Judith I. Ham, President and CEO of Ability Connection Colorado, is responsible for overseeing all agency programs. Over the last 29 years, she has overseen a transformation of the organization, leading pioneering efforts to place individuals with disabilities in inclusive, community -based jobs; growing the size of the early childhood program by more than 800%; 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. Mrs. Ham has been with Ability Connection Colorado since 1993.
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. Mrs. Neal has been with Ability Connection Colorado since 1992.
Syed Ahmed, Chief Financial Officer Mr. Ahmed is the Chief Financial Officer and manages the organization’s accounting staff. He has expertise in asset management, cost analysis/control, statistical and financial management, and decision making. Mr. Ahmed is also proficient in containing and managing operational and capital budgets. Mr. Ahmed joined as the Chief Financial Officer in 1998. Under his fiscal leadership, the organization has grown from a $5.6 million annual budget to over $11.3 million. Mr. Ahmed spent his early career in accounting for oil and gas companies as well as in hospitals and other allied health environments. Mr. Ahmed holds an MBA from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Jennifer Peitzmeier, Vice President of Operations of Ability Connection Colorado, is responsible for all policies and procedures, safety, and documentation, tracking, resolution and follow-up for all risk-related occurrences/activities, such as Worker’s Comp, COVID, police and fire department calls, emergencies, reports for the Risk Management Committee, etc. She is also in charge of all facility management, contracting and maintenance. She is responsible for the oversight of all Creative Options centers to ensure compliance with child care licensing rules and regulations and Head Start performance standards. Ms. Peitzmeier has been with Ability Connection Colorado since 1995 and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Special Education.
Ability Connection Colorado
Terri L. Armstrong, Development Director, is responsible for Ability Connection Colorado’s development database, donor stewardship, 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, marketing, and more. Terri is involved with organization-wide public relation campaigns, including Statewide Support Programs.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, PhD, Creative Options Director of Learning & Teaching and Early Childhood Grants Writer of Ability Connection Colorado, has over 30 years of expertise as a specialist in language/literacy interventions for linguistically and culturally diverse populations and has been with Ability Connection Colorado for almost 10 years. Her PhD is in Reading Education from Texas Women’s University, her Masters is in Bilingual Education from Texas Women’s University, and her B.A. is from the University of North Texas in elementary education. Dr. Geisler’s research centers on language and literacy acquisition of young bilingual and b-dialectal children in the United States; she is particularly interested in issues related to the interrelationship between oracy and literacy. Dr. Geisler has been with Ability Connection Colorado since 2012.
Miranda Castellano, Creative Options Director of Operations-Preschool holds a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts with an emphasis on Early Childhood Education from Regis University. Ms. Castellano has devoted more than 19 years working in Head Start programs with young children and their families. Miranda started her career as a substitute teacher and discovered her love for teaching. She has since has held many titles including Lead Preschool Teacher, Education Supervisor and Site Coordinator. She firmly believes that quality care gives all children the opportunity to develop a love of learning that will last a lifetime. Ms. Castellano works with a team of educators to create positive and supportive environments where children of all abilities thrive. Ms. Castellano has been with Ability Connection Colorado since 2016.
Cortney Starks, Creative Options Director of Operations-Infants & Toddlers holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with an emphasis on Math, English, and Early Childhood Education and a Master of Arts in Teaching, with an Early Childhood Education major, both from Saginaw Valley State University. Ms. Starks has more than 25 years working in private centers and Head Start programs with our littlest learners and their families. Cortney started out as an aide at an in-home child-care program and discovered her love for the early childhood years. Throughout her career, she has taught ages birth to school-age children, began an Infant/Toddler program, and previously held the titles of Assistant Director, Director, Site Supervisor, and Infant/Toddler Coordinator. Her belief is that the access for all to quality early childhood education provides a crucial first step in developing important social and academic skills, while instilling each child with a sense of wonder and creativity that extends a lifetime. Ms. Starks has been with Ability Connection Colorado since 2018, and loves the teamwork and dedication throughout the company that creates an environment where children, families, and teachers of all abilities can grow into the best versions of themselves.
Jennifer Coggin, MSECS, Doctoral Candidate, Creative Options Director of Administration is responsible for overseeing Enrollment of students and the Developmental Services Team. Jennifer has 32 years of experience in the Early Childhood Field, 23 years of which have been in Administration roles. Jennifer’s Masters is in Early Childhood Studies including an emphasis on teaching adult learners. She is currently completing her EdD dissertation on perspectives of educators on supporting student mental health needs, as well as currently serving or has previously served as a volunteer on the following councils: CDA Professional Development Specialist, Colorado Universal Pre K Special Education Subgroup, Colorado Universal Pre-K Subgroup, Healthy Childcare Colorado Pyramid Content Workgroup, Health Childcare Colorado Pyramid Professional Development Workgroup, Assuring Better Child Health and Development Policy Council, Early Childhood Colorado Framework Steering Committee. Ms. Coggin has been with Ability Connection Colorado since 2016.
Sofia Esteve, Creative Options Director of Family and Community Outreach has a Master of Arts in Education Administration and Policy, and a certificate from the Buell Early Leadership Program – Inaugural Cohort from the University of Colorado, a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology and an Associate in General Studies with an Emphasis in Early Childhood Education. Ms. Esteve also holds Trainer and Coach Credentials through Colorado’s Professional Information System. She has been working with children and families since 1984. Positions held include: Family Home Provider, Preschool Teacher, Center Director, and Quality Improvement Coach, Lead for Play and Learn Parent Groups, Statewide Coordinator at CDE Early Learning Challenge Grant -Expansion of Teaching Strategies GOLD Assessment System. Also, Trainer for Expanding Quality in Infant Toddler Care. Ms. Esteve has been with Ability Connection Colorado since 2017 serving as Director of Family and Community Outreach partnering with the community and supporting family engagement.
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 since 2009.
Family Support Services
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 since 1997.
Bradley A. Torch, BA, Program Manager of Guardianship Alliance of Colorado, has over 12 years’ experience protecting and serving vulnerable adults across New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Colorado. As a guardian, representative payee, and mental health case manager, Bradley gained valuable experience working with vulnerable adults with Developmental Disabilities, Severe Mental Illnesses, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and Dementia. In addition to his field experience, Bradley has a proven history of successful program implementation, management, administration, and people management. His undying passion for helping the most vulnerable individuals is what has driven his success at Guardianship Alliance of Colorado, a Program of Ability Connection Colorado. He has worked at Ability Connection Colorado since 2020.
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 since 2005.
Nichole Arp, Lead Coordinator for Parent to Parent of Colorado, has a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and holds a master’s degree in Clinical Social Work (MSW). She has an active Licensed Social Worker (LSW) license in Colorado. Nichole has been program manager at Parent to Parent of CO for a few months. Before becoming program manager, she worked for Parent to Parent of CO as a project coordinator. She also fulfills the Title V Family Leader role through Ability Connection Colorado’s contract with the MCH program at CDPHE. She is part of a CO Family-Led Coalition, meeting monthly to collaborate with other organizations that serve caregivers of individuals with disabilities. Nichole has been an employee of Ability Connection Colorado since 2019.