Jessica was born and raised in Denver Colorado, and is a East Graduate. She is a mother to three beautiful girls; they enjoy going shopping, dinner dates, especially when it's sushi, walks at the park and movie nights. She is excited to be at Heart and Hand Center as the new Middle School Program Manager. Jessica joined program back in 2021 as a Program Leader, and loved everything about it, especially all the relationships she has built with students, as well as the academic enrichment, health wellness, family engagement, creative expressions and the social emotional learning Heart & Hand provides. She is very excited to see her growth and the opportunities with program.
Emilia grew up in North Jersey, but has spent the last decade in Philadelphia. She received her bachelors in Early Childhood Education from Temple University and her masters in Social Work from Columbia University School of Social Work. Emilia has over seven years of experiencing working in the out-of-school time field in Philadelphia. Emilia is thrilled to join the Heart & Hand team and is committed to providing high-quality opportunities for young people using a positive youth development framework and healing-centered approach.
Emilia is new to Colorado, but since arriving in September 2020, she has enjoyed the access to the mountains, where her and her partner have spent the winter snowboarding. In her spare time, Emilia also enjoys live music, escaping with a good novel, snuggling with her two cats, and eating delicious food. One of her newer food ventures has been making handmade tortillas every Tuesday for Taco Tuesday!
Brianna was born and raised in the small town of Great Falls, Montana. She moved to Denver in 2015 seeking a more diverse community, better opportunities, and a degree in social work. Brianna has an AA in General Education as well as experience with facilitating social emotional learning (SEL) workshops at a Head Start program, and providing community based support for families who have mental health and/or developmental disabilities at AWARE Inc. When she started the Social Work program at MSU Denver, Brianna also began volunteering for Heart & Hand and eventually joined the staff as a Program Leader. She found her strength in building relationships with students and families, and teaching SEL skills and restorative justice to our youth. Brianna started working with the CCR program as an intern in 2019 and discovered her passion for working with older students. She is passionate about collaborating with CCR students and their families to set intentional goals and establish a plan for a bright future using a strength based lens. Being a mother is her proudest accomplishment so in her free time Brianna enjoy spending time with her two sons and two bonus daughters. She also loves to visit her family in Montana whenever she gets the chance.
Aa'Jha Cortez was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. In her early years, she attended North East Charter School in Montbello and then she graduated as an East High Alum in 2018! She was a varsity cheerleader for Denver East high school, where most of her community work started. Aa'Jha is the mother to a beautiful girl who is the center of her entire world. In addition to having a child of her own, working with children is nothing new for Aa'Jha. Heart and Hand is a second home for her. In fact she began her journey here summer 2019 as a PARA, and then she soon transitioned to a Program Leader in the school year 2019-2021, leading her to become senior program leader 2022-2023, to land her current position in August 2023 as an elementary and middle school Program Manager! She is an active source within the community and so eager to continue to give new and never ending opportunities to the youth!
Madison is from Jacksonville, Florida where she received her Bachelor of Social Work from the University of North Florida. She is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work and Master of Public Policy at the University of Denver. She has previous experience working with children and families experiencing houselessness. Housing policy continues to be a focus area in her studies. Madison started with Heart & Hand as an intern in the Career & College Readiness program, and she deeply values Heart & Hand’s holistic approach with students, families, community members, and staff. Outside of work, Madison loves going to the movies with her partner and is an avid Marvel and Star Wars fan. She also spends a lot of time with her 7 year old cat (Liho) and 120 lb Cane Corso (Hank the Tank).
Blaine began working with the Heart & Hand Center as an intern in 2010 and is now the Chief Operating Officer. She is a Colorado native who graduated from Colorado State University and is now pursuing a Masters Degree at Regis University. Blaine's favorite thing about working with Heart & Hand are the relationships she has developed with H&H families, youth and coworkers. She enjoys reading, creative writing and spending time outdoors.
Aricia grew up in Denver, Colorado and has spent her whole life here in the city. She attended Barrett Elementary, Morey Middle School and graduated from East High School in 2018. She furthered her education at Metropolitan State University of Denver and graduated with a bachelor's degree in Sports Management in May of 2023. Aricia has worked with youth since her time at East High School where she would take a class period once a week and teach core life lessons to students at Hallett Elementary. She has worked with youth for the last 3 years and has grown to love it. This is her second full year at Heart & Hand and she has grown to build strong relationships with students and families.
Relationships, culture, and community are the core of Timiya's personal and educational philosophy. Timiya holds a BA in Secondary Education/English from Point Park University and a Master’s in Organizational Leadership from Fort Hays State University. She is passionate about working with unprivileged populations and being an advocate for social justice. When Timiya is not working, she enjoys spinning, crafting, or spending quality time with family and friends.
Chelsea grew up in Lafayette, Colorado where they spent many years in after-school programs, one for over a decade! Programs such as this informed Chelsea’s interests and passions. They are grateful to have had the opportunity for after-school enrichment that helped them grow into who they are, and sees how valuable out-of-school time is for young people. Fast forward many years when Chelsea went to the University of Colorado Denver to study Anthropology before transferring to Metro and earning a Bachelors of Social Work that provided opportunities to work with young people over the years. Those experiences paired with the impact of COVID-19 encouraged Chelsea to leave the restaurant industry after fifteen years and pursue their love for youth development.
After two years of working with students at Columbine Elementary with Heart & Hand, Chelsea joined the team at the Community Center. Here Chelsea is able to focus on food justice, resource distribution, community engagement and more, allowing them to explore more of those interests and passions developed as a youth. Chelsea has a fervent care for the recovery and political communities they belong to outside of work, and is appreciative that they have the opportunity to experience similar connectedness here at the Heart & Hand Center.
Outside of work, Chelsea enjoys taking photos, road trips, puzzles, junk shops, time with loved ones, museums, and reading. They are passionate about digging for rocks, the desert, a cup of coffee, their cat, concerts, refined sugar and political organizing.
Angie Neslin is thrilled to be part of Heart & Hand's team supporting families! Born and raised in Denver, she has a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in Hispanic Studies and American Studies. Following graduation she went to the Dominican Republic on a Princeton in Latin America fellowship that enabled her to develop an urban gardening program at Fundación Abriendo Camino, a nonprofit serving under-resourced communities in Santo Domingo. Loving her work with students and their families, she wound up staying for five years and had the honor of coordinating a full-fledged environmental education program as well as a youth parliament that gave kids and families a voice in the organization's programming and in their broader community. As part of this work, she also became involved with Diálogos Hambre Cero, a UN-affiliated program to address food insecurity in the Americas. She is eager to continue engaging with issues of food justice, environmental sustainability, and community voice in decision-making processes as the Family Development Program Manager at Heart & Hand. Outside of work, she plays electric guitar in a pan-American fusion band, studies poetry, and enjoys walking her dog around her favorite city, Denver.
Gabe grew up in Indianapolis and moved to Denver after earning two bachelor's degrees in psychology and religious studies from Indiana University. He spent a few years working in the mental health field as a counselor and supervisor with high-school aged youth while earning a master’s degree in religious studies from the University of Denver. Gabe has three years of experience in out-of-school time programming as a social justice advocate and program manager. Gabe is excited about joining the Heart and Hand team and providing a safe space for youth to learn and grow.
Outside of work, Gabe has been rock climbing for 10+ years and his preferred type of climbing is bouldering. He spends a lot of his time reading different books and articles on philosophy, religion, and capitalism. Gabe enjoys playing all types of games and sports while keeping up with new movies and tv shows as much as he can.
Cami has always been passionate about building relationships with youth and ensuring that youth in historically underserved communities are provided with the resources and supports needed to help create more of an equal opportunity to quality education. Having worked and volunteered for various after-school programs, Cami is excited about helping build the new High School Program and working with the youth at the Heart & Hand Center. Cami holds a BA in Psychology with a minor in Education Studies at the University of California, San Diego and a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Denver. Originally from Richmond, California, Cami enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, being outdoors, reading, trying new foods, and sleeping in her spare time.
Da’Seanay was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. She graduated from Denver South High School in 2019. Then, she attended Langston University, the only Historically Black University in Oklahoma. She became a first generation college grad in May 2023 when she earned her Bachelor’s in Corrections and Associate’s in Criminal Justice. During her free time she enjoys spending time with friends and family, going to the movies, going to the park to color, or even just staying in and binge watching TV. She joined Heart & Hand in the summer of 2022 and is very excited to be back as the new Program Coordinator at the Middle School site. She is looking forward to working with a new age group of students and being able to build close relationships with them. Growing up, she was always in an afterschool program program and they helped shape her into the woman she is today. She hopes to have that same impact on the group of students she works with.