efficiency improvement, Web marketing, and database management, and ERP software evaluations. The Prescott Group serves nonprofit, agricultural chemicals, manufacturing, distribution, consumer services, paper and packaging, aerospace, utilities, retail, and defense engineering corporations of up to $900M annual revenue.
As an acknowledged leader in specialized staffing, Portia has recruited former C-level executives, change management leaders, federal government consultants, PR experts, engineering resources, Lean Six Sigma professionals, aerospace specialists, and supply chain professionals from U.S. and foreign corporations. Her
influence extends to civic and philanthropic affiliations as a member of the Colorado Leadership Council for The White House Project, with experience as a business strategist to a successful mayoral campaign. She also serves as a member of ExecConnect, Board member for the YESS Institute, as well as a founding member of The Virtual Exchange.
Terri Slivka, Chair of Advisory Board Committee, has been a volunteer in the Denver community for over 25 years. Her involvement has spanned groups as diverse as the National Kidney Foundation of Colorado, Colorado Fourteeners' Initiative, Junior League of Denver, and the Cherry Creek Schools Parents' Council. Currently serving on the Dean's Advisory Board for the School of Arts and Sciences, University of Colorado, she also volunteers for the Bridge Project of the University of Denver as a tutor and still maintains a relationship with her mentee from Denver Kids, who is now in her 30s and has a child of her own. She has two degrees from the University of Colorado, a BA in Biology and a MA in Counselor Psychology and Counseling Education. Her most recent employment was as a high school counselor at Cherry Creek High School (2003-2007).
Tal Edelstein, Strategic Planning, works for Staples Advantage, the business to business division of Staples, and manages the display advertising, paid search, and search engine optimization strategy for their lead generating website. Prior to her online marketing role, Tal has been involved in many aspects of marketing including product, brand, direct mail and promotional marketing. Tal is from Los Angeles, California and earned her BA in Business Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles. Tal has volunteered at a number of non-profit organizations and in many capacities, including: American Youth Soccer Organization, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, and Jewish Free Loan Association. She also walked 60 miles for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure 60-mile walk and rode her bicycle more than 650 miles for the AIDS/LifeCycle 7-day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Regan Byrd, Chair of Fundraising Committee, is currently the administrative assistant at Hunger Free Colorado, Colorado's leading anti-hunger organization leveraging the power of collaboration, system change, policy change, and social change to end hunger in Colorado. She currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Colorado chapter of 9 to 5: National Association of Working Women, and serves on the NARAL Colorado Policy Advisory committee. Regan is an alumni of the University of Denver's public policy and sociology undergraduate programs, receiving a dual B.A., and during her time as a student served in many capacities, including 2 years as the AHUM/SOCS student senator and as President of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars- DU Chapter. She is also herself a former mentor with the YESS Institute, serving its very first class during her high school years. Regan has also gained additional insight into mentoring at-risk youth through her time as an AmeriCorps member with Aurora Youth Options.
Gia Irlando, Product Development, is a political consultant who has worked on many candidate and issue campaigns in the Denver area over the last 6 years. She also works with organizations on public relations, communications and community engagement plans. Gia is a native of Colorado but has lived in California, Texas and New Mexico. Gia attended the University of California at Berkeley, focusing on Chicano Studies and Political Science. She has worked for the City and County of Denver as a City Council Aide and for Denver Public Schools as a Senior Project Manager in the Office of Community Engagement. Gia is the mother of three beautiful children and very active in her West Denver community.
Sin Lounady, Fundraising Committee, is from an immigrant family and was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. He two months old when my family arrived in Colorado. After spending many years in Denver Sin's father moved his family to Arvada. Sin graduated from Westminster High School where he played soccer and sang in an A Capella group. He found an escape from typical teenage adversities in sports and music which encouraged him to strive in academics. He thanks his cousin, who was an unofficial mentor, for leading him down that road. Sin currently works with GO Buick GMC West as a Sales Manager. He started working with the group when he was fifteen years old washing cars and has since worked his way up. Ultimately, Sin would like to become a General Manager with the eventual goal of owning his own dealership. Sin's story reflects the experience of many immigrant youths and he is looking forward to representing that perspective at the YESS Institute.
"You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand." -Woodrow Wilson
Diane Bassett, Ph.D., Program Committee, is a Professor Emerita in the School of Special Education at the University of Northern Colorado. She has taught general and special education in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions, and in both public and private schools. Dr. Bassett is the co-author of four books that center on student self-determination, effective services for students with mild/moderate disabilities, and efficacy-based transition practices. She is a Past President of the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division on Career Development and Transition (DCDT) and is also honored to have received the prestigious Oliver P. Kolstoe award from DCDT for her work in transition. At UNC, she has been awarded the Provost’s Award for Excellent Teaching in Graduate Education, the College of Education Outstanding Scholar Award, and the Outstanding Service Award, among others. Dr. Bassett’s professional interests include working with adolescents and adults of all abilities, student empowerment, school reform, and program development. Her personal interests include travel, skiing, hiking, biking, reading great literature, and digging in the dirt.
National Advisory Board Members
Dr. Susan Weinberger (aka. "Dr. Mentor") has been recognized for her expertise in establishing, maintaining, and evaluating school and community-based mentoring programs and school-to-work initiatives. Her work has been published widely and the program she designed has been replicated in more than 40 States, as well as in Bermuda and Canada. Susan received her Bachelor of Science degree in Modern Languages from Carnegie-Mellon University; a Masters degree in Elementary and Bilingual Education from Manhattanville College and her doctorate from the College of Business and Public Management at the University of Bridgeport.
Dr. Weinberger is the former Chair of the Public Policy Council of MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, and is the founding member of its Technical Assistance Corps. She is a consultant to the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Justice on their mentoring initiatives, as well as to many state-level government agencies involved in mentoring. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of Scholarship America and the Board of Directors of the National Assembly of Health and Human Services.
Jerry Adamek retired in 1998 as the Director of the Colorado Division of Youth Corrections (CDYC) after serving in a number of administrative and direct-service positions over his thirty-one year career in the state’s youth services system. Adamek was appointed as Director in September 1991. During his seven-year tenure as Director, CDYC experienced substantial system growth and new construction including the 500-bed, Ridge View Academy recognized as a state-of-the-art academic model facility for delinquent boys. This was the result of increased focus on juvenile justice issues by policy-makers following the 1993 “Summer of Violence. He is a graduate of Regis College in Denver with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology and earned a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Colorado at Denver. He is also a frequent guest instructor at Metropolitan State College of Denver and the University of Colorado, Graduate School of Public Affairs and taught regularly at the National Institute of Corrections.
Previously he had served as the Regional Administrator for CDYC in southern Colorado; director of the Mount View Youth Services Center and the Arapahoe Youth Detention Center; as well as being a Supervisor with the 18th Judicial District (Colorado) Probation Department. He began his career with federally-funded Upward Bound Program at Colorado Women’s College in 1966 and taught school for two years. In 2011, Mr. Adamek will complete his 45th year working with high-risk kids in Colorado
Since retiring from CDYC, he has been President of FNF Associates, Inc., his own criminal justice consulting firm providing service to local, state, and private agencies involved with juvenile justice policy issues. He has been involved as an expert witness in State and Federal Court litigation. He is well-known for his expertise in the privatization of juvenile justice services and construction/renovation of juvenile correctional facilities.
Richard Lewis, the owner of RTL Networks, Inc. is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and William and Mary’s MBA program. Additionally, he has a Masters degree in Computer Systems Security and 20 years of military and corporate leadership experience. Mr. Lewis received his honorable discharge from the U. S. Air Force at the rank of Captain after serving his country in Operation Southern Watch and various international assignments. Mr. Lewis was awarded several military commendations including: Air Force Outstanding Unit and Air Force Organizational Excellence Awards, Joint Service Achievement Medal, and Twice awarded Air Force Commendation Medal.
Mr. Lewis, a former All-State high school football player, track and field high school All-American and College Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Champion, is now a vigilant advocate of health, fitness and community, providing his time, energy, and leadership as Board of Directors, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce (DMCC); Chair, Board of Directors, Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce (CBCC); Board of Directors, Colorado Succeeds; Board of Directors, Denver Metro Sports Commission; Founder: Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber Connect Leadership program.
Mike Oister is recognized for his innovative and entrepreneurial leadership skills. He has valuable, consistently successful P&L experience in strategically leading talented, loyal teams to cultivate sustainable business, diversification, and expansion opportunities.
In addition, Mike built Classic Sport Companies from start-up and turned it into a $20M+ manufacturer, competing in arenas dominated by major brand names including Nike, Wilson, Spalding, and Hasbro. Mike was also recognized on both the 1998 and 1999 Inc. 500 list, the latter as the “31st fastest growing private company in the US.”