Colorado GEAR UP staff bios


Executive Director

CARL EINHAUS Carl Einhaus has served as the Director of Student Affairs at the Colorado Department of Higher Education since 2014. He has worked in student services for over 20 years in various roles, including residence life, student affairs, orientation and admissions. In addition to Colorado, Carl has worked in Michigan and New York. In Colorado, he supervised the admission application and prospect student area at Colorado State University, and served as the Director of Enrollment Services for the Colorado Community College System for over six years. Equity and social justice is the common focus in all of his positions. Carl loves to go hiking and camping. Some of his friends call him a music snob – maybe you will see him attending a Red Rocks concert boring his friends with his obscure music knowledge!

Current Favorite Quotes - "It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure." - Joseph Campbell

Program Director

CHRISTINA INGRUM is a Colorado native who has spent the past 15 years working with students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education. In Denver Public Schools, she served as an adult education counselor, career counselor, high school guidance counselor and postsecondary enrollment counselor for low-income and minority students. She also served as a college transition counselor for first-year college freshmen and helped develop two online college and career readiness courses for high school students. She joined Colorado GEAR UP in 2006 and has been the program director since 2008. Christina has a bachelor’s degree from Metropolitan State University of Denver and a master’s degree in educational counseling from the University of Phoenix.

Quote - "I have been lucky enough to spend my professional life helping students realize their potential and reach their dreams of a college education. I believe with genuine motivation and encouragement, students with any academic background can reach success and prosper."

Director of College Pathways and Communications

MEGHAN CAVE earned a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources from Colorado State University in 2003 and a master’s degree in education, also from CSU, in 2007. In 2008, she earned a Certified College Planning Specialist Certificate from the National Institute of Certified College Planners. Meghan worked for three years in the admissions and financial aid offices at the Colorado School of Mines, and then joined the Department of Higher Education in 2007 with CollegeInvest to provide higher education outreach across the state. She joined Colorado GEAR UP in January 2010.  In her spare time, you can find her hiking, camping, listening to or playing music.

Favorite Quote - "What I spent is gone, what I kept I lost but what I gave away will be mine forever.” – Ethel Percy Adams

Application Developer

ALEXANDER CREIGHTON hails from Dartmouth, Massachusetts and came to Colorado in 2012 to pursue a Master's degree in Art History at CU Boulder. After having worked at a contemporary gallery in downtown Denver, Alex pursued a latent interest in coding. In his spare time he prefers biking, cooking, playing music and attempting to understand critical theory.

Favorite Quote - “Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.” - Albert Camus

Special Projects Coordinator

JAMIE BURCIAGA began working with College in Colorado in November of 2012 as an Outreach and Access Coordinator for the Western Slope Region. She is a Colorado native and graduate of Jefferson High school. She attended Metropolitan State University of Denver and earned a B.A. in Human Development and a minor in Early Childhood Education in May of 2011. Jamie's career in higher education began at MSU Denver in the office of Admissions in 2009 as a work-study for the Excel Outreach Program in Denver Public Schools. Working for MSU Denver for several years, Jamie wore many hats. She assisted with piloting the Excel Pre-Collegiate Program that helps underrepresented and first generation students in Adams County high schools go to a college of their choice. She ended her time at MSU Denver as an International Admissions Counselor counseling students from all over the world. She is often not only an advocate for the student but for their parents as she understands college is a family affair.
When not devoting her time to students, you will find Jamie outdoors. Rock climbing, biking, and hiking 14ers are just a few of her favorites around this beautiful state she calls home.

Fiscal Coordinator
Operating Budget

SUZANNE STARK After a long career as a dental hygienist, I came to the Department of Higher Education over 10 years ago. I’m originally from Washington D.C and am a bit of a gypsy, Colorado being the eighth state I have lived in.

Favorite Quote - "Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end." - Suzanne




ALFONSO CASIAS was born and raised in the San Luis Valley, graduating from high school in Antonito in 2006. He earned his bachelor's degree in psychology and secondary education, with an emphasis on social studies, from Adams State University in 2010. He then earned his master's degree in school counseling from Adams State in 2013. Alfonso says that, throughout high school, undergraduate and graduate school, he worked on a local railroad to earn money to pay for college. For three years, he also coached junior high wrestling and worked with students while completing his student teaching in history in Alamosa. While in college, Alfonso traveled to Europe three times to attend model United Nations conferences. "I have always known I wanted to work with middle school and high school students," Alfonso said, "since every student could use someone to guide.

Favorite quote - "My purpose is not to change your mind, but to educate. It is only through education that we can create dialog and communicate, and it is only through communication that we can truly make change." - Dr. Sut Jhally


KRISTIE HOLLON is a Colorado native who grew up in Colorado Springs. She attended the University of New Mexico through the Colorado-New Mexico Reciprocal Program. She received a bachelor’s of science in anthropology with an emphasis on archaeological studies in 2012. While attending UNM, she worked in Residence Life and Student Housing for three years as a Resident Advisor and Student Hall Director. Kristie then returned to Colorado for graduate school at CU Denver where she received a master’s of arts in anthropology in 2015. Before joining GEAR UP, Kristie served as the coordinator of the Scholars Program as part of the CU Denver Center for Pre-Collegiate and Academic Outreach Programs. She is also active within the archaeological community conducting research in Belize and Mexico. "Not all those who wander are lost." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Quote - "I enjoy working with students and their families to create access to college."

Colorado Springs

ANGELA FICCADENTI is a native of Minnesota who moved to Colorado Springs ten years ago for her first teaching job. She earned a bachelor's degree in Spanish from Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Carolina, and holds two master's degrees - one in curriculum and instruction and the other in educational leadership. Both are from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Angela's started her career in education as a Spanish teacher in Academy District 20, north of Colorado Springs. She later served in various roles at a K-10 charter school in the Falcon 49 School District, including Spanish teacher, director of gifted education and assistant principal. Later, she became a senior consultant for the Office of Postsecondary Readiness at the Colorado Department of Education, working on increasing the graduation rate and decreasing the dropout rate across the state. Before joining GEAR UP, Angela served as director of postsecondary readiness for the Adams 14 School District, serving Commerce City. "The reason I do this work," she said, "is because there is nothing more rewarding than seeing small successes after what seemed like an impossible task."

Quote - "Every day you have the ability to make a difference in a positive way. Student success and the newfound hope they experience fuels my passion as an educator."

Commerce City

AMANDA HILDEBRANDT began working with College in Colorado in May of 2013 as an Outreach and Access Coordinator for the Denver Metro Region. She attended Metropolitan State University of Denver and earned a B.A. in Speech Communications and a minor in Early Childhood Education in May of 1997. Amanda's career in higher education began at CSU with the TRIO programs as an Academic Coordinator for the Educational Opportunity Center. There she was instrumental with helping first generation, underrepresented students with the postsecondary process and teaching them how to self-advocate.

Amanda loves traveling and meeting new people and is always in search of a new adventure. She enjoys hiking, going to concerts and entertaining family and friends.

ANJEL CARBAJAL was born and raised in Denver, graduating from Skyview High School in Adam’s County. He earned his bachelor’s degree in International Studies from the University of Denver with the help of the prestigious Daniels Fund Scholarship. After graduation, he worked at Daniels Fund, providing support for nonprofits throughout Colorado and the Midwestern region. Anjel is passionate about his work at Adams City High School and enjoys working with at risk youth. During his free time, he enjoys hiking, running, and spending time with his family. He recently completed his first half-marathon and is excited to compete again. He looks forward towards seeing what his students accomplish once they graduate from Adams City.

Favorite quote - “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” - Nelson Mandela


LORI TREVINO Lori is a New Mexico native, born and raised in Las Cruces. She graduated from New Mexico State University and worked with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Las Cruces,NM, TRiO/Student Support Services at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM, and TRiO/Educational Talent Search at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, CO before joining the CO Gear Up Team. As a first-generation college student, Lori's passion is motivating and mentoring underrepresented individuals in their quest for higher education and success. In her "free" time, Lori enjoys spending fun and crazy times with her husband, Marc, and their two amazing and talented children Milena and Anton. Their two hilarious dogs, Buster and Charlee, round out their beautiful family and make for fun times!

Favorite Quote - “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”- Wendy Mass, The Candymakers

KELLY BATT was born in Garden City, Kansas and moved to Pueblo in 1991 when her father’s job transferred him to Colorado. She earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary social studies education, with a minor in athletic coaching, from Adams State University. Before GEAR UP, she worked as a substitute teacher, basketball and volleyball coach, and was Pueblo’s summer recreation program director. She also worked as a league director for youth sports for the Pueblo West Recreation Department.

Favorite quote - "Not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or an equal motivation, but children have the equal right to develop their talent, their ability and their motivation." – John F. Kennedy

Ta'qwasha Robertsis a Denver native who recently graduated from Colorado State University-Pueblo. Though she a bachelor’s in Sociology, she fell in love with education while interning for the Gear UP program at Rangeview High School. Since TaQwasha is a Gear Up student herself working with Gear Up students allowed her to be influential to others as her prior advisors had been. TaQwasha is also a part of the Gear Up Alumni Leadership Academy. In June of 2015, she traveled to Washington D.C. to promote the importance of Gear Up to politicians and educators.

Favorite quote - "To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." – Joseph Chilton Pearce

Fort Morgan

KRISTEN MILLER is a Colorado native who grew up in Fort Morgan. She attended Waldorf College on a volleyball scholarship where she graduated with her Bachelor's Degree in Communications. Kristen earned her Master's Degree in Education Administration from Lindenwood University and has spent the last six years in education. Before joining GEAR UP, Kristen spent three years in College admissions and recruitment including coaching Men's and Women's volleyball. She spent the last three years as a secondary teacher in Fort Morgan.

Favorite quote - "Even if you're on the right track you'll get run over if you just sit there." Will Rogers

ERIKA SERRANO was born in El Paso, Texas. A couple years after, her family moved to Fort Morgan Colorado where Erika graduated from the Fort Morgan High School with the respected Daniels Fund Scholarship. Being the first in her family to attend college, Erika decided to pursue her bachelor degree close to home. She majored in Secondary Education with an endorsement in Spanish and Teaching English as a Second Language at the University of Northern Colorado. Shortly after graduation Erika was offered a teaching position at Abner Baker Central School in Fort Morgan, Colorado. She taught the language of English to newcomers for three years before joining the GEAR-UP Team. Currently Erika is working on her Master of Higher Education Administration and Leadership at Adams State University. Erika’s passion is to help students succeed, and offer the necessary tools for them to get there.

Favorite quote - "Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi


ELIAS QUINONEZ has lived in Greeley, Colorado for over 25 years and graduated from Greeley West High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Communication from the University of Northern Colorado and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership with emphasis in Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership from the University of Northern Colorado. Elias worked 3 years as an Admission Counselor recruiting in Hawaii, California, Arizona, and New Mexico and 1 year as a Hall Director for UNC. He has a passion and drive to work with students to promote education and develop leaders of tomorrow!

Favorite quote - “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." -Albert Einstein

La Jara

DARREN ROMERO was born and raised in the San Luis Valley, graduating from Alamosa High School in 2013. From eighth grade until graduating high school, Darren participated in the Colorado GEAR UP program and when in college, he became a Colorado Challenge student. In 2017 he was selected as Student of the Year at Adams State University for Colorado Challenge. He earned his bachelor's degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing from Adams State University in December of 2016. While in high school and college, Darren worked as a tutor for Colorado GEAR UP Students. During his last semester of college, Darren began working as a Middle School Math Teacher in San Luis, CO. “I have always had the desire help others who may have not had the resources that they needed to achieve their goals.”

Favorite quote - “The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and willingness to work hard for them.” – Michelle Obama

La Junta

KATIE CARROLL was born and raised in Boone, Colorado and graduated from Pueblo County High School.  She received her bachelor’s degree in Speech Communications with a minor in Reading from the University of Southern Colorado and master’s degree in Language, Literacy, and Culture from Adam’s State University.   Katie taught at Swink Elementary for the past 16 years.  Her love of teaching reading encouraged her students to explore and find their own love of reading.   She married her best friend 17 years ago and they have two children.  Her time is mostly spend following her kids around to rodeo arenas in many states.  Through her new career path with Gear Up, Katie has enjoyed every aspect of working with students to prepare them for their life after high school. 

Favorite quote - "A book is a dream you hold in your hands when you're wide awake." — Neil Gaiman

MOLLY BORTON was born and raised in La Junta. After college, she taught English for a year in Chile - when the year in South America was up, she knew she wanted to return to the community "that had given me so much support and encouragement while growing up," she said. "Sometimes there's just no place like home!" Molly earned her bachelor's degree in secondary education, with an emphasis in theater arts, from the University of Northern Colorado. She was recently accepted to Adams State University's graduate program in school counseling and will begin work on her master's degree this fall. Molly has spent the last three years teaching language arts in upper elementary and middle school grades in La Junta and says she's excited to help the students she got to know as fifth-graders when they enter the GEAR UP program as "big, bad, super-cool eighth-graders!" Through her work with GEAR UP, Molly said she hopes to give students the confidence to follow their dreams.

Favorite quote - "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." - Henry David Thoreau

SHAUNNA SCHROCK was born & raised in La Junta, Colorado and graduated from Swink High School. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Adams State College. She has taught 2nd, 3rd & 4th grade for the past 12 years. She has been married for 18 years and we have 3 amazing, busy children. Her oldest son is a junior in high school, her middle son is in 8th grade & my daughter is in 4th grade. All of her free time is spent following them in their many activities.


CRAIG PENA is a Denver native and Denver Public Schools graduate. He received his bachelor's in social work from Colorado State University and his master's degree, also in social work, from Columbia University in New York City. Craig has extensive clinical experience working with homeless and formerly homeless chronic mentally ill people, veterans and children and adolescents in psychiatric inpatient settings. While in New York, he served as the deputy director of the office that oversaw all of the support services for homeless and formerly homeless mentally ill people in New York City. Upon returning to Denver, he worked briefly as an administrator in Denver Public Schools and was manager of the social services division of Servicios de La Raza. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Denver Inner City Parish. For the past 15 years, Craig also has founded and operated several apparel companies in Denver. He and his wife have two sons, one serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and the other a senior at a Denver high school.

Favorite quote - "It is not death or dying which is tragic, but rather to have existed without fully participating in life is the deepest personal tragedy." - Edward Abbey

DUANE AKERFELDS was born and raised in Colorado, graduating from Columbine High School in Jefferson County. He enrolled in Rangeley Junior College to play baseball for a year, then transferred to Mesa State University to play baseball for another two years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in human performance and secondary education from Mesa State. After graduation, Duane became involved in real estate, owning several mortgage companies. He continued coaching high school baseball and said he “always wanted to get back to working with high school students. I am the type of person who enjoys working with kids.” He said he jumped at the chance to join GEAR UP six years ago because it gives him the chance to work at the high school level.

Favorite quote - "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle

DESARIE WHEELER was born in Denver and raised in Commerce City, CO where she graduated from Adams City High School. She went to Colorado State University and received her bachelor’s degree in Communications with a minor in Ethnic Studies. After college, she worked for Educational Talent Search in the Greeley school district with The Greeley Dream Team where she was able to provide mentoring support for students to continue their education after high school. She knew from high school that she wanted to work with low-income and first generation students because her background was very similar and she was the first in her family to go to and graduate college. She wants to be able to teach students that they are in control of their future and have the power to change the world; all they have to do is to believe in themselves.

Favorite quote - “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” -Nelson Mandela


KATIE PHILPY has been Lamar’s GEAR UP advisor since 2000. She earned two associate’s degrees, from St. Johns River Community College and from Colby Community College, before returning to school more than a decade later to earn her bachelor’s degree from Regis University in Denver. Her degree emphasis was teacher education at the middle school level. Katie has more than 20 years of experience as a small business owner and worked as a teacher and substitute teacher for Kiowa County schools before joining GEAR UP. She also has volunteered for Lamar Community College and the Daniels Fund. Her peers in Lamar Public Schools honored her with the ExCell Award for her service to students in the district.

Quote - "The things I enjoy most about my job are the direct teaching that I do with students through the GEAR UP curriculum, assisting student with college access when they are seniors, and encouraging students to dream bigger than they ever thought possible."

JANELL MARTIN was born and raised in Colorado. She received her bachelor's degree in marketing and merchandising from Colorado State University in Fort Collins. After 20 years of retail management experience, she earned her secondary teaching and vocational license. Janell has worked at Lamar High School for the past nine years, teaching marketing, careers and a class called Senior Seminar. She also was sponsor of the school's DECA club. Janell has a son in high school and a daughter who graduated from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs with the help of a GEAR UP scholarship. She is excited about joining GEAR UP to help students explore careers, get ready for life after high school and be successful in the future.

Favorite Quote - "The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary."


MONICA MOORE is a native of Pueblo who earned both her bachelor’s degree in administration and her MBA from Colorado State University-Pueblo. She has more than 25 years of managerial experience and 15 years in postsecondary education. Monica has served as business manager of Pueblo’s Rosemont Museum and as adjunct instructor and academic advisor at Pueblo Community College. She also was associate director of Colorado GEAR UP and director of Gateway to College for Pueblo Community College. She then came back to GEAR UP to work with middle and high school students in Pueblo. Monica is active in several community organizations, including Pueblo Juneteenth and the Pueblo City Schools Accountability Committee. She and her husband Van have three children.

Favorite quote - "For these are all our children, we will all profit by or pay for what they become." - James Baldwin

TANYA GREGORY was born and raised in Colorado and has spent the last 20 years working in the field of education. She received her bachelor's degree in English from Colorado State University-Pueblo and her master's degree from Adam's State University in English Language Learners. As a teacher, she is highly qualified in the areas of English, special education, media specialist and English language learners. As a participant in the National Institute of School Leadership, she also recently earned her principal licensure. Tanya worked as a GEAR Up advisor during the first grant and spent the last five years working at a middle school in Pueblo City Schools as a media specialist, instructional coach and AVID coordinator. She is excited to return to GEAR Up and continue helping students recognize their potential.

Favorite quote - "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." -Thomas Edison