Our Team

our staff

Stephanie Welsh

Dumpster Diving Diva (Executive Director)

Biography

Stephanie is Raft’s Executive Director, but the Board of Trustees has given her another title: the Dumpster Diving Diva. She is passionate about education and loves that Raft’s business model supports teachers’ ability to teach in the way kids learn best – and preserves the environment at the same time! Launching Raft in Colorado has drawn on her eclectic professional experience in nonprofits, law, interior design, and education. Stephanie also serves on Colorado Fourteener’s Initiative Board of Trustees and on Rocky Mountain PBS’s Community Advisory Board.

Harley Young

Chief Re-Imagineer (Director of Learning)

Biography

Harley joined the Raft team in August 2018. A 4th generation Colorado native and 3rd generation teacher, Harley came to Raft with first-hand experience with how transformative hands-on learning can be in Colorado classrooms. Harley received his BFA in Sculpture from School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but he always knew he wanted to be a teacher—and during college he developed a love for public practice and working with kids in their communities. After getting his MEd. from the University of Illinois Chicago, Harley completed the Teach For America program and taught 4th grade in Colorado Springs District 11. He then moved to Denver and taught 4th grade and K-6 Science/STEM in Denver Public Schools. Harley discovered Raft as a teacher, and says he witnessed a huge change in how the hands-on resources not only engaged his students differently in content but also inspired them to make connections between the concepts and real-world experiences.

Ellen Spangler

RAFT Raconteur (Outreach Manager)

Biography

From the day Ellen cut up her mother’s typewriter-written dissertation at age four, she has always been a curious person. She has an MAT in Museum Education and spent 15 years designing and delivering programs in art and children’s museums, including the Denver Art Museum, the Clyfford Still Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Children’s Museum of Memphis. Ellen has worked alongside since the beginning first teaching workshops as a museum partner and then as a full-time staff member. She brings a solid professional grounding in nonprofit organizations and a familiarity with all aspects of grant-funded programs.

Gwen Vann

Stuff Scientist (Materials Manager)

Biography

Gwen brings over 20 years of teaching experience and a Master’s Degree in teaching to Raft, with particular experience in early childhood education, literacy, and special needs. Her love for teachers inspired her to start Colorado’s first educator consignment sale (Teacher2Teacher) after she retired from teaching, and she continues to bring that passion for teachers, hands-on learning and “stuff” to the Raft team every day. She is a force and she is fabulous!

Kristy Blodgett

Kit Conductor (Director of Corporate Engagement)

Biography

Kristy joined Raft in June 2018. Kristy lived in various places overseas as a kid of the Air Force and the oil and gas industry. She has three grown children and three granddaughters, and has a long-time love of helping all kids be their best. She was a substitute teacher and para in Jeffco for 12 years, and was also heavily involved with the Golden Backpack Program that provides a sack full of enough food to feed a child for the entire weekend. Kristy has a BA in Business from Texas Tech and an MBA from Oklahoma State. She is happy to have found a job that incorporates so many of her passions and interests, namely volunteers, schools, and the environment.

Chad Abshire

RAFT Wrangler (Facilities Manager)

Biography

Chad has been with Raft in various capacities since 2014. He is a jack-of-all-trades who is happiest when he’s juggling lots of things. Chad is involved in virtually every step of the Raft process, including picking up donated materials, organizing, and stocking, and many, many other tasks that keep Raft going every day. He loves not knowing what his work day has in store at Raft—and seeing how the tons of materials are transformed by Raft staff and teachers. He is a family man (married with a sweet daughter), and in his spare time (when he can find it!) plays basketball.

Jacob Kester

RAFT Retriever (Driver)

Biography

Jacob joined Raft in June 2018. Jacob is a Colorado native who grew up in Loveland. He joined the Marines at 19 and was stationed in Hawaii and Japan. He’s a big Green Bay Packers fan and loves his pit bull, Taz. Jacob owns a handyman company with his brother, and we are lucky to have his many talents on board. On any given day Jacob could be taking a truck out on donation pick-ups, hauling and organizing in the Resource Center, or just taking care of business. He loves being in a place where he’s helping teachers.

Joyce Weaver

Re-Imagineer (Store Associate/Volunteer Coordinator)

Biography

We discovered Joyce at a joint DMNS/Raft workshop. Her joyful, problem-solving, can-do attitude, educational know-how, and love for science made a big impression and we were thrilled to make her part of the Raft team. In Joyce’s first career, she managed a Natural Foods store, then she turned her attention to teaching and has experience in PreK through 5th grade classrooms. She supports everyone who comes in the door to Raft, from teachers to volunteers. Her hard work and positive energy are a winning combination!

Nick Haag

Re-Imagineer (Store Associate/Content Developer)

Biography

Nick was a para for five years, ran a before-and-after school program for four years, and has coached and worked with kids in a variety of educational settings since he was a kid himself (his mom is a teacher too!). Nick has been hanging out and helping part-time at Raft practically since we opened in Denver. Nick has a gift for engaging and challenging children through hands-on learning and loves to share his enthusiasm and strategies with other teachers.

our board

Brent Geist, Chair

Vice President,
Investment Securities
FirstBank Holding Co

Mary McManigle, Treasurer

VP of Real Estate Acctg, Sage Hospitality

Madison Carter, Co-Secretary

Associate VP,
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney

Lisa Donovan, Co-Secretary

Chief People Officer,
Sage Hospitality

Violeta Garcia, PhD

Principal, STEM Learning by Design

Sarah Harvey

Principal, Plum Priceless, LLC

Barry Kluger-Bell, PhD

Education Consultant

Mark Kurtenbach

Partner,
Hogan Lovells US, LLP

Carol McDermott

Community Philanthropist

Michelle Morgridge

Art Director, Avanti Music Academy

Diane Newcom

Former CEO,
CO Children’s Chorale

Jane Soderberg

Community Philanthropist

Stephanie Welsh

Executive Director, Raft

community advisory board

Carrie and John Morgridge
Morgridge Family Foundation

Zachary Neumeyer 
President, Sage Hospitality

George Sparks
CEO, Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Margie Gart
Former Director of Philanthropic Services, Rose Community Foundation

Frank Reeves
Superintendent, East Grand County School District

teacher advisory board

Lorraine Anderson

Mark Arseneau
Denver Public Schools

Emily Bobrick

Sarah Brenkert
Children’s Museum of Denver

Tracey Calderon
Adams 12

Tracy Cress
Denver Public Schools

Maureen Creswell
Speech Pathologist

Beth Crist
Colorado Department of Education

Chris DeKay

Violeta Garcia
Denver Public Schools

Diane Gaston
Littleton Public Schools

Tom Graves
Douglas County

Nick Haag
Raft

Peder Hansen
Summit County Public Schools

Stephanie Hervey
Denver Public Schools STEM

Christine Holpuch
Paddington Station Preschool

Barry Kluger-Bell
Inquiry Science Educator

Sharyl Kay Lawson
Brighton 27

Lauren Lehman
Colorado College

Patrice Mason-Dawan
Denver Public Schools

Kate McDonough
Adams 12

Tonja Mitchell
Boys & Girls Clubs

Robert Payo
Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Rachael Rome
Adams 12

Justine Sawyer
Denver Public Schools

Monica Strass
Adams 50

Amy Turino
Denver Public Schools

Cynthia Way
Adams 12

Stephanie Welsh
Raft

Angie Willsea
Aurora Public Schools

Mike Willsea
Aurora Public Schools

Harley Young
Raft

Kathy Zook
Adams 50