RAFT Staff and Board Members

RAFT Staff

Stephanie Welsh, Dumpster Diving Diva (Executive Director)

stephanieStephanie is RAFT Colorado’s Executive Director, but the Board of Trustees has given her another title: the Dumpster Diving Diva. Stephanie 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 non-profits, 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 (Education Director)

Harley joined the RAFT team in August 2018. A fourth 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)

 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 fifteen 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 with RAFT since its beginnings in Denver, and taught numerous teacher workshops at RAFT as a museum partner. She brings a solid professional grounding in non-profit organizations and a familiarity with all aspects of grant-funded programs.

Gwen Vann, Stuff Scientist (Materials Manager)

GwenGwen 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.  She also started Colorado’s first educator consignment sale (Teacher2Teacher) after she retired because she loves teachers, “stuff,” and hands-on learning!   She is a force and she is fabulous!

Chad Abshire, RAFT Wrangler (Facilities Manager)

 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)

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 our warehouse, or just taking care of business around here. He says he loves being in a place where he’s helping teachers.

Joyce Weaver, Re-Imagineer (Store Associate/Educational Coach)

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/Educational Coach)

nickNick  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.

Kristy Blodgett, Kit Conductor (Corporate Partnership Coordinator)

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. 





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

Tracey Calderon, Adams 12

Beth Crist, Colorado Department of Education

Susie Dykstra, Adams 12

Nick Haag, RAFT Colorado

Robyn Jennings, The Logan School

Tonja Mitchell, Boys & Girls Clubs

Justine Sawyer, DPS

Lisi Quinby

Angie Willsea, APS

Sarah Brenkert, Children’s Museum

Maureen Creswell, Speech Pathologist

Chris DeKay, RAFT Colorado

Tom Graves, Douglas County

Jaquita Hurst, DPS

Lauren Lehmann, Colorado College

Violeta Garcia, PhD, National Inventors Hall of Fame

Kate McDonough, Adams 12

Sue Sava, Stanley British Primary

Monica Strass, Adams 50

Cynthia Way, Adams 12

Kathy Zook, Adams 50

Mark Arseneau, DPS

Tracy Cress, DPS

Shawna Crocker, Project Learning Tree

Diane Gaston, DPS, CTEA

Christine Holpuch, Clayton Early Learning Schools

Sharyl Kay Lawson, Brighton 27

JPatrice Mason-Dawan, DPS

Rachael Rome, Adams 12

Shirley Stafford, Retired

Amy Turino, PhD

Mike Willsea, APS

Barry Kluger-Bell, PhD, Inquiry Science Educator