ABOUT YAASPA

YAASPA was established in 2010 based upon my husband, co-founder, and my academic and career experiences. As a Colorado native and an African American social scientist, I have come to learn about the challenges youth face in navigating their academic and career development in the social sciences amidst the Colorado Paradox. The Colorado Paradox is the phenomena that only 25% of 9th graders will earn a college degree and many are in need of remediation. In light of this, there have been career pathways created in order to build youth’s self-efficacy in business, fine arts, health sciences, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Many of the decisions to create these career pathways have been from a top- down approach and simply based upon the labor market. Consequently, there have been few endeavors to cultivate the self-efficacy for youth who desire to pursue a social justice career. Hence, to pursue degrees and careers in the social sciences. This is a gap that YAASPA mitigates via community organizing, advocacy and our programs which are: a course entitled civic engagement in community and career, scholarship fairs, social sciences and policy institutes and a new partnership with Community College of Aurora to award students a two-year scholarship who are interested in pursuing social science degrees. YAASPA also partners with organizations collaboratively to facilitate education advocacy to increase social equity. With the YAASPA experience, youth are cultivated to:

 

• Increase academic and career self-efficacy

• Increase self-awareness of racial identity development

• Increase civic literacy

• Increase civic engagement

 

In doing this, we are able to fulfill our motto to support our youth to “redefine the standards to pull down the barriers” they may face in becoming civically engaged in community and career. We know our model works based upon research and the youth themselves. Research indicates that youth of color must better understand their identities in order to build their confidence in academic and career decisions. It is critical that youth are not solely prescribed academic and career opportunities, but that they are the co-authors and creators in the process. Per social cognitive career theory, youth are likely to gravitate toward what they see within their communities. Thus, YAASPA endeavors to mitigate the sociopolitical culture within Colorado that perpetuates the Colorado Paradox. The Colorado Paradox is perpetuated through neoliberal, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and labor market driven policy and mindsets which erases the importance of acknowledging the intersectionality of youth’s identities at play within academic and career development. Thus, the systems that we are attempting to address, and redress are not only institutional, but also psychological. YAASPA has created programming to cultivate youth’s creative genius to create and engage in career pathways that will breakdown neoliberal, racist systems within our communities and build bridges between marginalized communities.

YAASPA

YOUNG ASPIRING AMERICANS FOR SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ACTIVISM

ABOUT US

YAASPA endeavors to build the self-efficacy of youth who desire to make change in our communities, pursue social science degrees, and social justice careers. 

 

Mission: To encourage and support disengaged and underserved youth to participate in their communities socially and politically, in order to make changes within the community. To create political and social awareness regarding issues that directly and/or adversely affects our communities, it is necessary to be educated. Through activism and education, we can redefine the standards that have been placed upon us.

 

Vision: to cultivate youth to be civically engaged in community and career!

Redefining the standards to pull down the barriers!

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OUR TEAM

Janiece Mackey

CO-FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

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OUR TEAM

Janiece Mackey, PhD

CO-FOUNDER (2010) AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

PhD in Higher Education with Curriculum Instruction and Public Policy Emphases

Master of Social Science with a Social Justice Emphasis

As an African American woman and native of Colorado, and particularly as a youth, I often navigated my politically oriented academic and civic engagement pursuits as one of the few youth of color. Please check out the genesis of YAASPA and my civic journey here.

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Tracie Trinidad

PROGRAM AND TALENT MANAGER

Tracie Trinidad, a Xicana feminist, educator, and community activist was born and raised in Colorado. She obtained her Bachelors degree in Socio-Cultural Anthropology at New Mexico State University, a Hispanic Serving institute, then completed her Masters degree in Nonprofit management with a focus on youth development and educational nonprofits from Regis University. Tracie is currently a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Denver in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program. Tracie’s lens in guiding her commitment to social justice is situated in critical race theory and LatCrit. Tracie is passionate about dismantling systems of oppression through advocacy, education, and community and youth collaboration. Tracie is excited to be a part of the YAASPA family!

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Chelsea Situmeang

INSTRUCTOR AND YOUTH COUNCIL LIAISON

Chelsea Situmeang is a recent graduate from University of Colorado Denver where she earned her two BA degrees in Ethnic Studies and Public Health. She was previously a college intern for YAASPA holding space with the youth village and is excited to continue this work along with starting her new career journey as an Educator with YAASPA. She is excited to share her brilliance in the community and is looking forward to holding space with the youth village.

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Tashan Montgomery

INSTRUCTOR 

Tashan Montgomery is a recent graduate from The University of Denver. He has a BSBA in International Business with a minor in Political Science. He spends a lot of his time finding work within the community, and encouraging activism from himself and his peers. Tashan also works on his own photography service, titled True Lenses Photography. He has worked with YAASPA in the past and is excited to continue that work.

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Brandon Sweeney

RACIAL EQUITY ADVISING LIAISON

My name is Brandon Sweeney and I am a proud graduate of Philander Smith College, an HBCU in Little Rock, Arkansas. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration. I have worked in the Montbello community in Denver for 4 years as both a Teacher and Dean of Students. I am excited to begin a new chapter in my career, working alongside and helping empower our communities. I strive to be a change agent in my community, and very passionate about the opportunities education can open up. In my spare time I enjoy playing basketball, enjoying the nature Colorado has to offer, and exploring new eateries with my friends. I also enjoy collecting sneakers and watching my favorite teams as well. 

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Crystal Gillis

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP LIAISON

Crystal Gillis-Drayton is a native of Colorado. She grew up in the Cherry Creek School District. She graduated from Eaglecrest high school. She attended Metro State to receive a Bachelors degree in Human Performance and Sport and continued her schooling for a Masters in Special Education at Colorado University at Denver. She is currently a Physical Education and Health Teacher at Smoky Hill high school. She has also been the sponsor of groups that focus on students of color at Smoky Hill High school. Her passion is breaking barriers to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and inequalities that her students of color have to unnecessarily deal with in the public school system. She has been teaching for 12 years. She loves gardening, working out and spending time with her two children.

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Derika Dimanlig

ADMINISTRATIVE AND COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL

My name is Derika DiManlig and I was born on the small island of Guam. I came to the US when I was a very young girl and I have lived most of my life in Northern California. In 2009 my husband, son and I moved to Colorado. I am a mother of two adult children and I love spending time with my family. I love to cook, read, and mountain bike during my free time. I am also a member of a local Lean-In group that helps support, encourage and cheer on other working moms with their careers, businesses, as well as their personal lives. The majority of my professional background is in Accounting and Business Administration.

Joan Njagu-Hunter

FINANCE DIRECTOR

Joan Njagu is a graduate of Regis University and supports many nonprofit organizations in the Denver Metro area with financial literacy, budget development and forecasting, payroll and beyond. Joan is passionate about helping nonprofits committed to social justice to navigate financial health and sustainability. 

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Sharla Williams

BOARD CHAIR

Contract Manager for the State of Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. She has worked in the nonprofit world specifically in the areas of children and education for 13 years. 

Theo Chapman

BOARD TREASURER

Boettcher scholar and graduate of DU. Is currently a Mechanical Engineer.

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Melisa Trotman

She earned her BA in Business Management at Columbia College and is retired from 35 years of service in the federal government.

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Angel Smith 

Angel Smith  Angel is a Colorado native with bachelor’s degrees in political science and international studies from Colorado State University. She recently moved back to Denver from Richmond, VA and is interested in art history, Arabic language, travel, family and current affairs.

OUR TEAM

Janiece Mackey, PhD

CO-FOUNDER (2010) AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

PhD in Higher Education with Curriculum Instruction and Public Policy Emphases

Master of Social Science with a Social Justice Emphasis

As an African American woman and native of Colorado, and particularly as a youth, I often navigated my politically oriented academic and civic engagement pursuits as one of the few youth of color. Please check out the genesis of YAASPA and my civic journey here.

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Tracie Trinidad, PhD

DIRECTOR OF POLICY AND PARTNERSHIPS

Dr. Tracie Trinidad identifies as a Xicana feminist, educator, and community activist. She was born and raised in Colorado. She obtained her Bachelor's degree in Socio-Cultural Anthropology at New Mexico State University, a Hispanic Serving institute, then completed her Masters degree in Nonprofit management with a focus on youth development and educational nonprofits from Regis University. Dr. Trinidad completed her PhD at the University of Denver in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program focusing on youth resistance. Dr. Trinidad’s lens in guiding her commitment to social justice is rooted in critical race theory and resistance theory. Dr. Trinidad is passionate about dismantling systems of oppression through advocacy, education; and community and youth collaboration.

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Derika Dimanlig

ADMINISTRATIVE AND HR OPERATIONS MANAGER

Derika Dimanlig was born on the small island of Guam and came to the US when she was a very young girl and lived most of her life in Northern California. In 2009 she moved to Colorado with her husband and son and love it here! She is a mother of two adult children and loves spending time with her family. She enjoys cooking, reading and traveling. The majority of her professional background is in Accounting and Business Administration.

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Crystal Gillis

HEALING CENTERED ENGAGEMENT MANAGER

Crystal Gillis-Drayton is a native of Colorado. She grew up in the Cherry Creek School District. She graduated from Eaglecrest high school. She attended Metro State to receive a Bachelors degree in Human Performance and Sport and continued her schooling for a Masters in Special Education at Colorado University at Denver. She recently resigned as an educator in the Cherry Creek School District teaching Physical Education and Health at Smoky Hill high school. She also sponsored groups that focus on students of color at Smoky Hill High school. She currently works for YAASPA (Young Aspiring Americans for Social Political Activism) as an educator and Healing Centered Engagement manager. At YAASPA her voice is heard and amplified in spaces as a Black educator. YAASPA also created a space that requires one to work within one's own cultural identity...authentically. Her passion is breaking barriers to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and inequalities that her students of color have to unnecessarily deal with in the public school system. This will be her 15th year teaching. She loves gardening, nature, working out and spending time with her three children.

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Chelsea Situmeang

YOUTH DEVELOPMENT MANAGER

Chelsea Situmeang was born in San Bernardino, CA, and raised in Colorado. She graduated from Overland High School and obtained her two Bachelor's degrees in Ethnic Studies and Public Health at the University of Colorado Denver in May 2020. She has been a college intern with YAASPA during her undergraduate years and is now the Youth Engagement Manager. She is excited to work and have fun with youth this new school year! She is an advocate and activist for disability rights for minoritized communities and has a passion for amplifying our youth of color voices while also acknowleding the intersectionality of many identities these youth hold. She will also be returning back to school to pursue her Master's degree in Nonprofit Management at Regis University. She enjoys trying new food, reading, watching movies, and traveling.

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Tashan Montgomery

INSTRUCTOR 

Tashan Montgomery is a recent graduate from The University of Denver. He has a BSBA in International Business with a minor in Political Science. He spends a lot of his time finding work within the community, and encouraging activism from himself and his peers. Tashan also works on his own photography service, titled True Lenses Photography. He has worked with YAASPA in the past and is excited to continue that work.

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Alphonso Campbell

RACIAL EQUITY ADVISING LIAISON

My name is Alphonso Campbell and I was born in Colorado and raised in the Denver area. I attended Texas Southern University, University of Northern Colorado, and graduated from New Mexico State University. I have experienced 3 different types of universities including HBCU, PWI and HSI, all of which make up who I am today. I have experience in restorative practices as an Rj coordinator and an education counselor.  I played both baseball and football in college and now some of my hobbies are playing baseball, flag football, concerts, hiking, and cooking. I’m a funny down to earth person and interested to meet all of the students and staff I’ll be working with this school year!

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Amber Martin

RACIAL EQUITY ADVISING LIAISON

Amber Martin is a Denver, Colorado native and proud mother of two. Her passion for empowering youth began in 2017 when her son entered kindergarten. She experienced major gaps in the education system for children of color and made a personal commitment to disrupt the system for the sake of her son and daughter. This encounter led her to develop self-esteem-based curriculums she taught to the youth in her family. In addition to her personal endeavors, she pursued a career in education as a Restorative Justice Coordinator for Denver Public Schools. Today, she aspires to equip youth with the civic knowledge and tools to navigate school systems. On her free time, she enjoys family staycations and satisfying eating experiences.

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Treaunna Jones

PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELLNESS LIAISON

Treaunna Jones has worked with the Cherry Creek School District across several avenues with different lenses and perspectives experienced.  She started in Elementary, worked a few years in HR and Benefits, and recently found herself in Highschool working in so many ways with teens, creating space for them to use their voice and speak their truth.  She has always focused on equity and inclusion throughout her career, but Overland Highschool was where she was able to dive into her passion for the young minds and advocate for access to more opportunities and knowledge unlike what she was given at their age.  She has 3 beautiful children 14, 11, and 2, who make this work that much more important and personal.  She is sharing space with individuals everyday who are facing some of the same experiences and help her to relate more to the work she wants to do with the community who are also their peers.  I look forward to contributing to the collective on a bigger spectrum and working together with likeminded individuals who want to same resilience and opportunity for all children and their future.

Fun facts about Treaunna: I love to dance, read and write.  I enjoy music, it is one of my love languages.  I like dogs but I am really a cat person, I love Chocolate, and spending time outdoors.  Self-care is important as well as creating genuine connections along this journey of life. Important words I live by is, “never stop learning, knowledge is power!”.

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Isaiah Coleman

RACIAL EQUITY ADVISING LIAISON

My passions include photography and videography and breaking down the systems of capitalism and racism. 

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Davon Hogan

EDUCATOR & YOUTH COUNCIL LIAISON

Davon is from Montbello, a quiet yet charming suburb in the North East region of Denver, Colorado. He has a bachelors and masters in Language Arts, Mass Communication and Creative Writing. During his break from his own education he has worked in the school system mainly as a teacher for grades K-8th grade and also an adjunct professor when he can find the time. His passions are spending time in nature, writing, and reading books.

Joan Njagu-Hunter, MBA

FINANCE DIRECTOR

Joan Njagu is a graduate of Regis University and supports many nonprofit organizations in the Denver Metro area with financial literacy, budget development and forecasting, payroll and beyond. Joan is passionate about helping nonprofits committed to social justice to navigate financial health and sustainability. 

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Asia Lyons, PhD 

EDUCATOR COACH 

Asia Lyons is the founder and lead consultant for Lyons Educational Consulting LLC, a consulting and coaching firm that supports schools and other non-profits in their creation of culturally responsive programming and curriculum. Lyons Educational Consulting also focuses on supporting families in having race, racism and anti-racism conversations through a Facebook group platform.  

In addition to her work in coaching and consulting, Asia is also an adjunct instructor in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado - Denver. She is also pursuing her doctorate in Leadership for Educational Equity, where her research focuses on the ways that racism-related stress crosses over from Black educators to their families.  

 

Asia and her husband Cliff are both from Detroit and have been married for 13 years. They have a beautiful daughter, Zoe.  

YAASPA BOARD

Sharla Williams

BOARD CHAIR

Contract Manager for the State of Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. She has worked in the nonprofit world specifically in the areas of children and education for 13 years. 

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Melisa Trotman

She earned her BA in Business Management at Columbia College and is retired from 35 years of service in the federal government.

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Angel Smith 

Angel Smith  Angel is a Colorado native with bachelor’s degrees in political science and international studies from Colorado State University. She recently moved back to Denver from Richmond, VA and is interested in art history, Arabic language, travel, family and current affairs.

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Luna Abraha

Luna is a graduate of the University of Colorado Denver, with dual majors in Math and Philosophy. She is first-generation Eritrean-American. Luna currently works as a Data Analyst for a clinical research company. Her prowess in analyzing and compiling data has also assisted YAASPA in the past in achieving its mission through the construction of visual aids. Her work has helped make sense of the multitude of data that YAASPA got, through surveys and extensive research throughout the community.

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Rachel Fulla 

Rachel received her B.A. in communication and minor in sustainability from the University of Maryland. Over the years she has worked with different organizations to advocate for healthier environments and inclusive opportunities for vulnerable populations. Currently she is the communication and outreach specialist at Rocky Mountain Human Services. She is passionate about creating equity and  sustainability across all communities through policy and advocacy.

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T'ana Smith

I am a Software Developer with a B.A. in Sociology. I've worked for many years supporting and encouraging our youth to be the best person they can be. I've worked as a mentor, Juvenile Specialist, as well as within mental health residency. Our future will rely on our youth and my goal is to help them get there.

 

OUR PROGRAMS

YOUTH COUNCILS 

 Our youth explore and research their community issues and beyond. They also think of innovative ways to share their experiences and knowledge with varying levels of governance. They have advocated for increased support for multi-lingual students, transit equity and beyond. They are elevating their intellectual abilities and deepening their engagement.

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CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IN COMMUNITY AND CAREER COURSES

These courses provide youth in middle school or high school the opportunity to explore academic and career development in the social sciences. Within this experience youth are cultivated to:

  • ​Increase academic and career self-efficacy

  • Increase self-awareness of racial identity development

  • Increase civic literacy

  • Increase civic engagement 

 

We offer this course in the following ways: 

  • As a course for elective, english or social science credit ​

  • As a course focused on Young Men of Color or for Young Women of Color 

  • As a career-tech education certified course linked to career pathways

 

If you are interested in this course or a version of it being offered at your school or for your organization, contact us!

SOCIAL SCIENCES AND POLICY INSTITUTES

 This program is for middle and high school students. This fun filled experience offers students an opportunity to come together from varying school districts to deepen their knowledge, self-efficacy, and connections to help them better understand, learn about and be exposed to social science degrees and policy.

The 2022 Social Sciences and Policy Institute will be offered for three weeks, June 6th-June 25th this summer. Breakfast, lunch, and transportation will be provided. Applications are OPEN. Apply here.

If you are a student interested in attending this year's Institute or you are a community partner interested in facilitating a workshop, contact Tracie Trinidad and tracie.trinidad@yaaspa.net

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YAASPA has partnered with various industry partners to create our codified social science workforce development program entitled the Y Incubator. 

This program offers paid internships and paid fellowships for youth to attain work-based learning experiences. 

The following are pathways we are building and/or have created: education, public administration, public health. 

If you are an industry partner and have interest in partnership, please contact Dr. Janiece Mackey at janiece.mackey@yaaspa.net 

YAASPA SCHOLARS

YAASPA has a partnership with Community College of Aurora Foundation to provide a 2 year scholarship for students as they pursue social science majors.

Please see the statement below of our scholar, Keelie Gray: 

I am a graduate from Aurora Central. I study Political science and  my goal is to become a politician to help students like me overcome barriers that laws have put against us and to fight for what I believe in.

If you are interested in supporting these scholars, or this program click here.

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YOUNG MEN OF COLOR (YMOC) SUMMER OF ACTIVISM 

This summer, 2022, we will launch our YMOC Summer of Activism July 24th-July 30th for middle and high school young men of color.

This will be an overnight experience. 

Complete the interest form here.

For questions or inquiries, please reach out to:

Alphonso or Tashan:

Alphonso.campbell@yaaspa.net

Tashan.montgomery@yaaspa.net

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Click the DONATE link above, send funds through our CashApp or make checks payable to:

PO Box 202092 Denver, CO 80220

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YAASPA is 501c3 nonprofit organization. 

Thus, all contributions are 100% tax deductible!

 

We appreciate your donation and continued support for our programs

to cultivate youth to be civically engaged in community and career!

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