Our Leadership

“College preparation is a means to an end where scholars are equipped to earn a four-year college degree, come back to their community and lead and transform their own neighborhood in the ways that they imagine and the ways that they seek and believe are possible.”

Chris Gibbons, STRIVE Prep Founder & CEO

Founder & CEO

Chris Gibbons

Chris Gibbons is the founder and CEO of STRIVE Preparatory Schools, a network of excellent public charter schools transforming Denver by closing historic achievement gaps and preparing students who may be currently limited by previous educational experience or economic circumstances for college success.  Under Chris’ leadership, a STRIVE Prep school ranked 1st among all DPS middle schools for academic growth from 2006 through 2013.  In an effort to expand this success and student access, and backed by the Charter School Growth Fund and major Denver-area funders, Chris and the STRIVE Prep community have embarked on an impactful expansion plan to grow from 11 schools serving 3,700 students to 17 schools serving 7,500 K-12 students.

Prior to founding STRIVE Prep in 2006, Chris taught students in another charter school network and later directed Denver Summerbridge (now a part of the Breakthrough Collaborative).  Chris is a graduate of The Broad Academy and the Building Excellent Schools Fellowship and was a 2015 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow. He served as the Co-Chair of the Denver Public Schools Collaborative Council and is fluent in Spanish.  He holds a B.S. in Biology from Yale University and a M.Ed. from Regis University.  Chris is happily married to Audra Philippon, also a charter school founder, and they are proudly raising two daughters.   



Executive Leadership

All of us at STRIVE Preparatory Schools wake up excited and honored to make a positive impact for the families in our community. We may not be in front of the SMART board every class period, but every day we’re supporting a talented team of teachers and leaders help our scholars STRIVE for college. Learn more about who we are at the STRIVE Preparatory Schools Central Office

Gregory Hatcher
Chief External Affairs Officer


Josh Devon
Chief Financial and Operations Officer

Alesha Arscott
Chief Talent Officer


Kristin Levine
Chief Academic Officer

Susan Morris
Managing Director of Schools

Betsy Peterson
Chief Schools Officer

School Leaders

We know that strong leaders develop excellent teachers, who then open a world of opportunity for our scholars. That’s why we seek and develop top-level leaders in education to motivate and inspire growth within our school communities. Learn more about each of our school leaders.

Far Northeast Schools


Elisha Roberts

Principal, STRIVE Prep – RISE


Jessica Savage

Principal, STRIVE Prep – Green Valley Ranch


Lyndsay Lau

Principal, STRIVE Prep – Montbello

Northwest Schools


Ben Lewis
Principal, STRIVE Prep – Excel

Tim Hall
Principal, STRIVE Prep – Lake


Mika Krause
Principal, STRIVE Prep – Sunnyside

Southwest Schools

Jack Holmes
Principal, STRIVE Prep – SMART


Rebecca Riopelle
Principal, STRIVE Prep – Federal

Kathy Esparza
Principal, STRIVE Prep – Westwood


Katie Ryan
Principal, STRIVE Prep – Kepner

Alexa Mason
Principal, STRIVE Prep – Ruby Hill

Board of Trustees

The STRIVE Prep Board of Trustees is a group of committed community leaders who support the vision of clearing a path for all families to have access to a high-quality public education in their neighborhood.  Made up of parents, community, business, and foundation leaders, the board helps us maintain accountability to scholars, families and the community by holding public meetings every month to review school progress. Board members also regularly receive feedback from each school’s Family Council, which meets monthly to share parent feedback, organize volunteer efforts, coordinate special events and advise the Board of Trustees. Family Council is comprised of at least seven official members: The principal or a principal designee, at least one teacher who provides instruction at the school, at least four parents or legal guardians of students enrolled in the school, and a community member who does not have children in and is not employed by the school.

Board meeting schedules, agendas and minutes can be found on the Accountability page. To attend a meeting or participate in a conference call, please email Liz Bola, STRIVE Prep Programs Manager, at lbola@striveprep.org.  If you have other questions, please email Board Chair, Amber Valdez at amber@valdezpa.com


Board of Trustees

Helem Aranguti, Southwest Parent Council Representative
Helem is a parent of STRIVE Prep students at STRIVE Prep – Federal, STRIVE Prep – Ruby Hill, and STRIVE Prep – SMART. She attends over ten school events a year and volunteers regularly with both schools. She is an advocate for her children, schools, and STRIVE Prep in the STRIVE Together program. She is employed by the Food Bank of the Rockies.

Brooke Brown, Carson Foundation

Brooke is the Executive Director of the Carson Foundation, a family foundation focused on education granting in the Denver area. Brooke began her career in education at Thayer Academy, in Braintree, MA, where she was a teacher, coach and Dean for over 6 years. She also taught at East High School in Denver (2004-05), and co-founded and served as Associate Director of Project VOYCE (Voices of Youth Changing Education, 2005-07). Brooke served as the board chair at Urban Peak (2007-08) and is the current board chair at the Denver Public Schools Foundation. She holds a B.A. in Spanish and political science from Boston College, a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the School Leadership Program, and a PhD. in Educational Leadership and Innovation from the University of Colorado Denver.

Moira Cullen, The Capstone Group
As a partner at The Capstone Group, a public affairs firm, Moira advocates for education reform, higher education issues, non-profit advocacy, mental health and human services, and children’s policy issues at the Colorado State Capitol. She also spent four years at the Colorado Children’s Campaign as the Director of Public Affairs, where she lobbied on child health, early childhood education, and education reform legislation. Moira moved to Colorado after graduating from the University of Virginia. She earned her Master of Social Work at Colorado State University and worked with at-risk youth, leading to a decision to enter the government relations field in order to impact change at a statewide level.

Reed Dixon, Rye Ridge Resources
Reed has owned and managed his own business in the oil and natural gas industry since 2015. Previously, he had differing financial and business development roles in the manufacturing, tech, and energy sectors. He graduated from the University of Denver with a finance degree and business ethics/legal studies minor. He grew up in Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Denver with his wife and two daughters.

Ulysses Estrada, IBM
Ulysses is a consultant for IBM in Washington DC. Prior, Ulysses was an Associate at the Middlesex Coalition for Children, where he created data reports used to drive policy at the local and statewide level. In previous years, Ulysses served a three-year term on the Denver Mayor’s Youth Commission and was a Denver Youth Representative at the National League of Cities Conference. Ulysses graduated from Wesleyan University with a Bachelor of Arts in both Economics and Government, and is also a member of STRIVE Prep’s founding class.

Dietz Fry, Endeavour Capital, Treasurer

Dietz is a Principal at Endeavour Capital, a firm that he joined in 2004 and opened a Denver office for in 2009. Previously, Dietz worked at Green Manning and Bunch, attended the United State Air Force Academy and graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in Biochemistry. He lives in Denver with his wife and sons.
Leticia Gonzalez, Far Northeast Parent Representative
Leticia Gonzalez-Ibarra is an immigrant born in Mexico who moved to Colorado as a teenager. She is the proud parent of a STRIVE Prep – RISE tenth grader. Leticia is a graduate of Regis University where she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with emphasis in Healthcare Administration. She was recently an appointee for Mayor Hancock’s administration; she is now the Director of Administration at the CEO’s office at Denver Health & Hospital Authority. Leticia is involved in her community and attends regular neighborhood meetings, community gatherings, social justice rallies and parades that emphasize civic responsibility. Leticia is married (Alberto) and has three children Adriana (16), Ephraim and Antonio (both 23).

Peter C. Groff, MCG2 Consulting, LLC
Peter C. Groff is the Principal and Chief Strategist at MCG2 Consulting, LLC and is a noted public policy innovator, national policy and political analyst, and leadership lecturer. Groff has held senior level positions at all three levels of government and has more than 25 years of public service impacting education, criminal justice, and health care. He is currently serving as a policy and political consultant to numerous individuals and entities across the country. Before starting his consulting firm, Groff served as the first ever Visiting Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. During both of President Obama’s terms, Mr. Groff served as Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education. President Obama also appointed Groff to the White House Commission on U.S. Presidential Scholars. Groff served as the 47th President of the Colorado State Senate, where he was the first African American in Colorado to ascend to the post and only the third African American in the nation’s history to hold the gavel as State Senate President.

Chris Henderson, Colorado Impact Fund, Vice-Chair

Currently serving as a Senior Advisor to the Colorado Impact Fund, Chris has a background that includes leadership roles as financial professional and a public and private sector leader. Specifically, he spent the first half of his career investing in growing businesses at Vestar Capital Partners, where he was a managing director. Since leaving Vestar in 2005, Chris has held a series of strategic and operational leadership roles, including Chief Operating Officer of the City of Denver under Mayor John Hickenlooper, Senior Advisor to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Chief Operating Officer of ASI Government, a professional services firm, and, most recently, Chief Executive Officer of the Universal Service Administrative Company, a non-profit that manages the $10 billion universal service program on behalf of the Federal Communications Commission. Chris holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Colorado, Boulder and an M.B.A. from Columbia University. He lives in Denver with his wife and two daughters.

Kristi Pollard, Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation 
Kristi Pollard is the President and CEO of the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation, a non-profit consortium of business, community, and governmental leaders striving to create greater economic vitality in Jefferson County, Colorado. Jefferson County EDC is the oldest economic development organization in Colorado and provides a one-stop shop for relocating and expanding businesses. Prior to her time with the Jefferson County EDC, Kristi served as the Executive Director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, the official economic development organization for Mesa County, Colorado. Kristi has vast experience working in the public, private and non-profit sectors having been the principal owner of P², LLC, a local consulting firm, the CEO of the Colorado Mesa University Foundation, Stakeholder Engagement Specialist for Chevron and the Area Director for U.S. Senator Wayne Allard.

As a professional who grew up in Colorado, Kristi understands the importance of her word and believes that it is one of the most valuable things in her possession. She also knows that collaboration and communication are the keys to success and strives to create a team atmosphere wherever she goes.

Kristi currently serves on the board of the Economic Development Corporation of Colorado and was appointed by Governor John Hickenlooper to the Colorado Charter School Institute, the statewide public charter school authorizer for the State of Colorado. Kristi and her husband Tim are the parents of three energetic boys who are their life’s passion. She enjoys trail running, hiking, skiing and boating in her free time.

Crystal Rountree, Teach For America

Crystal Rountree is the Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives & Partnerships for Teach For America. She oversees the organization’s engagement and partnerships through nine strategic identity- and instructional-based initiatives. Prior to this role, she was the founding executive director of Teach For America Jacksonville, where she led more than 350 local staff members, corps members, and alumni in the charge of ensuring that one day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education. Upon receiving her Bachelor of Arts from Clark Atlanta University, Crystal taught first grade as a 2003 Metro Atlanta corps member where she was the regional finalist for the Sue Lehman Excellence in Teaching Award. Her story with her students has been featured in two books, Teaching As Leadership by Steven Farr, and Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. Crystal worked at the Houston & Atlanta institutes as an operations director, on the Atlanta regional staff as the director of special projects, and later served as a senior recruitment director for Florida and Georgia. She has served on several community boards and is a recipient of the 2012 Jacksonville Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 and Women of Influence Awards.

Kayla Tibbals, Nexus Policy Group, Secretary
Kayla Tibbals is a native of Colorado with experience in both political campaigns and state advocacy at the Capitol. Kayla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Affairs and Russian from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Kayla, has lobbied for nearly a decade at the State capitol. As a Partner at Nexus Policy Group, Kayla uses her extensive experience in issues impacting education, healthcare policy, non-profits, and energy to benefit her clients. She has deep knowledge of the business issues and the business environment at the capitol and is well connected with legislators of both parties. Before joining Nexus Policy Group in 2012, she previously held the position as lead lobbyist for the education advocacy organization, Stand for Children Colorado. Notably, while at Nexus, during the 2014 legislative session, Kayla successfully lobbied on behalf of the Colorado League of Charter Schools for the largest increase in capital funding for public charter schools ever. Kayla has extensive experience with educating and empowering networks and memberships to take action at the state and local level.

Keith Trammell, WilmerHale
A partner at WilmerHale, Keith concentrates in the areas of securities and corporate law, as well as international transactions. Keith’s practice involves a full range of corporate transactions. He represents buyers and sellers, both private and public, in acquisitions, mergers, reorganizations, and sales of stock and assets. Keith also represents clients in connection with public and private securities offerings, as well as entrepreneurs in the formation of various businesses. He has experience assisting public companies with respect to corporate governance and compliance matters, as well as experience representing companies with respect to business process outsourcing and managed service agreements.

Amber Valdez, Valdez Public Affairs, LLC, Chair

Amber is a Colorado native and partner at Valdez Public Affairs, LLC, a governmental consulting firm. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Colorado State University and holds a Master of Public Administration from University of Colorado Denver. Amber is a voting member of the National Western Stock Show and was a finalist for the Hispanic Chamber of Metro Denver’s Young Professional of the Year award. She lives in Denver with her Yorkie Poo, Dexter.