STAFF

Juan Pérez Sáez (he/him/él)

Executive Director

Hablo Español Juan has dedicated his personal and professional life to conservation, advocacy, environmental education, and stewardship. While building community and creating opportunities for many others to connect with the outdoors. With more than 15 years of experience in this field, Juan was most recently working for The Wilderness Society (TWS) as the Senior Manager for Strategic Partnerships. Juan has worked for several nonprofit organizations in Latin America and the United States, as well as the U.S. Federal Government. He was also a Fulbright Scholar between 2012-2014. Before moving to Colorado, Juan was the National Coordinator for the Million Hectares Alliance in Panama. Juan led a multimillion-dollar public-private partnership. He also led the first ever National Reforestation Day in his home country; this event mobilized in its first year more than 15,000 people on a single day.

Juan has a Bachelor of Engineering in Environmental Management from the University of Panama, and a Master of Science in Environment and Natural Resources from The Ohio State University.

Juan is actively engaged with his community by playing a leading role as a National Board Member for the Next 100 Coalition, a board Vice-Chair for the Cottonwood Institute and in his role as a Commissioner for The Governor’s Commission for Community Service in Colorado. 

Kim Weiss (she/her)

Associate Director

Kim received her Master of Arts in environmental education and conservation from Rowan University, in Glassboro, NJ in May 2004. Kim has worked at Environmental Learning for Kids since 2005, gaining experience in all aspects of the organization from leading camping trips to writing grants. She is passionate about advancing youth and nature-based learning. Her current philosophy is to foster a community of young people that grow and challenge each other to become better teachers, community members, and humans in general. Outside of the office, Kim enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids, running them from activity to activity, live music, and being with friends.

Sean Cortes (he/him)

Development Director

Sean was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and earned a Bachelors of Music and Family Business from Stetson University. Growing up Sean visited Colorado every winter and summer and fell in love with the Rocky Mountains. Sean comes to ELK with 10 years of non-profit management experience. He’s been the Tour Manager of international non-profit Up with People, and most recently the Community Engagement Director at Aspen Ridge Preparatory School. Throughout his career he has executed dozens of fundraisers and has helped raised over 1 million dollars for charities across the country. When he’s not busy working he enjoys being a member of the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus and spending time with his Denver family and working on his Masters of Business Administration. 

Kristina Gray (she/her)

Marketing & Communications Director

Kristina received her Bachelor of Art degree in Political Science from MSU Denver in 2011. She has been a part of the nonprofit sector for over 10 years. She is an alumnus of the Corporation for National and Community Service’s AmeriCorps VISTA program and the Hispanic Chamber Foundation’s Aspiring Leaders Program, Class of 2017. Kristina spends her free time advocating for justice and equity for all of Colorado’s youth & families, and going on adventures with her husband and young daughter.

Paul Conzemius (he/him)

People and Operations Manager

Hablo Español Raised in South Dakota, Paul started his career touring the world with the student leadership organization Up with People, where he discovered his passion for building transformative teams and tackling complex challenges while working with people of all walks of life towards a common goal. A renaissance man, Paul has a degree in Leadership and Intercultural Communications and has worked in diverse fields, from operating wildlife trips and safaris, to working on touring productions and events, to pandemic response. An avid outdoorsman, Paul believes that it is both our birthright as humans to enrich our lives with the natural world, as well as our responsibility to be stewards of the land. When not at work you can find him rock climbing, hunting, fishing, or enjoying a weekend camping or hiking with his family. 

Emily Hertz (she/her)

Program Manager

Emily grew up outdoors. She spent her childhood on the Iroquois River in Illinois, swinging on wild grape vines, collecting flax & clam shells, and walking barefoot across tilled dirt in the corn fields.  After a circuitous journey involving a career in medicine, her outdoor roots eventually led her to work for the Tucson Bureau of Land Management field office. There she managed weeklong conservation projects with youth crews in the saguaro dotted backcountry; served as a para-archeologist documenting pit villages & petroglyphs; and performed ranger/GIS duties on the Ironwood Forest National Monument. After her stint in Arizona, she moved to the Pacific Northwest to attend graduate school at the University of Washington. Here she received her M.Ed. and a certification in Environment, Education and Community from IslandWood. She also discovered a year-around berry smorgasbord, slimy yellow witch’s butter, slugs, & salamanders, and the alien marine landscapes of king low tides.  However, her inner lizard was very much in need of sun! Thus, in 2011, she moved to Colorado where she worked for a local environmental education and advocacy organization to inspire conservation action to protect birds and their habitats. Over the next 12 years, she worked in many capacities from coordinator to manager.  Whether creating and teaching bird adaptations curriculum, creating naturalist trainings or organizing a tribal coalition, she has always brought her passion for people and protecting the environment together.  And if she’s not helping others pursue their passions or connecting others to nature, she is adventuring on the trails: smelling ponderosa pines, cloud gazing, or riding bikes with her two spirited children.

Sam Gilmore (she/her)

Education Coordinator

Born in Denver, Sam is a Montbello resident and ELK alumni. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in History with minors in Environmental Science and Leadership Studies from the University of Denver where her areas of focus were environmental history and outdoor recreation and interpretation. Sam is an active member of the Montbello and Denver communities and works in community planning and organizing. Since 2016 she has worked for Environmental Learning for Kids in the Urban Ranger program helping connect youth and families to nature and outdoor recreation. Sam is an avid reader, hiker, angler, and houseplant enthusiast.

Kaartik Gupta (he/they)

Education Coordinator

Kaartik grew up in Dallas, TX and studied Astrophysics at the University of Texas in Austin. His family wasn’t particularly outdoorsy, but he found his love for the outdoors in college through rock climbing and hiking around Austin’s green spaces. He spent the next years working in the outdoors industry as an educator, climbing guide, and photographer and finally found his calling in outdoor equity and accessibility. He strives to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone he works with and is constantly looking for new ways to expand his horizons. In his free time, Kaartik enjoys rock climbing, shooting photography, reading, and finding new coffee shops around town.

Franklin Cruz (elle/el, they/he)

Education Coordinator

Hablo Español Franklin Cruz is a queer latin dancer, poet and environmental nerd born in Idaho, raised Texan and polished in Denver. Born from an immigrant family their work has placed them in science museums, as an emcee for dance & poetry competitions, conferences and environmental spaces. A Tedx Mile High performer and Nature of Cities residency his worked throughout the southwest, Peru, Puerto Rico for universities and environmental leadership camps. Their work encompasses self love, immigration, culture, conservation and more.  Franklin always aims to address intersectional liberation, confronting our complicity to privilege and oppression and the lesson of specificity over simplicity. 

Jake Preston (he/him)

Education Coordinator

Jake grew up in a small, close-knit Ohio town, spending most of his free time running through the woods or playing in the creek; the outdoors was where kids learned about friendship, community, and navigating decisions while growing up. After he completed volunteering as a steward in Americorps and obtaining his M.S. in Recreation from Ohio University, he embarked West in the hopes to be on the frontline of environmental education. Ever a lifelong learner, Jake has been certified in Wilderness First Responding, Backcountry Search and Rescue, and Wildland Firefighting, and has spent years responsible for the care, handling, and presentation of birds of prey and herps. During his career, he has served as a Director of Outdoor Education for a national non-profit, led multi-week backcountry trips with teens both domestically and internationally, and designed and launched various environmental curricula and stewardship principles in conjunction with direct input from local schools and the community at large. Jake’s passions lie in creating opportunities for the next generation to fall in love with the environment and increasing accessibility to the outdoors to as many members of the community as possible. When you can’t find him leading groups in environmental education, you can find him exploring new trails, road tripping to hole-in-the-wall destinations, or relaxing at home with the family.

Damian Garcia (he/him)

Volunteer Coordinator

Hablo Español Born in Brownsville, Tx. and raised on both sides of the border, Damian has grown up in a culturally diverse environment from the beginning. He is a naturalist with a background in interpretation, public speaking, event coordination, and volunteer work. For the past 2 years, he has been active throughout the State as an educator for Colorado Parks & Wildlife. His mission is to serve and share his experiences with as many people as possible. In his free time, Damian likes to make new connections and take people fishing. Especially beginners! He looks forward to devoting his time and energy to ELK’s mission to serve the community of Montbello. 

Lauren Keller (she/her)

Events & Marketing Coordinator 

Hablo Español Lauren was born and raised in Miami, Florida but fell in love with Colorado as a child during vacations with her family. In 2021, she graduated from Colorado College with a BA in Environmental Studies and has done meaningful work in Colorado ever since. Most recently, she served as an AmeriCorps Environmental Educator at Bluff Lake Nature Center in Denver, where she helped thousands of people connect with nature and become better environmental stewards. Lauren is currently pursuing an MA in Biology through Miami University’s Global Field Program with a focus on conservation communications. She is passionate about harnessing visual media to share the wonder of the natural world with everyone. In her free time, you can find Lauren reading, playing games, trying new foods, or searching for wild animals to photograph.

Verenice Galvan (she/her)

Urban Ranger Program Assistant

Hablo Español Born and raised in Denver Colorado, Verenice has always enjoyed being in nature through snow, rain, and sunny days. Through ELK, she has been able to continue exploring the outdoors and help in their mission of providing youth in Montbello access to the outdoors! She also helps harvest fruits and vegetables in Montbello’s community garden – the Spiral Garden! In her free time, she likes to go to the movie theatre. 

URBAN RANGERS 2023

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Nadia Brooks (she/her)

Lead

Juan Huizar

Juan Huizar (he/him)

Lead

Paris Davis

Paris Davis (she/her)

Mehran Abdullai

Mehran Abdullai (he/him)

Malik Mbawa

Malik Mbawa (he/him)

Malachi Hill

Malachi Hill (he/him)

Jesus Terrazas

Jesus Terrazas (he/him)

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Giselle Chavez (she/her)

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Evelyn Alvarez (they/she/ella)

Hadley Seavey

Hadley Seavey (she/her)

Blessing Dimulu

Blessing Dimulu (she/her)

Anthony Luevanos

Anthony Luevanos (he/him)