Rise Above Colorado is a statewide prevention organization that measurably impacts teen perceptions and attitudes about the risks of substance misuse to help youth make empowered, healthy choices.


Our vision is youth who realize their full potential.


Rise Above Colorado has been a successful leader in promoting healthy youth behavior and preventing substance misuse since its inception in 2008 as the Colorado Meth Project. Our public awareness work in correcting misperceptions about youth substance use is called Positive Community Norming. This evidence-based approach is based on The Montana Institute’s Science of the Positive framework and leverages Rise Above’s unique insight and experience in effectively communicating with teens in a compelling, relatable and accurate way. Rise Above Colorado, with its shared risk and protective factor approach to prevention, connects with and educates teens using honesty and data, ultimately paving a path to a healthy future for Colorado’s teens without the negative influence of drugs.

Rise Above Colorado offers expertise and collaboration to communities across Colorado through our Colorado Constellation Project (CCP), based on the constellation model of collective impact created by the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto. The CCP is a network of youth and adults across the state who implement substance misuse prevention efforts in a meaningful and authentic way. Rise Above serves to align resources and approaches between partners at the community and statewide levels, allowing for youth substance misuse prevention strategies to be coordinated and have maximum impact across the social ecology and geography of Colorado. Shared objectives of the CCP are: coalition support, co-creating and leveraging a Positive Community Norms approach, leveraging Rise Above Colorado educational resources, and utilizing our youth civic engagement model called Lead the Change Colorado (LTCCO).

Annual Report 2023  |  Annual Report 2022


Our national affiliation with The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids allows Rise Above Colorado to expand our prevention focus with the support of an organization whose singular focus has been to reduce drug abuse among young people for nearly three decades. This alliance will enhance our ability to provide teens, parents, and educators with educational resources and tools to prevent drug abuse among young people.



Rise Above Colorado employs current marketing principles and tactics to understand and reach teens, our target demographic. Our campaigns are based upon the premise of drugs as consumer products, with the objective of "un-selling" these substances by arming teens and young adults with the facts so that they make an educated decision when presented with the opportunity to experiment with drugs. Rise Above Colorado engages with teens in a multitude of settings, through qualitative focus groups during program development, face-to-face interaction in middle and high school classrooms, and the empowerment of teen ambassadors to deliver peer-to-peer messaging through our Teen Advisory Council.



Research shows that if teens understand the risks of using a particular drug, usage declines. Rise Above Colorado communicates with teens in accurate and compelling ways in an effort to influence their attitudes about drug abuse, ultimately leading to decreased use.

As part of our efforts, Rise Above Colorado will use its expertise in public awareness and educational campaigns to support the state of Colorado’s goal to reduce prescription drug abuse by preventing 92,000 Coloradans from misusing prescription opioids by 2016.



Our team at Rise Above Colorado is made up of a group of dedicated and passionate people who are committed to helping prevent teen substance misuse. Backed by decades of experience with school and community health initiatives, positive youth development efforts and involvement in youth-serving organizations like the Colorado Meth Project, the Rise Above Colorado team has set its sights on helping empower teens to make healthy connections, decisions and change.

Kent MacLennan (He/Him/His) is the Executive Director for Rise Above Colorado

I’ve always been passionate about education and giving youth the tools to be contributing members of society who seek to fill the world with good. From my days teaching high school social studies to now engaging with members of our Teen Action Council, I firmly believe in the power of youth to make the world a better place.

Kent MacLennan is the founding executive director of Rise Above Colorado, a statewide drug prevention nonprofit that empowers teens to make healthy connections, decisions, and change. Rise Above Colorado was launched by the founders of the Colorado Meth Project in 2014 with a focus on preventing drug misuse and addiction by giving youth the knowledge and skills to realize their full potential.

Kent has more than 25 years of progressive leadership experience in the nonprofit sector, including Young Americans Center for Financial Education, the University of Denver, Wilfrid Laurier University and Up With People. He also has direct experience working with the teenage demographic, having taught social studies for two years at Pomona High School in Arvada, Colorado.

Kent holds a Bachelor of Science in foreign service from Georgetown University and a Master of Education from the University of Denver. He and his spouse live in Broomfield, Colorado and their three teenage and young adult children provide a built-in learning lab.


Liz Sielatycki (She/Her/Hers) is our Manager of Communications and Community Partnership
Liz is passionate about Rise Above Colorado’s mission of empowering youth because she believes that all teens try to seek out the good in the world and sometimes just need a reminder that it’s still there. In her role with Rise Above, Liz manages the Colorado Constellation Project, connecting communities across the state in their shared objectives to empower and engage youth.

A native to North Carolina, she has called Colorado home for the past 5 years. Her experience runs the gamut across the fields of social work and public health. As a former Communities That Care Mobilizer in Chaffee County, Liz gained a wealth of experience in upstream prevention and the incredible power of local communities to make change. She received her Master of Social Work degree at the University of North Carolina in Community Management and Policy Practice in 2018 and received her Bachelor of Social Work degree at North Carolina State University in 2014.

What brings her joy is quality time spent outside mountain biking and rock climbing with her partner and their dog Pete.


Jenna Garrow (She/Her/Hers) is our Director of Prevention Education
Jenna’s role is to create and disseminate substance use prevention strategies and resources for youth across CO, while guiding the evolution of our community partnerships and collaborative learning communities. Rise Above Colorado’s mission of empowering teens to make healthy connections, decisions and change is important to Jenna because she’s worked with youth in and outside of the public school system for 20 years and recognizes that ALL teens benefit from experiencing an authentic sense of belonging and feeling supported to be a positive change agent in the communities in which they identify with. She believes that the opposite of addiction is connection, and that our power is rooted in healthy connections.

Jenna is honored to be a part of Rise Above CO team because we are innovative, collaborative, reflective and responsive. It brings her tremendous joy to be able to work directly with youth, as well as the adults supporting them, to address the dynamic nature of this work. The team is skilled at elevating youth perspective to create and sustain effective prevention strategies across CO and is committed to growing and getting better together every day!

Jenna holds a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and loves finding adventure with her two children, her partner, and his kiddos. She loves seeing live music, running (on the trails and on the track), skiing, soaking, and supporting moms and babies in her work as a certified birth doula.


Angelica Ochoa (She/Her/Hers) is our Youth Engagement Coordinator
Angelica leads a youth civic engagement initiative to empower Denver youth to address pressing behavioral health issues in their communities. As a Denver Public Schools alumna, she builds relationships with students and staff across DPS and other youth prevention initiatives in the city to help recruit, select and facilitate this group of Denver youth. Angelica graduated in 2022 with a degree in psychology at MSU Denver. Angelica grew up in South Denver, Colorado where she still lives.

The mission of Rise Above Colorado is important to me because I believe youth empowerment is the best path to supporting young people. Building strong connections and sharing accurate comprehensive information regarding substances are my favorite parts of our work. Engaging with youth around these important topics continues to broaden my way of thinking and understand of how youth today are coping with their realities. I feel lucky to be able to a part of the work of Rise Above Colorado and working alongside Colorado youth to move forward substance misuse prevention efforts.


Jonathan Judge (He/Him/His) is our Director of Media and Campaigns
Rise Above Colorado sees the best in Colorado’s youth and matches that vision with action, creating and delivering resources to help teens to realize their full potential. I’m proud of our work, proud of the team assembled to do it, and wake up excited each day knowing that new opportunities for growth are there for the taking.

He brings significant curriculum design and program management experience to his role leading the outreach efforts for the organization. As director for the International Towne program at Young Americans Center for Financial Education from 2003-2008, Jonathan led curriculum creation as well as overall program management of a middle-school, hands-on education program in global economics. Moving on to become the program manager for the Colorado Meth Project, Jonathan developed and led the organization’s volunteer network, oversaw statewide outreach to schools and youth serving agencies, and led an initiative to design and pilot a nationally utilized Meth prevention curriculum. Jonathan designs, implements, and monitors the organization’s social media activity and leads large-scale community art projects across Colorado. Jonathan is an alumnus of the Peace Corps and holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Nebraska-Wesleyan, a master’s in international studies from University of Denver, and he always returns his grocery carts.


Kavitha Kailasam is the Director of Community Partnership & Capacity Building for Rise Above Colorado.
Kavi’s role is to develop the partnerships and systems that will support capacity building and quality improvement in Rise Above’s internal and external efforts.

Kavi has worked in various aspects of prevention and community development in Colorado, including 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, like 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 finding and creating 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.


Reece Marcello (She/Her/Hers) is a Youth Partner for Rise Above Colorado
Reece works closely with Rise Above’s community partners to support efforts across the state at engaging youth in their prevention work. Reece’s role is to provide youth voice and input through the cultivation of youth-adult partnerships.

Reece is from San Diego, California who is working on her undergraduate degree from the University of Denver. She is majoring in International Business with a Minor is Business Ethics and Legal Studies. She strives to create a positive impact within the youth community through active engagement. She loves traveling and has a passion for sports like soccer, hiking, and rock climbing.


Sara Jean Cardona is the Community Partnership Coordinator for Rise Above Colorado.
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.


Ben Edwards (He/Him/His) is our Manager of Youth Engagement
His passion for RAC’s work stems from his belief that youth have a unique ability to inspire positive change in the world.

Ben’s role is to coordinate RAC’s youth engagement efforts in order to help support the goal of empowering Colorado teens to make healthy connections, decisions, and change.

Ben brings several years of youth serving experience to his role from a variety of contexts. He earned his bachelor's degree from Sterling College and enjoys his eventful life with his wife, 2 kids, and their canine companion, Pistol.


MavaMarie Cooper is the Community Partnership Coordinator for Rise Above Colorado.

Mava’s role is to support Rise Above Colorado’s statewide partner network through local outreach, resource sharing, technical assistance and training.

Mava has worked on a variety of public health and prevention topics in Colorado, nationally and internationally. This includes coordinating health promotion and communication efforts at El Paso County Public Health in Colorado Springs and building international partnerships through the University of Michigan’s Office of Global Public Health. She also coordinated a youth mentoring program in Northern Michigan through AmeriCorps and continues to mentor and volunteer with organizations that work with young people.

Mava holds two degrees from the University of Michigan, a bachelor’s degree in Global Health and the Environment and a master’s degree in Health Behavior and Education. When she is not at Rise Above Colorado, Mava can be found learning to bake or with her nose in a crossword puzzle.



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The Rise Above Colorado board is made up of a group of dedicated and passionate people who are committed to helping teens live a life free of drug abuse. Each of our board members has been involved in the organization since the launch of the Colorado Meth Project in 2008. Our directors bring strong governance to the organization given their longtime support of youth-serving agencies and extensive backgrounds in substance abuse prevention, law enforcement, nonprofit management and legal expertise.

Kelsey Burton is on the Board of Directors.

I am directly affected by substance misuse as many of my close friends and family members lost their lives to addiction. Now that my nieces are in middle school I fear for what they'll be exposed to. But knowledge is power and educating our youth enables them to make informed decisions. They are our future so it is critical that we equip them with the tools and skills to make healthy choices for their lives.

Kelsey Burton serves as the Chief of Staff for Evermore Partners where she supports the founders, manages key corporate initiatives, assists in business development, and maintains investor relations.

Previously, Kelsey was VIP Sales Manager for a music festival held annually in San Diego, where she managed the ultra-VIP program as well as investor relations. Kelsey has a passion for client service and project management.

Kelsey earned a Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality + Tourism Management from Metropolitan State University of Denver. She loves traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.


Dave Sjerven is on the Board of Directors.

Dave Sjerven is the Chief Financial Office of Transwest Inc. Dave brings 30 years of finance and accounting experience along with nearly 20 years of not-for-profit experience to help serve the mission of Rise Above. Dave has a passion for serving the community in which he lives and works. He has spent his entire professional career in Colorado and is committed to addressing issues facing our youth on a daily basis.


Geoff Blue is on the Board of Directors.

Geoff Blue is an attorney with Klenda Gessler and Blue, LLP.

Recently Geoff has served as an attorney with Greenberg Traurig and as the executive director of state government relations for JPMorgan Chase. From 2008-2011 Geoff served as deputy attorney general for legal policy in the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. Previously, Geoff practiced law with Fairfield and Woods, P.C., as a general commercial litigator.

Geoff received his bachelor of arts degree in politics from Princeton University. From there, he matriculated to Victoria University of Manchester, England, where he earned a master of arts in health care ethics. Finally, Geoff was granted a JD from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1998. During law school, he served as president of the Society of Law, Health and Bioethics.


Amy Graham is on the Board of Directors.

I have spent the last 15 years serving the local youth in the community in different board member roles and various capacities related to youth sports. I've grown up in CO and I have a personal connection to Rise Above Colorado’s mission. Rise Above is highly aligned with passions of mine, therefore, I'm thrilled to continue to serve and contribute to the betterment of youth in our local communities through the organization.

Amy is a certified instructor at Pragmatic Institute where she provides expert training and coaching to corporations all over the world who are seeking to learn how to build and sustain best in class product management and product marketing teams to build market driven products.

Amy is a proud “boy mom” of two amazing young men. Her and her husband enjoy their mini Bernedoodle Winston, traveling and attending their children’s HS and college sporting events.

Amy brings a wealth of business experience with her, including Human Resources, Operations, Project Management, Product Management, and years of managing and building technology products and services.


Dana Duran is on the Board of Directors.

Dana Duran is Chief Executive Officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Colorado, serving Craig and Steamboat Springs. The Boys & Girls Club is a youth development organization working to enable and inspire youth to reach their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens. She has a passion for helping youth reach beyond their circumstances to achieve their personal best. Dana’s background includes working with underrepresented populations, decreasing barriers to access in afterschool and summer programming and previously in college admissions. Dana sits on the Northwest Regional Council for the El Pomar Foundation and the State Alliance for Boys & Girls Clubs and previously served as on the State Judicial Nomination Commission.

She earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Regis University, and is a graduate of the advanced leadership program through Boys & Girls Clubs of America.


Patrick Gaines is on the Board of Directors.

Patrick Gaines is Chief Development Officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver.

Prior to joining Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, Patrick served as the Executive Director for the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Senior Director of Development at the University of Colorado Foundation, Director of Major Gifts at the American Cancer Society and Director of Corporate Development and Sponsorship Marketing at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Patrick has lived in Colorado since 2000 and is an avid outdoor enthusiast, having competed on three continents as an ultramarathon runner and mountaineer. Patrick also enjoyed a 15 year career as a classical musician, having held positions with the Mannheim Steamroller, Omaha Symphony and Colorado Symphony.


Andrea Macias is on the Board of Directors.

Andrea has been a board member since July 2022. Andrea Macias graduated with a BA in History with minors in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies and Sociolegal Studies from the University of Denver in 2021. She is a proud First Generation Graduate! After graduation, she became a Restorative Justice Counselor at DCIS-Baker and is now a College Recruiter at Emily Griffith Technical College. During her time at DU, she conducted research and guest lectured on the history of student activism at DU from historically underrepresented communities, as well as wrote her thesis about the interracial relationships between Black and Brown communities and Afro-Latine Identity. She participated in the Student Faculty Partnership Program where she assisted in co-constructing courses that fell in the Ethnic Studies Program. She is a sister of Pi Lambda Chi Latina Sorority, Inc. and was a Senior Lead Organizer for Our Turn. Andrea’s passions and goals are to increase a presence of a culturally inclusive and historically accurate curriculum and to increase college/career access and retention of historically underrepresented students, which is motivated by her experience as a First Generation Afro-Latina. She was previously on the Teen Action Council from 2014-2017!


Vy Nguyen is the Chair of the Board.

Substance misuse and abuse is an issue that directly and indirectly affects everyone in our community. As a parent and community member, I believe it is important to guide, encourage, and support our youths towards a healthy, productive, and fulfilling life.

Vy is the Managing Member of TLN Disputes & Advisory, LLC. Her business experience includes over 15 years of consulting services to government agencies, legal counsel, and business entities.

Vy earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Denver in 2005 and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2010.


Stazi Snelling is on the Board of Directors.

Rise Above’s mission is important to me because positive messaging has been shown to be more effective in preventing substances than scare tactics and other common ways of talking about substance use prevention. Also, supporting youth as whole people leads to better life outcomes and the ability to thrive and Rise Above supports this effort.

Stazi has been a board member since July 2022. She 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. She strives to advocate for authentic youth voice in all spaces and is continually learning how to hold better and better equity lenses in her work and life. Currently, Stazi works for TEENS, Inc., which is an organization designed to help youth and their families make healthy choices and thrive. She is the Teen Center Program Manager which provides a safe, fun space for youth to hang out.

Previously, Stazi was a Youth Partner with Rise Above Colorado for 4.5 years where she worked closely with Rise Above’s community partners to support efforts across the state at engaging youth in their prevention work. Stazi’s role was to provide youth voice and input through the cultivation of youth-adult partnerships. Before that, Stazi worked as a Peer Supervisor at TEENS, Inc. for two years in high school where she supported building maintenance and activity planning. Stazi received her Associates of Science from Front Range Community College and Bachelor's in Zoology from Colorado State University.


Gina Tincher is the Chair of the Board.

Gina Tincher is an attorney with Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Schreck, LLP.

Her practice involves general commercial litigation as well as environmental cleanup disputes. Before law school, Gina was a narcotics detective in Gainesville, Florida for nearly 14 years. Gina’s previous experience equips her to understand the enormous effects drug use has on young adults and our communities.

Gina earned her bachelor of arts degree from the University of Florida in 2000, her master of science degree from Florida State University in 2006, and her JD from the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law in 2015.


Mae Thompson is on the Board of Directors.

For the past five years, Mae has been an advocate for youth voice, in various capacities, at both local and state levels. Most recently she served two years as the Youth Partner for Rise Above Colorado where she focused on youth engagement across the state. She is passionate about creating environments where young people feel comfortable to speak up and share their opinions in order to create a more informed community. Mae currently works at HDR Inc., a civil engineering firm as a Project Support Assistant.


Kathleen (Kiki) Traylor, MD on the Board of Directors.

Director, Amgen State Government Affairs

Dr. Kathleen (Kiki) Traylor joined Amgen Global Government Affairs team in 2007. A physician and former Colorado State Senator, Kiki focuses on state legislative issues in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Kiki served through 2006 as a member of the Colorado State Senate, where she sat on the Health and Human Services and Judiciary Committees. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado School of Medicine (M.D. with Honors) and Stanford University (B.A., Human Biology). She has actively treated patients for the past 20 years, practicing primary care pediatrics in private practice, hospital-based primary care, insurance-based managed care, and foster care clinic settings. She is currently affiliated with Children’s Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado School of Medicine (Associate Clinical Professor), where she sees patients every week in the Foster Care Clinic.


José Esquibel is on the Board of Directors.

Director, Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention
University of Colorado, Anschutz Campus

Along with Dr. Rob Valuck of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Colorado, and Kelly Perez, a former Senior Policy Analyst with the Office of Governor John Hickenlooper, José is one of the architects of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, which utilizes a collective impact approach for reducing the impact of the opioid crisis in Colorado.

Initially trained as a clinician with mentors from the fields of child and family psychiatry and psychology at the University of New Mexico, José worked as a certified addictions counselor and family therapist in outpatient and inpatient treatment settings for over a decade before entering state government service.

From 2005 through 2011, he served as a co-director of two substance abuse prevention grants awarded to the Colorado Office of the Governor, one related to implementing screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment in medical settings.

Since 2013, he has served by appointment of the President of the Colorado Senate as the vice chair of prevention for the Colorado Statewide Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force, a legislatively mandated task force chaired by the Colorado Attorney General The task force uses a cross-discipline approach for determining strategic responses in assisting local communities in addressing the impacts of drug abuse.

José also recently served as the director of the Office of Community Engagement in the Colorado Office of the Attorney General.




Rise Above Colorado staff work closely with our statewide Teen Action Council to further empower youth in their passions to prevent drug misuse and addiction. Representing the geographic and personal diversity of the state, the Teen Action Council works with staff to ensure Rise Above messages and resources are relevant, reliable and powerful to teens across Colorado. Check out their latest accomplishment – a “for teens, by teens” website filled with their original content focused on the facts about drugs, how to rise above and live a life on purpose as well as a safe space to share stories of how Colorado teens are on the rise. http://www.iriseaboveco.org

Councilmembers are carefully selected through an application and interview process led by current members and staff. Each teen is responsible for leading outreach and educational activities within their community and for representing Rise Above at community, school and statewide events. Connect with Councilmembers through social media with #IRiseAbove.

2023-24 Teen Action Council

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