Meet the Team

  • Emily Bustos
    Emily Bustos, Executive Director

    Emily joined Denver’s Early Childhood Council as Director in 2008. Previously she was Deputy Site Coordinator for Making Connections-Denver, a place-based community change initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation with a focus on family economic success, school readiness and resident leadership development in struggling communities.


    A Denver native, Emily has worked closely with the community to build capacity and facilitate systems change efforts in the nonprofit sector as well as in her work as a Community Development Specialist with the City and County of Denver. She has a B.A. in Urban Design and Architecture from New York University, and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) degree, with a concentration in Community Economic Development, from the University of Colorado at Denver.

    Emily provides leadership for the development and timely delivery of initiatives in support of the Council’s mission and assures the quality delivery of programs.

  • Sharon Keiser
    Sharon Keiser, Director of Finance & Operations

    After working as a nonprofit accounting consultant with Keep It Smart & Simple Business Solutions (KISS), Sharon joined Denver’s Early Childhood Council as the Director of Finance & Operations in 2012. In her role as Director of Operations at KISS, she managed all of her nonprofit clients’ fiscal needs. Prior to KISS, she was with the Colorado Nonprofit Association in various capacities for five years, most recently as the Program Resources and Accounting Specialist supporting internal accounting functions and developing resources for nonprofits such as the second edition of Principles & Practices for Nonprofit Excellence in Colorado.


    She holds a Masters of Professional Accountancy, and strives to incorporate nonprofit accounting best practices into daily operations.

    Sharon is responsible for the financial and operational functions that support the work of the Council.

  • Nicole Riehl
    Nicole Riehl, Director of Early Learning Strategy

    A Colorado native, Nicole began working for Denver’s Early Childhood Council in 2011 and is responsible for providing leadership and oversight for early learning grant programs, fund development, and comprehensive systems building work of the Council. This includes working in four domains of early childhood – early learning, child health, early childhood mental health and family support and ensuring alignment with the Council’s strategic plan.


    Prior to working for the Council, Nicole was an early childhood teacher within Reggio Emilia inspired and High/Scope Programs, and also held various roles with Qualistar Colorado, including Quality Rating Specialist, Denver Preschool Program Outreach Specialist and Denver Preschool Program Coordinator. Nicole has a B.S. in Business Administration, with an emphasis in Business Management and Marketing.

  • Jenna Bannon
    Jenna Bannon, Director of Health & Well-Being

    Jenna leads the health and well-being work of Denver’s Early Childhood Council and is the project director of LAUNCH Together, a 4-year initiative focused on early childhood mental health systems building work in Southwest Denver. She has national, state and local experience in public policy, cross-sector collaboration and project management. She worked on child policy issues for Governor Roy Romer, and has also worked with the Grantmakers for Education and the National Conference of State Legislatures. She received her Master of Nonprofit Management (MNM) from Regis University through an Emerging Leaders Fellowship from The Colorado Trust.

  • Maureen Woods
    Maureen Woods, Director of Quality Initiatives

    Maureen, a Colorado native, joined the Council in 2017.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development & Family Studies from CSU and a Master’s degree in Management from CU.  Maureen’s professional experience began with Catholic Charities as a Team Leader for Americorps in the Early Childhood Education Division, eventually leading up to the ECE Director of Program Management and Quality Improvement.

    For the Council, she is the Director of Quality Initiatives and will be responsible for grants management, supervision and team development as well as strategic implementation of services.  Maureen plays on two volleyball teams and spends her free time going to concerts, dining out and traveling with her fiancé.

  • Kelly Bowes
    Kelly Bowes, Senior Manager of Professional Services

    Kelly joined the Council in April 2012 and currently serves as the Senior Manager of Professional Services. She coordinates a variety of professional development and quality enhancement strategies made available to the early learning community, including coaching, custom trainings, observations and certified-services, and consultation.

    She holds a Master’s Degree in Child Development from Tufts University and has over 15 years of experience in the field. She has held roles in research, child advocacy, consultation, and program management. She is proud to call Denver home which she shares with her husband and two active young children.

  • Yessenia Cano
    Yessenia Cano, Quality Navigator

    Guía de Calidad

    Yessenia was born and raised in the heart of the Colorado mountains; her multicultural, adventurous spirit urges her to travel the world and learn as many languages as she possibly can. After a year abroad in Europe, Yessenia pursued a degree in the international field, obtaining her MA degree from the University of Denver. Yessenia enjoys spending her time getting lost in nature, enticing people’s appetites with her various scrumptious dishes and cakes, and working on her two novels she hopes to publish soon. Yessenia joined Denver’s Early Childhood Council in 2016 as a Bilingual Quality Improvement Navigator. She assists child care providers and professionals with resolving any Quality Improvement challenges such as how to spend funds, requisitions, Colorado Shines, Quality Improvement Goals and other.

  • Lalania Carrillo
    Lalania Carrillo, Lead Quality Navigator

    Lalania, a Denver native, joined the council in 2008. She has an entrepreneurial background, having owned both a boutique and a café, and is also a published author. She is the Lead Navigator for all Quality Initiatives and manages the Resource & Referral (R&R) program, including the R&R Help Desk.

  • Adey Dimalanta
    Adey Dimalanta, Health & Well-Being Specialist

    Adey has worked at the Council since 2008 in a variety of roles. Currently she works on our Health & Well Being team, supporting the LAUNCH Together initiative and implementing social emotional best practices into our quality initiatives work.

    Adey is originally from Washington, DC and has Bachelor’s degrees in both Urban Studies & Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.

  • Chinazo Dumas
    Chinazo Dumas, Quality Navigator

    Chinazo joined the council in 2016 as Quality Initiatives Outreach Specialist. Chinazo has been working with children and families for over 12 years, with a background in Social Work and Early Childhood Education. She has a Masters Degree in Social Work, with an emphasis in Children and Families, and holds a clinical Certificate in Interpersonal Trauma.

    “Serving Children and Families on a daily basis, is truly a privilege. I am honored to work in such a wonderful field of Social Work and Early Childhood Education.”

    Chinazo enjoys spending time with her family. She has a wonderful, loving husband and a beautiful baby girl, who are the absolute joys of her existence!

  • Dora Esparza
    Dora Esparza, Business Leadership Specialist

    Joining the Council in 2017, Dora has worked in Early Childhood Education for the last 12 years. Her previous position was at Warren Village for nine years, where she worked as a Community and Funding Specialist. Dora has a long history of CCAP work and has chaired the Denver CCAP Collaboration (formerly known as the Child Care Task Force) in the Denver community for four years.

    Dora has a passion for diversity and working with people from all backgrounds and walks of life. She has graduate degrees in Psychology and Nonprofit Management. In her role at the Council she helps child care providers in developing strong business practices that work for them.

  • Erin Gager
    Erin Gager, Manager of Professional Development

    Erin coordinates the professional development offerings for the Council. In working towards her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology at the University of Michigan, Erin learned about the value of community-informed systems change, and was thrilled to find a job with an organization that implements these strategies to help Denver’s youngest residents.


    A Denver native who has traveled extensively but couldn’t stay away from her home city, Erin’s favorite hobbies are rock climbing and baking, although baking often turns out to be the more dangerous of the two.


  • Soren Gall
    Soren Gall, Quality Specialist

    Soren began working for Denver’s Early Childhood Council in 2015. His responsibility at the council is to provide coaching for infant and toddler teachers and staff as well as focus on increasing family engagement within the early learning community.

    Soren’s previous professional experience included working as a teacher within Head Start programs in Colorado and Oregon, serving as an Education Mentor Coach at Clayton Early Learning, and working as Early Learning Coordinator for Colorado Assuring Better Child Health and Development.

  • Heidi Ganser Lang
    Heidi Ganser Lang, Operations & Events Coordinator

    Heidi began working with Denver’s Early Childhood Council in November 2015. She is responsible for office operations, internal support, meeting functions and technology needs for the Council, as well as overseeing the Council’s special community events.  Heidi is an active volunteer for Share our Strength—Colorado, and her volunteer work inspired her to seek employment with the Council. She recently joined the Board of Directors for a Children’s Theater non-profit in the Denver metro area. She has a dual Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies and Interior Design from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities, and has a background in operations management, events planning, training and human resources, communications and customer service.

  • Grisel Garcia
    Grisel Garcia, Quality Navigator

    Guía de Calidad

    Grisel was raised in Denver but is originally from El Paso, Texas. She is the mother of two boys and another baby on the way! She has worked in the Early Childhood field for the past 7 years. Prior to coming to the Council she worked at Family Star Montessori in many roles, starting as a Teacher’s Assistant, then as an Administrative Assistant, and finally as a Child and Family Advocate.


    Grisel sees the importance in Early Childhood Education and has witnessed the huge impact Early Childhood Education has made on young children and their families, including her own children and family. She enjoys working in an organization that helps and educates not only children and their families but the providers who are serving the children and their families as well.

    Grisel is bi-lingual in Spanish and in English.


  • Cami Harris
    Cami Harris, Communications Coordinator

    Cami handles all communications activities pertaining to the work of the Council. She also provides Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) outreach and technical assistance to early learning providers. Cami joined Denver’s Early Childhood Council in 2013 with a background in community organizing, event management, outreach and communications, mostly in non-profit health care, social service and grass-roots advocacy settings. Cami has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Augsburg College – Minneapolis, MN.


  • Liz Isaacson
    Liz Isaacson, Senior Staff Accountant

    Liz is a native of Denver, graduated from the University of Denver and has spent her career in the financial and administrative management of non- and not-for-profit organizations in the Denver area. Liz joined the Council in 2016.

  • Susan Kay
    Susan Kay, Quality Specialist

    Susan Kay joined the Council as the Social Emotional Early Development (SEED) Coach and Evaluation Specialist in 2013. Susan has worked in early social emotional development for the past 20 years; first as a child and family therapist in private practice, and then as an attachment-based therapist for the Relationship Roots therapeutic preschool.


    She continued with Relationship Roots as a trainer, coach, and parenting instructor in all aspects of early childhood mental health and social emotional support. Susan has also put all that information to good use in her own life as a foster and adoptive parent for the past four years. Susan received her Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Naropa University in Boulder and has a Bachelor’s of Education from the University of Michigan. She is a Certified Pyramid Plus Approach Trainer and Coach.

    Susan is responsible for all aspects of coaching and evaluation for the Pyramid Plus Approach project that is part of the Social Emotional Early Development (SEED) Initiative. She also works on the Early Childhood Mental Health Project.


  • Luisa Lemus
    Luisa Lemus, Quality Specialist

    Mentora Individual, Mejoras a la Calidad 

    Luisa joined Denver’s Early Childhood Council in July 2015. Her responsibilities involve supporting the quality of programs by coaching with the tools on Environment Rating Scales (ERS) for Infant, Toddler and Preschool. She has 13 years of experience in the ECE field and was a former Infant/Preschool teacher and Family Advocate at Head Start and Migrant Head Start, in addition to coaching one year at Early Childhood Council of the San Luis Valley. Luisa has an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and she also speaks Spanish fluently.

  • Jamie Mack
    Jamie Mack, AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer & Outreach Specialist

    Born and raised in Colorado, Jamie joined Denver’s Early Childhood Council in February 2017 as the AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer and Outreach Specialist. Prior to working at the Council, she worked as a Community Development Associate at There With Care, another Denver non-profit and this is where she fell in love with the non-profit world and felt the need to serve in the AmeriCorps VISTA program.


    While serving at the Council, Jamie is responsible for helping to develop programs and procedures that expand the capacity and sustainability of the outreach, engagement, training and special event program areas. Jamie has a B.A. in International Affairs and Political Science from the University of Northern Colorado. When she’s not working, she tries to spend as much time as she can outdoors hiking or playing sports. She is an avid reader, loves to travel and enjoys spending time with her family. She loves living in Colorado and couldn’t imagine living and working anywhere else!


  • Demetria Martinez
    Demetria Martinez, Denver Preschool Program Coordinator

    Demetria joined the Council in December 2015. She relocated to Colorado in 2008 after serving in the United States Army for 4 years. She started her work in education initiatives by working for El Pomar Foundation as a program assistant helping with the MYLI and MYLIFE programs. Subsequently she worked for Senate Bill 94 in the CBMS and TRAILS databases to track hours and services, and conduct audits for providers and data management as it related to recidivism rates and services provided to juveniles who had crossed into the justice system. In her most recent role before joining the Council she was the Veteran and Military Student Support Specialist at MSU Denver where she helped veterans transition and persist in higher education. She was an integral part in the expansion of programming surrounding services provided to student veterans and the opening of a veterans’ center on campus.


    Her passion is P-20 education and the aligning of education systems and equal education for all, no matter where you are from. Her passion for education has been a huge part of her life for many years but she dove deeper after becoming the mom of two little boys who keep her quite busy! She is also currently working on her Masters in Higher Education at the University of Denver.


  • Jill Rocha
    Jill Rocha, Quality Specialist

    Jill is a Quality Specialist, certified Preschool CLASS Observer, and an instructor for Expanding Quality for Infants and Toddlers (EQIT) and Strengthening Families. She holds an AAS in Early Childhood Education from CCD and a Bachelor’s degree Organizational Management from Ashford University, San Diego, CA. She is happily married to her husband Phil, and between the two of them, they share a beautiful extended family of six and one adorable grandson.


    Jill has an extensive, well rounded background in ECE which includes over 22 years of working in every level of the field. Her experience also includes working with and supporting non-profit, for profit, traditional, Montessori, family child care home providers, religious, Head Start and Early Head Start programs. She is also skilled in ECERS and ITERS.

    As a Denver native, she is proud to be supporting the community in which she grew up. Her life goal is to coach quality so that all children have the best educational experience and to support early childhood educators on their career paths through higher education and training opportunities.


  • Margaret Scruggs
    Margaret Scruggs, AP & Quality Assurance Specialist

    Margaret re-joined our team in April 2015. She previously supported our work with the Denver Preschool Program from 2008-2010.

    Margaret has lived in Denver for the majority of her life.  She has an Associate in Arts, having delved into religious studies in order to have a better understanding of the beliefs of all faiths.  She originally started with the Council in 2008 and found that working for non-profits provides a wonderful sense of fulfillment and inspiration to her everyday life.  She is an avid reader and enjoys writing for herself on the side.  She loves all things science, and would be quite content to spend her days studying.

  • Melanie Soneson
    Melanie Soneson, Professional Development Assistant

    Melanie supports the Manager of Professional Development to organize professional development activities for the organization. While working towards her bachelor’s in International Studies in the frozen plains of Bowling Green, Ohio, Melanie decided she wanted to live in a place where the mountains are high, the flowers are wild, and she could follow her dreams in the nonprofit sector. She was thrilled to work for an organization that supports child care providers and other professionals who serve children and families.

    Although a fierce traveler at heart, Melanie also enjoys her down time by playing the piano and reading.

  • Elizabeth Williams
    Elizabeth Williams, Quality Navigator

    Elizabeth joined the Council in January 2016. She has been involved in ECE since 2008. Elizabeth’s background includes working at Family Star Montessori where she held many roles, from Teacher to Administrative Assistant to Interim Center Director.  Elizabeth also has a four-year-old daughter who has benefited from ECE and DPS schools. In her free-time she is finishing her Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education and spending time with her daughter. She enjoys working in an organization that supports providers to make sure every child is ready for school at the age of 5.