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 be be civically engaged in community and career!

Redefining the standards to pull down the barriers!

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Janiece Mackey


Janiece Mackey


PhD Candidate 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.

Gabriella Carrethers


Gabriella was born in Denver! She attended the University of Denver where she earned her bachelors degree in International Studies and Socio-legal Studies. She is passionate about social justice and equitable access to education, as well as racial justice and the counter narratives of Black and Brown people. She believes that education is paramount in changing the lives of marginalized communities and that youth are both the current and future leaders of that change. She is excited about partnering with YAASPA to help be an asset to scholars on their activism journey!

Rilwan Babatunde


Rilwan is a full time student at the University of Denver, a candidate for the Sport and Performance Psychology (SPP) program in the department of the Graduate School of Professional Psychology (GSPP). Rilwan is growing his experience as a mental consultant through repetitive practice as well as the verities of the population he has had the opportunity to work with. Rilwan focuses on the idea of working with youths with the aspirations of achieving positive youth development. “My goal is to learn as much as I can with the presented opportunities while utilizing the acquired knowledge to help instill growth in the youths I have the opportunity to work with. My goal is to work towards the process of change through the implementation of my own knowledge or experience as well as the feedback or information received from aspiring youths.” 

Ariel Lipscomb


Ariel Lipscomb prides herself on serving as Chapter Liaison for Black Lives Matter 5280, and working with their Community Wellness and Response squad toward better serving the black community in Denver. She is also a founding member of Denver Action Medic Network with particular focus on community trainings around intervention and support in navigating psychiatric emergencies. With several years of experience working in behavioral health and crisis management as both a counselor and clinician it is no secret that she fiercely dedicates herself to social reform and the advocacy of marginalized people in their most vulnerable moments. If pressed to enumerate her guiding principles people of color loving themselves as a revolutionary act would be high on the list. Ms. Lipscomb is currently completing coursework in pursuit of herbalism certification at Denver School of Integrative Massage, and dreaming of sharing those skills to enable her community members to heal themselves as a revolutionary act, as well.

Chelsea Situmeang


Chelsea is a full-time senior double majoring in Ethnic Studies and Public Health at the University of Colorado Denver. She is an active student on her campus and is involved in many student organizations and events. As a student and activist, she understands how much power student's have in their voices and actions. Her passions include increasing awareness of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) activism work and dismantling the beauty standards of AAPI womxn. She hopes that the education around the importance of AAPI activism work to the youth will bring more awareness to the youth community. She is excited to be part of the YAASPA team as a YAASPA intern!

Xavier Hadley 


Xavier Hadley is a recent graduate from Colorado State University where he double majored in Poetry and Ethnic Studies. His studies were focused on critical race theory and language as the mechanism which largely connects us to our own humanity and the way in which we understand and are understood by the world around us. Xavier spends his time practicing and showcasing different modes of artistic expression with mediums like poetry, photography, songwriting and music production, and illustration across Denver. 

Tashan Montgomery


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.

Valerie Contreras


Valeria was raised, and continues to live, in Aurora, CO. She attended Aurora Public Schools, graduating from Hinkley High School. She previously worked as a Middle School Language Arts Teacher in Denver, and as a Community Organizer in Aurora. Valeria earned a B.A. in Ethnic Studies and an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado Boulder. She is a first-generation U.S. citizen and college graduate. She is excited to be part of the YAASPA community as an instructor.

Michaela Lee


My name is Michaela Lee and I am a sophomore at CU Denver majoring in Psychology and minoring in Ethnic Studies. I am very passionate about learning about social injustice in today's society and hope to counsel children in juvenile facilities once I graduate. 

Brandon Sweeney


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. 

Ebony Johnson


Ebony Johnson believes in becoming a part of change by being the change. For her it is not W.W.J.D., but W.W.Y.T.Y.D. (What would you tell your daughter). In being a living testimony, she has accepted the divine assignment of breaking generational curses and embracing ancestral strengths. Ebony will assist in working with the YAASPA movement by contributing skills honed and perfected while employed in Corporate America. Her personal and professional mission is to assist in changing the narrative of our melanin-enriched youth and nation from mere survivors to conquerors and game-changers. “Barriers are internal as well as external; with spiritual stamina and a deep-rooted identity/understanding of self, the same barriers meant to stop you, will be the building blocks that raise you above the rest

Joan Njagu-Hunter


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. 

Sharla Williams


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


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

Gina Brackett

She earned her MBA and is a Real Estate Broker Associate for Broker's Guild Classic. She is also a mother of two boys.


Daniel Hamilton

Daniel is a graduate of South High school, husband, and father of three girls. He is a Terminal Manager for Denver Forward Air Incorporated. He is passionate about education issues and has navigated public, private, and home school education as a father.

Angel Smith 

Angel Smith is currently the Health Equity and Community Engagement the Maternal Child Health Program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. She describes herself as a living lighthouse. Existing in a space where there are constant contending energies- the System and the People- she facilitates critical conversations with people in the public health arena regarding the intersections of identities and health. She graduated from Colorado State University where she was heavily involved in advocacy and social justice. She uses her abilities to: story tell, heal others, and keep it real to create changes in an area that seems tumultuous. She also has experience as a Center for Disease Control and Prevention fellow, helping local public health integrate equity into its MCH breastfeeding priority. 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.



With our partnership with Climb Higher Colorado, YAASPA has elevated youth to this youth council. These youth explore and research their school community concerning standards and assessments 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.



This course provides 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 


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



 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 2020 Social Sciences and Policy Institute will be offered for four weeks this summer. Breakfast, lunch, and transportation and technology assistance will be provided. Applications will open soon.

If you are a student interested in attending this year's Institute or you are a community partner interested in facilitating a workshop, contact Janiece Mackey and janiece.mackey@yaaspa.net



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 2020 scholar, Keelie Gray: 

I am currently in a graduate from Aurora Central. I want to study Political science when I get into college.  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.


Our scholarship fairs provide an opportunity for students and families to navigate scholarship opportunities to prepare for their post-secondary journeys!


The next fair will be held for Aurora Central students in April.

We are thankful to the many partners who have supported this fair for many years!


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!


Copyright 2019. Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism (YAASPA). All Rights Reserved.

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