Staff bios and photos are under construction and will be fully updated soon! For an updated roster of staff across the network, click here.


JESSICA BRIDE, Director of Data & Assessment

WHITNEY BRIDE, Chief Operating Officer

DAVID XIAO CHENG, Business Manager

JULIAN CONEJO, IT Coordinator

JOSH DEVON, Chief Financial Officer

JEFF ESTES, Director of Information Technology

JONATHAN FAST, IT Coordinator

CHRIS GIBBONS, Chief Executive Officer

KATIE HOLZ-RUSSELL, Chief Curriculum Officer

CAMILLE HOWELLS, Senior Director of Development

MICHAEL JENNINGS, Director of College Services

RACHEL KSENYAK, Senior Director of Human Capital

ALICIA LUCERO, Enrollment Manager

JOHANNA PARKHURST, Middle School Director of Humanities

BRANDI PHILLIPS, Director of Teacher Development

SARAH SHOREY, IT Coordinator

JOSHUA SMITH, Chief Schools Officer

SARA SPANIER, Associate Campaign Director

RAMIRO VACA, Director of Network Operations

TINA WATSON, IT Coordinator

CASSANDRA YOUNG, Network Administrator

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JESSICA BRIDE, Director of Data & Assessment

Ms. Bride is from the suburbs of Detroit, MI. She earned a B.S.E in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan, expanding her knowledge and perspectives on the world. Ms. Bride feels compelled to positively impact education inequalities and inspire students to strive for college. In addition to her passions in math and science, Ms. Bride enjoys hiking, spending time with her family, and cheering for the Michigan Wolverines. jbride@striveprep.org.
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WHITNEY BRIDE, Chief Operating Officer

Whitney Bride is an alumna of Teach for America, a national corps of demonstrated leaders committed to affecting change in low-income communities by teaching in urban and rural public schools. In addition to teaching 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades, Mrs. Bride served as a corps member liaison to the Teach for America Regional Board of Directors in Houston, Texas. She has spent the past nine years working primarily with Latino families and communicates proficiently in Spanish. She holds a B.S. in Human & Organizational Development with an emphasis on Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness from Vanderbilt University, wbride@striveprep.org.
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DAVID XIAO CHENG, Business Manager

David graduated from the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. In January 2006, David came to United States and then graduated with MBA in Accounting from the University of North Dakota. Prior to joining STRIVE, David relocated to Denver and worked for a global accounting firm since 2009. David is a certified public accountant. David is proud to be a member of STRIVE, and work with the dedicated and hard-working staff and students of the STRIVE Prep community, dxiao@striveprep.org.
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JULIAN CONEJO, IT Coordinator

Julian Conejo is from Del Norte, Colorado. He graduated from Adams State College with a Bachelors in Business Administration/MIS. Prior to joining the STRIVE Prep team, for five years he served the Del Norte School District as the district’s IT Coordinator, jconejo@striveprep.org.
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JOSH DEVON, Chief Financial Officer

Josh graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in political science and from the Stern School of Business at New York University with an MBA in finance. Josh has spent his career working for a number of start-up to large organizations in a variety financial capacities. Prior to becoming STRIVE Prep’s Chief Financial Officer, he served as its Controller. For more information see his LinkedIn profile.
jdevon@striveprep.org.
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JEFF ESTES, Director of Information Technology

Jeff graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio with a B.A. in English. After graduation, Jeff began a career in Information Technology and moved to Colorado. During his career, Jeff has performed a variety of technical, sales and management roles including running an IT consulting company focused on K-12 technology in Colorado. He most recently worked for a national IT Managed Service Provider having managed their Help Desk and Network Operation Center and served as a Regional Vice President. Jeff enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with his wife and boys in the Colorado outdoors, and is very excited to be working with the dedicated staff and students of STRIVE Prep, jestes@striveprep.org.
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JONATHAN FAST, IT Coordinator

Jonathan Fast, one of the few Denver natives you’ll meet, graduated with a B.A. degree in Applied Computing from the University of Denver. He landed an IT position at an international youth ministry, a few years after graduation, where he caught the travel-bug travelling all over the US and abroad spending two weeks in Denmark, a month in South Africa and a week on the Amazon in Brazil. His most recent experience was as Technical Support Analyst at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. He is also heavily involved with inner-city service and outreach through his church in Denver, jfast@striveprep.org.
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CHRIS GIBBONS, Chief Executive Officer

Prior to founding STRIVE Prep in 2005, Chris Gibbons completed the Building Excellent Schools Fellowship, a nationally-recognized training program for charter school founders. He also served as the director of Denver Summerbridge, a non-profit education program (now part of the Breakthrough Collaborative), and was a teacher both at Summerbridge and City on a Hill Charter School in Boston. Fluent in Spanish, he holds a B.S. in Biology from Yale University and a M.Ed. from Regis University, cgibbons@striveprep.org.
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Central Katie Holz-Russell
KATIE HOLZ-RUSSELL, Chief Curriculum Officer

Katie Holz-Russell most recently served as the Principal of STRIVE Prep’s Federal Campus. Prior to joining the STRIVE Prep Community, she served as the Education Director for Breakthrough Kent Denver and as a member of the Upper School Faculty at Kent Denver School.  She is a Teach for America Alum. Throughout her seven-year teaching career, she taught in public, charter, and private school environments before moving into full time administration.  Ms. Holz-Russell graduated with Honors from Knox College with a B.A. in English Literature and holds a Master of Education degree from Regis University, kholzrussell@striveprep.org.
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CAMILLE HOWELLS, Senior Director of Development

Camille Howells is responsible for fundraising for STRIVE Preparatory Schools. Her commitment to STRIVE Prep’s mission brought her to the growing organization in March 2009. Previously, she coordinated student volunteer and civic engagement programs at Colorado State University as well as grant-making and community development initiatives throughout Colorado as part of the El Pomar Foundation Fellowship program. Camille is an AmeriCorps alumna, holds a Bachelors degree from John Brown University, and a Masters in Public Administration from the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver. She enjoys time with family and friends, sprint triathlons, skiing, TED talks, and live music, chowells@striveprep.org.
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RACHEL KSENYAK, Senior Director of Human Capital

Rachel Ksenyak brings seven years of charter and new school experience to the STRIVE Prep team. Most recently, she worked as a freelance educational management consultant, as well as a volunteer teacher at el Centro de Educación Creativa in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Previously, Rachel worked for the Chicago Public Schools Office of New Schools, where she managed the recruitment and authorization of new charter, turnaround, and other autonomous schools under Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Renaissance 2010 initiative. Rachel also served as the Director of Authorizer Development for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, where she provided strategic direction to public school districts and state departments across the country. Rachel holds a Master’s degree in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and a B.F.A. from Ohio University, rksenyak@striveprep.org.
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ALICIA LUCERO, Enrollment Manager

Alicia Lucero ensures that every 5th grader and their families are informed of the STRIVE Prep school that serves their neighborhood. She believes fully in STRIVE Prep’s mission and core beliefs, and loves getting students and families excited to STRIVE for college!  Finishing her B.S. in Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado Denver, Ms. Lucero started at STRIVE Prep as a summer Math instructor, reviewing Procedures and Problem Solving with some of its founding 6th grade class members. She serves on the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineer’s Regional Board as a Pre-Collegiate Rep, is a proud member of TRIO (a federal program that serves first generation students), and is somehow a member of the Intl. Golden Key Honour Society too. In her free time, Ms. Lucero loves hanging out with her family and friends-like-family in her West Denver community, alucero@striveprep.org.
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JOHANNA PARKHURST, Middle School Director of Humanities

Johanna Parkhurst grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont. She holds a B.A. in English from Albertus Magnus College, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude, and a M.A. in English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Now in her 10th year in the field of education, Johanna has taught a variety of different subjects in a variety of different schools around the country. She feels extremely lucky to have found a home working with the amazing students, teachers, and families that make up the STRIVE Prep community. She loves reading, writing, watching football, and almost anything that can be done outdoors in the Colorado sunshine, jparkhurst@striveprep.org.
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BRANDI PHILLIPS, Director of Teacher Development

Brandi completed her BA in Elementary Education at Saginaw Valley State University in 2005, where she also was a NCAA college basketball player. She has 9 years of urban-education teaching experience, having taught in Northern Virginia, Chicago and Denver. Continuing to follow her passion of both education and athletics, Brandi earned both a MA in Sports Management in 2008 as well as a MA in Educational Leadership in 2013. She is dedicated to closing the achievement gap and positively impacting urban education. In addition to education and athletics, Brandi enjoys spending time with her family and hiking/running in the mountains, bphillips@striveprep.org.
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SARAH SHOREY, IT Coordinator

Sarah is a 3rd generation native Coloradoan and 4th generation Colorado educator. Sarah is a Wheat Ridge High School graduate and attended the University of Denver in engineering and real estate, before joining a Fortune 1000 Title company. Beginning her career in the education community Sarah joined Centennial BOCES technology team working with both rural and suburban school districts, and spent the last 5 years serving education administrators at the Colorado Association of School Executives. When she is not at school she enjoys sporting events, concerts, agility competitions with her dogs and spending time with her family, sshorey@striveprep.org.
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JOSHUA SMITH, Chief Schools Officer

Mr. Smith is the Chief Schools Officer for STRIVE Prep, overseeing six of the network’s schools. Prior, he was the founding Principal of STRIVE Prep’s Harvey Park Campus (now Westwood). Mr. Smith was a Teach for America corps member in the Rio Grande Valley from 2001 to 2004, where he was recognized as Campus Teacher of the Year (2003-2004) and Wal-Mart Community Teacher of the Year (2003-2004). Prior to re-locating to Colorado, Mr. Smith spent several years conducting research and policy advocacy in Washington, DC, with think-tanks such as Third Way, the Stimson Center, and the Woodrow Wilson Center, and was selected as a Presidential Management Fellow in 2006. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a Master’s degree from Georgetown University. He is intensely proud of the extraordinarily dedicated and hard-working students, teachers, and families of the STRIVE Prep community, jsmith@striveprep.org.
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SARA SPANIER, Associate Campaign Director

A graduate of University of Wisconsin – La Crosse (B.S. 2002) and of St. Catherine University (Masters of Arts, Holistic Health Studies, 2010), Sara formerly spent two years with the Minnesota Department of Health where she focused on policy issues, and eight years leading fundraising for College Summit, an organization focused on building the college-going culture of high schools. While there she successfully increased fundraising by 250% for the Colorado region and focused on donor cultivation and stewardship, strategic development plans, and high quality  profile-raising events. Sara is committed to STRIVE Prep because of the passionate and committed students, staff, parents, and community leaders. She is responsible for fundraising and cultivating new relationships for the STRIVE Prep network. In her free time, Sara enjoys running, yoga, traveling, cooking, laughing, and being outside, sspanier@striveprep.org.
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RAMIRO VACA, Director of Network Operations

Ramiro Vaca is from Quito, Ecuador. He has been living in Denver for three years and loves the city and the people who live here. He went to college in Quito, and finished his studies in Agricultural Engineering in 2002 at the Army Polytechnic Institute. In 2005, he had the opportunity to join a new educational project in his hometown and since then he has been working in the administrative area of schools. He loves being part of the STRIVE Prep team, for he believes 100% in STRIVE Prep’s vision for the students of Denver,  rvaca@striveprep.org.
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TINA WATSON, IT Coordinator

Tina Watson brings a broad range of skills and experience to the team and hopes to support day-to-day operations as well as play a lead role in developing processes, policies, and systems. Prior to working for Strive Prep, Tina spent 7 years managing the Technology department at Hope Online Learning Academy where she was a leader role in implementing new technologies in addition to supporting daily operations. Ms. Watson received a B.S. in Business Management with specializations in Information Technology Management and Public & Non-Profit Management from Colorado State University, twatson@striveprep.org.
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CASSANDRA YOUNG, Network Administrator

Cassandra Young earned a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Ethnic Studies from the University of Colorado at Denver in 2009. She moved from her hometown of Kaibeto, Arizona in 1995 to pursue a college degree. Prior to STRIVE Prep, she worked in the Development Office at Kent Denver School and Denver Summerbridge, cyoung@striveprep.org.
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