Judith I. Ham, President and CEO, is responsible for overseeing all agency programs. Over the last 22 years, she has directed a transformation of the organization, leading pioneering efforts to place individuals with disabilities in inclusive, community-based jobs; growing the size of early childhood programs by more than 800%; and establishing the vision and planning for a statewide family support initiative that provides outreach, services and advocacy for thousands of people with disabilities. Ms. Ham has participated on various local, regional and national committees related to issues such as disabilities, early education, children and employment.
Dana Neal, Vice President of Human Resources, oversees all aspects of the organization’s human resource management. She is currently certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources by the Human Resource Certification Institute and an SHRM-SCP by the Society of Human Resources Management. Mrs. Neal has been with Ability Connection Colorado for 23 years in a variety of capacities and has served as Director since 1997. Under her leadership, Ability Connection Colorado has grown from 50 to 135 employees. Mrs. Neal graduated from the University of Phoenix with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and a Certificate in Human Resources Management.
Syed Ahmed, Chief Financial Officer, spent his early career in accounting for oil and gas, as well as, in hospitals and other allied health environments. Mr. Ahmed joined Ability Connection Colorado as CFO in 1998. Under his fiscal leadership, the organization has grown from a $5.6M annual budget to over $8M. He manages the organization’s accounting staff, has expertise in asset management, cost analysis/control, statistical and financial management, decision making and is proficient in containing and managing operational and capital budgets. Mr. Ahmed graduated with a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Central Oklahoma and then continued to pursue CPA Certification.
Jennifer Peitzmeier, Vice President of Operations, is responsible for all policies and procedures, accreditation, safety, and documentation, tracking, resolution and follow up for all risk-related occurrences/activities. She also is in charge of all facility management, contracting and maintenance. Ms. Peitzmeier serves on the Health Advisory Committee and has administered all Full Day Programs to assure that licensing, quality and HS/EHS requirements and performance standards are met. She serves as the Quality/Risk Management and Health Director and Agency Trainer for Orientation, Confidentiality, Safety, Incident Reporting and Abuse and Neglect. Ms. Peitzmeier has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Special Education and has been employed with ACCO for 20 years.
Ability Connection Colorado
Judith B. Trimble, Director of Special Projects, has a BA/University of Nebraska in Communications with Secondary Teaching. She focuses primarily on Ability Connection Colorado’s grantsmanship, including a wide variety of project management, education/training, and preparation of executive/management leadership to meet grantor and federal review requirements. Judy previously worked as the President/Owner of Creative Consulting Services, formed to assist non- and for-profit with business development and operations, marketing, project management and education/training seminars. She was also the Executive Director of the Rose Foundation, Corporate Administrative Officer of a 10 physician OB-GYN medical practice and was 17 years with Rose Medical Center in a variety of Director positions. She has been with Ability Connection Colorado 14 years.
Terri L. Armstrong, Development Director, is responsible for Ability Connection Colorado’s development database, email campaigns, and annual special events: Great Balls of Fire 9-Ball Billiards Challenge, Colorado Concours d’ Elegance & Exotic Sports Car Show, Straight Shot Sporting Clay Event, Wine in the Pines, and Colorado Gives Day. Her special event duties include venue logistics, event logistics, sponsors, volunteers, auctions, email campaigns, committee meetings, public relations and more. Terri attended Metropolitan State University of Denver and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center Denver. Terri has been with the organization since December 2008.
Creative Options for Early Childhood Education
Diana L. Geisler, Ph.D, Integrated Coaching Director for Creative Options, is a graduate of Texas Woman’s University with a Ph.D. in Reading Education and a M.A. in Bilingual Education and of the University of North Texas with a B.A. in Elementary Education. She is a bilingual teacher of young bilinguals, a teacher of teachers, and an emerging researcher and author. Dr. Geisler’s research centers on language and literacy acquisition of young bilingual and bi-dialectal children in the United States with an emphasis on Spanish-English bilinguals. She is particularly interested in issues related to the interrelationship between oracy and literacy. Dr. Geisler currently works as an independent consultant and a Director of Integrated Coaching for Creative Options. She has been with the organization for 3 years.
Anita Clark, Director of Education for Creative Options, holds a BA in Human Resources/Organizational Management from Colorado Christian University and a Master’s of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with an ECE emphasis from Lesley University. She has spent 15 years as an Early Childhood Professor in Front Range Community Colleges. In addition, she holds certification in Total Quality Management, Playground Specialist/Consultant, Program for Infant Toddler Caregivers and has Colorado CTE licensure in Family and Consumer Sciences. Ms. Clark has been a statewide trainer for UCD’s statewide quality initiative that eventually became the Colorado Qualistar Program. Ms. Clark has served on NAEYC’s national team as a validator of children’s programs since 1994 and was selected to join NAEYC’s first peer review team in 2006 for the new accreditation program for two year college early childhood programs. Ms. Clark has served on local, state and national ECE boards for over three decades and has been with Ability Connection Colorado.
Tracie Hammons-Giesecke, Director of Employment Works, is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Denver and has worked in the non-profit sector for over 10 years. She brings extensive experience in grants management, project oversight, fund development and case management to the Employment Works program. She is responsible for the day-to-day activities of the employment and job development program, including the Ticket-To-Work, and the re-implementation of the High School/High Tech program for youth with disabilities. Tracie has participated in various local and regional committees related to employment, health and wellness and community building. She has been the Director for Employment Works for 6 years.
Family Support Services
Cheri Bena, Lead Coordinator of EMPOWER Colorado, is a parent of a child diagnosed with a Bipolar Disorder and ADHD. A graduate of the Denver Seminary, Ms. Bena has led support groups, provides advocacy services for parents with school issues and has designed and led training courses for parents for 11 years. She has developed a course for parents titled, “Empowering Families through the Diagnostic Journey.” She has presented information related to mental health challenges at school districts, meetings and conferences and has been involved in a “Think Tank” for creating materials and education for clinicians and parents of bipolar children. She also has worked in the banking industry in management as a Compliance Officer. Ms. Bena has worked with the organization since 2008.
Jan Davies, Lead Coordinator of Faith in Action, has a bachelor’s in chemistry/biology; a masters in elementary education; and a doctorate in science/special education from Ball State University, Indiana. She is a parent of two sons with autism and a husband with epilepsy since childhood. She has taught school on all levels, received awards for her teaching, and has served as the National Science Teacher Association President of Science for Students with Disabilities. Jan has worked with the local school district in homeschooling her two sons, trained others in how to home school students with special needs, and partnered with local Faith Communities in inclusion of students with special needs. Jan helped start the Faith in Action program in 1997 and worked to shape the program to assist seniors and other family members with a disability in accessing their community. She has volunteers from several Faith Communities, who provide transportation to doctor, hospital, and medical appointments, as well as trips related to all Activities of Daily Living. She has been with Ability Connection Colorado for 18 years.
Sarah Solano, Lead Coordinator, Guardianship Alliance of Colorado, has extensive knowledge in both guardianship and legal issues. Before joining the Alliance, Sarah worked for the Denver Probate Court for 8 years as the Deputy Registrar/Supervisor. She also worked as a paralegal to a high profile attorney, who specialized in criminal cases, and a paralegal for Adams County Social Services Department dealing with dependency/neglect and child support cases. Sarah feels privileged to be able to share her experience and to apply that towards the only guardianship program in Colorado. She has been with the organization for 4 years.
Heather Hyatt, Lead Coordinator, Founder, the Infantile Scoliosis Outreach Program (ISOP), found a cure for progressive infantile scoliosis, when she learned about a series of corrective plaster casts applied when diagnosis and treatment on the child is begun early. Her life is devoted to getting the message out to the medical community and to parents about an alternative, life saving treatment for progressive infantile scoliosis. This gentle, non-invasive method was developed through the life work of Dr. Min H. Mehta, M.D., F.R.C.S in England. Heather establishes strong partnerships with Shriner’s Hospitals’ physicians and others in hospitals across the US and in Australia to train the medical community, organizes physician and technologist training programs, supports fund raisers in different states with parents’ help, advises families of children to be treated and has developed an educational website accessed by thousands. She has been with Ability Connection Colorado for 10 years.
Lisa Schwartz Franklin, Lead Coordinator for Parent to Parent of Colorado, has a bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Special Education and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with an emphasis on Public Policy. She is also certified as an Infant/Toddler Specialist and Director of Special Education. She was one of the first teachers in Colorado to achieve National Board Certification as an Exceptional Needs Specialist. In her previous career, Lisa was a special education teacher and administrator for 32 years. Lisa has served on multiple advisory and advocacy councils including the Colorado Special Education Advisory Committee, the Colorado Interagency Coordinating Council and currently is a member of the Colorado Developmental Disability Council. Ms. Franklin has led the Parent to Parent program since 2013.