At Colorado UpLift, our Teacher/Mentors are at the heart of everything we do. These full-time staff are available to students year round, represent the communities they serve, and devote their time to building long-term, life-changing relationships with underserved youth in Denver and Aurora. Our twenty-nine Teacher/Mentors work at over twenty elementary, middle, and high schools in six pipeline areas. With our In-School Program back and running, it’s a great time to share about the amazing staff members who make it all possible.
Meet the Team: North Area
Tanya Martinez – Site Operations Manager
This year is Tanya’s seventh school year working for Colorado UpLift. Her favorite part of her job is the relationships she’s made within the program, with both students and fellow staff. This year she’s excited for the opportunity to cultivate new young leaders. In her free time, she loves taking road trips with her family.
Joshua Mendoza – Teacher/Mentor 2
Josh was greatly involved with Colorado UpLift as a student at North High School. There he participated in the In-School and Advanced Leadership programs and even spent a summer as an UpLift intern. He has now worked as a Teacher/Mentor for over four years. He loves having the opportunity to help guide students through everyday life, and building relationships with youth is one of the things that motivates him each day. He has been married to his wife, Ashley, for five years and enjoys spending time with his two daughters, Milah Belle (age five) and Adeline Grace (age three).
Robert Sanchez – Teacher/Mentor
Robert also participated in UpLift as a student at North High School and has been a Teacher/Mentor for three years. His favorite part of working for UpLift is seeing kids’ mindsets change and how they challenge themselves to become leaders. This year he’s looking forward to seeing his former eighth grade students enter high school and continue to grow. When he’s not working, Robert likes spending time with his kids and fishing.
Sirena Rodriguez – Teacher/Mentor
Sirena has worked for Colorado UpLift for twenty-two years in several capacities including Teacher/mentor, Site Coordinator, and Post-Secondary Director. She loves building relationships with students and walking alongside them through different seasons of life such as college, marriage, and parenthood. This year she is looking forward to seeing her seventh-grade students advance to eighth grade. In her free time she enjoys traveling with her family.
Adriana Romero – Teacher/Mentor
A Colorado Native, Adriana joined the UpLift team just this past year. After graduating high school, she spend a few years in the spa industry but always knew her passion was working with youth of all ages; Colorado UpLift was a perfect match! She truly believes that Colorado UpLift builds leaders in our communities as well as life-long relationships between staff and students and students and students. Adriana loves spending time with her husband, Brendon, and her daughter, Ava. She and Brendon strive to help their community grow through fellowship with UpLift students and their families. She is excited to learn more about her students this year and to continue fostering relationships with them.
Meet the Team: West Area
Mateo Salinas – Site Operations Manager
Mateo saw the UpLift Program first as a student at Lincoln High School and has now worked for the organization for five years. He loves how Colorado UpLift is able to partner with other organizations to help students grow holistically and is excited to see more student lives transformed this year. When he’s not working, Mateo enjoys spending time with his family and reading.
Marc Saenz – Teacher/Mentor 2
Marc has worked at Colorado UpLift for the past five and a half years. He got involved in the program his junior year of high school, after his mentor and former UpLift staff member recommended it. He loves giving back to students what was given to him all those years ago and the satisfaction of working with kids that remind him of himself. He’s excited to meet new students this year, cultivate new relationships, and deepen existing ones. He also enjoys spending time with his family and working on music.
Mario Rubio – Teacher/Mentor
Mario joined the UpLift team this year after hearing about the organization from a friend. So far he has loved having the opportunity to build relationships with students and really make an impact on their lives and communities. Although he personally knows what it’s like to grow up in some of the same circumstances as his students, he is filled with hope every day he gets to give back to them alongside people who are also passionate about the work they do. He is looking forward to building new and existing relationships this school year, as well as facing new challenges. Even when he’s not working, Mario enjoys taking on physical and mental challenges as well as spending time with friends and family. He is full of gratitude for his job at UpLift and considers it a blessing to work with his team and students.
Sarahi Tafoya – Teacher/Mentor
Sarahi has worked for Colorado UpLift for a year. She heard about the program through family and friends who were involved. She loves being able to have a positive influence on Denver’s urban youth and is excited for the new challenges the school year will bring. In her free time, she likes to relax with her husband and son.
Benjamin Ibarra-Varela – Teacher/Mentor
Ben has been with Colorado UpLift for a year and was in the program himself his last year of high school. He enjoys mentoring students and seeing how they evolve into leaders within their schools. This school year he is looking forward to partnering with Lake Middle school to help its students step out in leadership. When he’s not working, Ben enjoys spending time with friends and family, creating music, traveling, and exploring new places.
Lily Urbina – Teacher/Mentor
Lily formally began working for UpLift this summer, but was familiar with the organization thanks to her husband and Adventure Program Coordinator, Abraham. Lily enjoys collaborating with her coworkers at Colorado UpLift who share in the same vision and mission of building relationships and serving the community. As the school year begins, she’s looking forward to meeting students and creating opportunities for them to grow as individuals. In her free time, Lily likes watching movies, visiting museums, going to concerts, traveling, and spending time with her husband. She and Abraham share the goal of visiting all fifty states and National Parks; they are half way there!
Jeri Romero – Teacher/Mentor
Jeri is currently on maternity leave, enjoying time with her newborn son. She will return to the West Area as a Teacher/Mentor later this fall.
Meet the Team: South Area
David Ubaldo – Site Operations Manager
David got involved with UpLift as a sophomore at North High School. He has now worked as a Teacher/Mentor and Site Operations Manager for over fifteen years! He loves spending time with UpLift students outdoors, getting to know their stories, and listening to them share their dreams and goals. This year he’s excited to meet new students and teach them life skills. He also enjoys watching movies with his family, watching Broncos games with family and friends, working out, and volunteering at his church.
Bernadette Torrez – Teacher/Mentor 2
Bernadette started at UpLift after her husband worked as a Site Coordinator for the West Team. She has now been on the UpLift team herself for thirteen years. Her favorite part of her job is having the opportunity to invest in kids that are a part of her community and seeing generational cycles broken as these students are impacted by the UpLift program and make significant changes to their lives. This year she’s looking forward to connecting with new students and seeing how current UpLift students will make positive changes for themselves and their friends. In her free time, Bernadette enjoys attending rock concerts.
Eric Swank – Teacher/Mentor
Eric has worked for UpLift for six years. He loves having the privilege of leading students to success and greater meaning in their lives. A father of newly born twin boys, Eric is looking forward to sharing his expanded family with his students this year. He also enjoys Ju Jitsu, working out, hiking, camping, and going to movies.
Jacob Valdez – Teacher/Mentor
Jacob has worked for Colorado UpLift for a little over four years. He loves seeing the progress students make in the program, particularly students who have low self-esteem and grow into confident leaders in the classroom. He enjoys building new relationships with students as well as drawing, photography, and graphic design.
Meet the Team: East Area
Cory Wilson – Site Operations Manager
Cory started in the UpLift program in Middle School and stayed connected with the organization until he was hired eight years ago. He loves being able to give back in the same way he was poured into as a student and is looking forward to building new relationships with students this year. When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife.
Yazmin Atmore – Teacher/Mentor
An UpLift student growing up, Yazz has been a Teacher/Mentor for two years. Her favorite part of the job is spending time with students. When she’s not devoting her time to her students, she enjoys catching up on sleep.
Benjamin Klinge – Teacher/Mentor
This will be Ben’s second school year working for Colorado UpLift. His favorite part of being a Teacher/Mentor is making students and other staff feel valued and loved. He’s looking forward to creating new relationships with students this year as well as fostering older ones. In his free time, he enjoys both making and listening to music.
Maria Carr – Teacher/Mentor
Maria is an immigrant from Mexico who’s passionate about standing up for communities and people of color. Maria joined UpLift as a junior in high school and is now entering her second year as a Teacher/Mentor. She enjoys being adventurous with her students and helping them experience new things, such as exploring the Rocky Mountains, as well as supporting them and challenging them to be leaders. This school year she’s excited to grow relationships she’s invested in throughout the past year. In her free time she likes keeping up with politics, playing board games with her husband and friends, listening to podcasts and music, reading, being in nature, and hanging out with her dog, Simba.
Meet the Team: Southeast Area
Victor Nellum – Site Operations Manager/ Director of Parent & Family Engagement
Vic is a former UpLift student, having entered the original UpLift jobs program when the organization first started. He has now officially worked for Colorado UpLift for close to twenty-five years! Vic loves watching the lives of students and their families change for the better and is also looking forward to seeing his team grow as leaders this year. His own life was changed by Colorado UpLift, and he has since had the opportunity to positively impact others through the program, which to Vic is the definition of fulfillment. When he’s not working, Vic enjoys spending time with his family.
Vanessa Maddux – Teacher/Mentor
Vanessa has worked for Colorado UpLift for a year. She heard about the program through a friend and realized the job of Teacher/Mentor sounded like a perfect match! She loves the opportunities the program provides both in and out of the classroom and that she has been able to share in many first experiences for students. In her free time, Vanessa enjoys exercising, watching television, and doing anything creative.
Joi Dandridge – Teacher/Mentor
Joi started working at Colorado UpLift earlier this summer. Already she appreciates UpLift’s holistic approach of engaging staff and students who will go on to impact their households, neighborhoods, industries, and the world. She’s looking forward to seeing the good work already taking place at George Washington High School along with her own former Middle School, Hill. She is encouraged to know there is a program like UpLift impacting the place she grew up. In her free time, Joi enjoys journaling, finding solitude in nature, writing spoken word poetry, and salsa dancing!
Adrian Dalstra – Teacher/Mentor
Adrian has worked for UpLift for the past seven years. It’s a job that truly fits his calling to teach and mentor young students. His favorite part of working for UpLift is seeing kids grow from year to year, navigating through rough times and seeking positive opportunities they haven’t experienced before. This school year, Adrian is looking forward to “birthday celebrations,” a time set aside each month where fellow students and teachers have the opportunity to speak affirmation on kids whose birthday falls in that month. In his free time, Adrian loves spending time with his wife and four-year-old son as well as playing volleyball. He firmly believes that, “If you don’t like something about yourself, change it.”
Frank Trujillo – Teacher/Mentor
Though originally from New Jersey, Frank considers himself a native of the Northside. He first heard about Colorado UpLift through his siblings and joined himself as a senior in high school. He has now worked for the program for over twenty years and is passionate about helping young people realize their full potential. This year he is already looking forward to working with Advanced Leadership students after school. In his free time, Frank enjoys playing volleyball, hiking, competing in Dragon Boat Competitions, working out, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.
Meet the Team: Aurora Area
Lemule Pulley – Site Operations Manager
Lemule heard about Colorado UpLift through a friend and has spent the last sixteen years as an UpLift Teacher/Mentor and Site Operations Manager. He loves the “ah-ha” moments where he and his family are able to make deep connections with students and their families and is looking forward to another year of changing lives with his team. He considers it a privilege to serve alongside so many like-minded and passionate people at UpLift. In his free time he likes to travel, cook, listen to music, and watch movies.
Dominique Bargaineer – Teacher/Mentor
Dominique joined UpLift this past winter, and the job has been a perfect fit! She is passionate about building relationships with urban youth, developing young leaders, and providing students with unforgettable experiences. This school year she is looking forward to running her own classroom with the help of her Aurora team. Dominique is also an avid artist, enjoying painting, dancing, singing, fashion, and more. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and in 2010 founded a step/dance team called R.A.W.F.I.R.E. She also loves spending time with her husband, two children, and dogs.
Yessica Herrera – Teacher/Mentor
Following the program’s expansion to Aurora, Yessica heard about Colorado UpLift while working as a secretary at East Middle School. She has now been a part of the UpLift team for two years and loves intentionally building long-lasting relationships with students. This year, she is especially excited to see students in her Lift Leader Class grow in their leadership skills. She enjoys spending time in nature, painting, reading, and lots of coffee.
Cameron Thompson – Teacher/Mentor
A Denver native, Cam has worked as a Teacher/Mentor for three years, but he was introduced to UpLift as a student in the program. He loves getting to work alongside amazing people to reach youth and is looking forward to playing basketball with his students again after recovering from a major shoulder surgery this year. Through UpLift, Cam was able to share popcorn with Tim Tebow at a Denver Nuggets game in 2011! In his free time, he enjoys skateboarding, reading, fixing things around the house, and watching good debates on YouTube. Cameron is married to his beautiful wife, Stephanie.