Youth Celebrate Diversity is guided and supported by an exceptional group of individuals committed to advancing student leadership and equity for everyone.
YCD programs are led 100% by students within each program. Our Board of Directors is responsible for fundraising and financial oversight, as well as building connections with the many communities in which we operate. The Board of Directors does not make programmatic or content decisions, which are owned by student leaders.
Reflecting the many constituencies we serve, YCD’s Board members include high school teachers, college professors, non-profit professionals, business owners, parents, and alumni of our programs.
See below for biographies of YCD’s Board of Directors.
Cambridge, Massachusetts /
Aaron Abai is an undergraduate student at Harvard University (’22) studying Neuroscience and African-American Studies. He is an intern at the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, where he organizes college-wide programming to engage students and faculty on diversity-related topics. Aaron is also on the Board for the Harvard Society for Black Scientists and Engineers and a member of the Phillips Brooks House Association, where he provides advice on public service opportunities to other students.
A first-generation Ethiopian-American, Aaron graduated valedictorian of the 2018 class at Chatfield Senior High School in Littleton, Colorado. He served on the Executive Committee for the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference for three years, ultimately becoming one of two student co-chairs for the 25th annual conference in 2018. Aaron has received numerous accolades, including being named a National Merit Commended Scholar, a National AP Scholar, an RBC Wealth Management STEM Scholar, and a Ron Brown Captain. He has conducted biomedical research through the University of Colorado and Children’s Hospital Colorado and plans to ultimately attend medical school to become a research-physician. He serves as the Secretary for Youth Celebrate Diversity’s Board of Directors.
Benita Creacy is the President and Owner of DC & Associates, a financial planning and private wealth management company. She holds the series 7 registration with LPL Financial, the series 66 registration with Western Wealth Management, LLC, as well as licenses in Life and Variable insurance. In addition, Benita serves as an adjunct professor at the College for Financial Planning. Before working in the financial services industry she was a college financial aid director and a financial aid consultant for colleges and universities across the United States working with families and their college finances for over 20 years.
Benita has a degree from the Robinson School of Business at Georgia State University and an Art degree from the Art Institute of Atlanta. Her free time is spent with her three children and volunteering in the community. Benita serves as Youth Celebrate Diversity’s Treasurer.
Lorenzo Gonzales is currently retired, but served for many years as assistant principal at Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado. He was one of the main organizers of the National High School Diversity Conference, held in Denver in 1998. He currently volunteers his time as a coach and activist for public education in the Denver Metro Area.
Los Angeles, California
Eve Torres Gracie is a television personality and women’s self-defense instructor. She is the head instructor of the Gracie Women Empowered self-defense program, and teaches sexual assault awareness and risk-reduction to women from all walks of life, including college women and airmen in the US Air Force. Eve did her undergraduate studies in Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California.
Corey is a Training & Development Specialist and the owner of Brignac Consulting, which provides training, education and support for private, governmental, and non-profit organizations. He has developed successful programming and learning opportunities for many organizations, including the Denver Mayor’s Office for Economic Development, the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the Apartment Association of Metro Denver. Corey earned a B.A. in Communications at Regis University, and studied Business Leadership at the University of Denver.
Kevin Le is a College Completion Advisor for College Track, based in Oakland, California. He connects students to career, leadership and college affordability opportunities and develops transitional plans to ensure high school students matriculate to college. He also serves as the Civic Engagement Director for the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations.
Kevin received his B.A. in Sociology from the University of Colorado – Boulder in 2018, where he also served as president of the Vietnamese Student Association. He previously served on the Executive Committee for the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference for three years while in high school.
Kierstin Miller works as an environmental engineer for EA Engineering, Science, and Technology Inc., PBC in Denver, Colorado. She received a B.S. in Biochemistry and a B.A. in Art History from Colorado State University, and she received an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Oregon State University.
She has worked with the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference for over fifteen years, having served on the Executive Committee for eleven years. She has also been a workshop presenter at the conference. Outside of her work with YCD, she is passionate about socially-engaged Jewish education, teaching middle school students at Denver’s Temple Micah. She also participates in autistic advocacy; specifically, she speaks on the topics of dismantling autistic stereotypes, on autistic inclusion in the workplace and higher education, and on disability justice.
Janet Sammons, now retired, has taught social studies for over 40 years in high schools in Colorado and Kansas, while also working on diversity-related issues both in and out of the classroom for many years. In 1994 she founded the statewide Cherry Creek Diversity Conference for high school students and their faculty advisers, and in 2014 worked with YCD’s Executive Director, Caleb Munro, to found Youth Celebrate Diversity.
Her recognitions include the Colorado Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education, the Colorado ADL Community Builder Award, the GLSEN National Educator of the Year Respect Award, and the 9 Teachers Who Care Award from Channel 9, Denver. Janet received her teaching degree from Kansas Wesleyan and her MA in Education from Emporia State University. Janet is Youth Celebrate Diversity’s Chair of the Board of Directors.
In 2017 Anya served on the Executive Committee for the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference and played an integral role in forming a partnership between YCD and RBC Wealth Management, resulting in that organization becoming the underwriting sponsor of the Conference. In recognition of her dedication and work on diversity issues, Anya received the 2017 Irv Weiser Diversity Award, one of the most prestigious national awards given out by RBC Wealth Management to its employees. In addition to serving on the YCD Board of Directors, Anya is involved with and volunteers for Food Bank of the Rockies, The Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, A Precious Child, Colorado UpLift, and the Human Rights Campaign.
San Francisco, California
Shalini Swaroop is an attorney specializing in renewable energy policy in California. She has advocated for international and domestic human rights with grassroots organizations, legal practitioners, and the United Nations. Shalini has a B.A. in Women’s Studies and Psychology with a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder and received her law degree from Berkeley Law School. She served on the Executive Committee for the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference in 2001.
Dr. Reema Wahdan is a faculty member in the department of pathology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. She is currently working on innovative strategies to combat breast cancer. She has obtained a number of prestigious awards, including the “Leaders of Tomorrow, Top 50 innovators,” MedImmune/Astra Zenca (2015); “Best of Basic Research,” Endocrine Society (2013); and the “Women in Cancer Research Scholar Award” (2010). Dr. Wahdan’s work has been funded by the Colorado Cancer League, American Cancer Society, the Susan G Komen, and Ruth L. Kirchstein National Research Service Award Individual Fellowship.
Outside of her career, Dr. Wahdan has been passionately centered on enhancing our appreciation to promoting respect for cultural diversity in classrooms across the nation. As a Muslim-American, Dr. Wahdan has lectured around the nation and locally regarding Islamophobia and the repercussions of xenophobia and intolerance in our communities. She is active with a number of community organizations that work to unite our local Denver community, such as the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace, Muslims Intent for Learning and Activism, and a number of interfaith and local organizations based in Denver. Additionally, she serves on the board of national cultural organizations such as Al Bireh Society and the Colorado Palestine Club. Last, she is involved in a humanitarian organization known as the Palestinian Children Relief Foundation that provides medical and humanitarian relief to Arab children throughout the Middle East regardless of their nationality, politics, or religion.
Dr. Wahdan received her post graduate degrees from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland Ohio. She also received her masters and undergraduate degree from University of Denver in Denver Colorado. She serves as the Vice Chair for Youth Celebrate Diversity’s Board of Directors.
Boulder, Colorado /
Albuquerque, New Mexico
She received a BA in English from Stanford University and a MFA in creative writing from the University of New Mexico. She co-founded As/Us: A Space for Women of the World, a literary magazine publishing works by Indigenous women and women of color. A winner of the 2010 A Room Of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando prize in poetry, her poems from her manuscript “Love in a Time of Blood Quantum” were produced and performed by the Poetic Theater Productions Presents Company in NYC. West End Press published her debut poetry collection Words Like Love in 2015; her chapbook Why Storms are Named After People and Bullets Remain Nameless was published October 2017.
She is the Director of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Upward Bound program, which serves approximately 103 Native high school youth from across the country. She co-founded the Sing Our Rivers Red traveling earring exhibit to raise awareness about murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. She is a 2016 National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development “40 Under 40” list of emerging American Indian leaders recipient and a 2017 First Peoples Fund Artists in Business Leadership fellows. Finally, she is the founder of Dream Warriors, an Indigenous artists management company where she manages artists Tall Paul, Mic Jordan, and Frank Waln. Learn more about her work at www.tanayawinder.com.
Alice Bowling Wirth is a Lecturer in the University of Tennessee’s School of Communication Studies where she teaches a course called “Communicating Diversity and Inclusion.” She serves as Director of UT’s College of Communication and Information (CCI) Diversity and Inclusion Program and of CCI’s Diversity Student Leaders Society. Additional community service activities include: Chair, CCI Diversity and Inclusion Week; Vice President, Knoxville Christian Women’s Connection (former President); former President, University Area Optimist Club; emeritus member, Board of Directors, University of Tennessee Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature; and former member, Board of Directors, Knoxville Friends of Literacy.
Before moving to Knoxville in 2006, Alice taught consumer family science in Englewood, Colorado. While there she founded and directed Englewood Public Schools’ Diversity Program and Englewood High School’s True Colors diversity program. YWCA Knoxville named Alice as an Equality Category Award finalist for its 2011 Tribute to Women. The Anti-Defamation League and World of Difference Foundation selected Alice as Colorado’s 1998 Multicultural Educator of the Year, and the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference presented her with its Human Rights Award in 2000. Upon leaving Englewood in 2006, she was named the inaugural recipient of an award created in her honor, the St. Alice Award for outstanding service by a teacher. Englewood also created the Alice Bowling Wirth Diversity Scholarship, which is given annually to an outstanding senior. Alice holds an MA from the University of Denver and a BS from Michigan State University.
Emeritus Board Members
Emeritus Board Member
Joyce Bignell is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Colorado Council for Community and Justice (CCCJ), which provides facilitation and leadership training focused on diversity issues in Colorado.
She was previously Executive Director for the Mountain West Regional office of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). Among the youth programs she has developed are the Ed Hirschfeld Anytown Leadership Camp, the Power Lunch (mentoring program), Flash Judgments, It’s Your Move (diversity programs – high schools), and Don’t Laugh at Me Bully Prevention Initiative. She currently serves on the Mizel Museum’s Community Advisory Board and the Interfaith Council of Stapleton’s Board of Directors.
Emeritus Board Member
Abby Ferber is a Professor of Sociology and Women’s and Ethnic Studies, as well as the Associate Director of The Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion, at the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs.
Her research, teaching and service all coalesce around issues of inequality, privilege, and the intersections of race, gender and sexuality. Abby is the author or co-editor of numerous books including: Home-Grown Hate: Gender and the White Supremacist Movement; Privilege: A Reader; Making A Difference: University Students of Color Speak Out and White Man Falling: Race, Gender, and White Supremacy. She also co-authored Hate in America: What Do We Know?, a publication of the American Sociological Association. Abby is widely published in academic journals and mainstream news outlets. She received her MA and PhD from the University of Oregon, and her BA from American University.
Emeritus Board Member
After receiving his undergraduate degree in psychology from Saint Louis University, Saj joined the Alum Service Corp (ASC) Jesuit Volunteer Program at Saint Louis University High School for the 1997-1998 school year. He joined the faculty of Regis Jesuit High School in 2000, where he teaches theology. He is also a professor at Metropolitan State College of Denver and Regis University.
Carlotta Walls LaNier
Emeritus Board Member
In 1957, at age 14, Carlotta Walls LaNier and eight other students integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. This act of courage and defiance became the catalyst for change in the American educational system. The Little Rock Nine, as they would eventually be called, became ‘foot soldiers’ for freedom.
In 1968 Lanier earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado and accepted a position at the Denver YWCA. Since then, she has married, raised two children, founded her own real estate company, and worked for 30 years as a real estate broker, currently with Cherry Creek Realtors. In 1997 the Little Rock Nine returned to Central High School for the 40th anniversary celebration. In a symbolic and emotional gesture, the school’s principal, the mayor, the governor, and the President of the United States opened the school’s doors, which had been blocked by the Arkansas National Guard in 1957. In 1999 at the White House, members of Congress and the President bestowed upon Lanier and the other member of the Little Rock Nine the nation’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal, for their sacrifice and contribution to the cause of equality.
Emeritus Board Member
St. Paul, Minnesota
Sandra Mitchell is the Director of Equity and Inclusion at St. Catherine’s University. She provides strategic leadership and management in policy development, and in the creation, implementation and operation of programs and systems to achieve university diversity, inclusion and equity goals. She has more than 20 years experience in Higher Education Administration and holds a BS in Psychology and a MA in Higher Education from Drake University.
Emeritus Board Member
Karen Nakandakare is the Diversity and Community Investment Program Manager at CH2M Hill. She has consistently played a role in diversity-related groups and initiatives in the Denver area, recently serving as project manager of the Summer Engineering Enrichment Program for Kids (SEEK), a three-year program with City of Denver and Denver Public Schools. Karen played an integral part in the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival for more than a decade, serving on the board of directors and operating committee. She’s also been involved with the City and County of Denver Human Rights & Community Relations Advisory Board, Asian Chamber of Commerce, One Colorado and LARASA. Her recognitions include Girl Scouts Women of Distinction, Asian American Hero of Colorado, Asian Pacific American Bar Minoru Yasui Community Award, Professional Woman of the Year Award from the Denver Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and others. She holds a BA in Communications with honors from the University of Colorado and a MA in Non-Profit Management from Regis University.
Special Advisor to the Board
Ryan Silva is the principal of Cherry Creek High School, the host school for the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference. As a former teacher and now administrator, he has consistently demonstrated his commitment to fostering respect and understanding, both at Cherry Creek High School and the Cherry Creek School District.
Emeritus Board Member
Beth Yohe is the Executive Director of the Conflict Center, which teaches communication skills, consequences, negotiation, anger management classes, conflict management, and assertiveness. Previously, Beth was the Director of Development and the Director of Training for the National Office of the ADL, overseeing its anti-bias education training across the country. Beth is an accomplished facilitator, consultant and training designer with over 20 years of experience, writing and delivering training programs on a variety of topic related to addressing bias, managing conflict and creating dialogue across differences.