Mission and Vision
Youth Celebrate Diversity is a new non-profit organization dedicated to educating and empowering in order to advance equity for all. We do this by fostering conferences, workshops, conversations and experiences around human diversity for high school and college-aged youth.
Following 20 successful years of the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference held annually in Denver, Colorado, YCD was created in 2014 to replicate this model for young people across the country, by creating state and regional conferences for high school and college-aged youth that celebrate human diversity and provide students with an opportunity to share ideas relating to human diversity in a cooperative atmosphere.
YCD empowers youth to become leaders and speak out or take action in their local schools and communities and increase appreciation of human diversity. Read more about our organization's goals and purposes below.
1. Creating state and regional conferences for high school and college-aged youth that celebrate human diversity and provide students with an opportunity to share ideas relating to human diversity in a cooperative atmosphere.
Our organization works to bring high school and college students together from public and private, large and small, urban and rural schools to share ideas in a cooperative atmosphere. We believe that through dialogue and collaborative learning experiences, students can address the social issues affecting their schools and communities in a positive manner, and by engaging in dialogue with others, become empowered to take action and improve their local environment for all people.
2. Providing information, workshops and resources on any issue relating to human diversity that might impact a student's ability to achieve academically or socially, both in and out of the school setting.
Youth Celebrate Diversity takes an inclusive approach to diversity, which we believe encompasses the full range of identities, characteristics, traits, and behaviors that make all people unique.
Our programs and services highlight a wide range of topics that young people encounter and deal with, including race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, political belief, socio-economic background, religion, age, physical and mental ability or disability, level of education, and family composition. Youth Celebrate Diversity is a non-partisan organization.
3. Establishing a supportive network of youth, teachers, educational administrators and community partners committed to celebrating human diversity in an educational setting.
We believe that people of all walks of life are needed to build strong communities, and look for partnerships with not only youth but also teachers, educational administrators, non-profit organizations, colleges and universities, private companies, foundations, and others.
Our goal is to build a strong and supportive network of individuals who will provide youth with positive and inclusive messages so they can move beyond the social challenges they face to succeed in an educational environment.
4. Empowering youth to become leaders and speak out or take action in their local schools and communities and increase appreciation of human diversity.
The focal point of all programs and services offered by Youth Celebrate Diversity is empowerment. We strive to ensure participants of our events and programs walk away from their experiences enthused, informed, and eager to make an impact in their local school or community.
We recognize that each community struggles with different issues and challenges, and look to support young people in a variety of ways that best match the change they are seeking to make in their local community. Most recently, Youth Celebrate Diversity announced microgrant funding available to attendees of the 2015 Cherry Creek Diversity Conference, to help participants implement their diversity commitments to making positive change in their school or community.
5. Providing teachers and educational administrators with resources and tools to incorporate diversity-related topics, issues and lessons into school curriculum.
We believe diversity awareness and conversations should not only take place outside of the school day, but be interwoven into the daily lives of all young people.
To this purpose, Youth Celebrate Diversity looks for curriculum, lesson plans, and other opportunities for diversity-related issues to be highlighted and discussed in school. If you have an idea for a lesson plan we can use, please contact us.
Board of Directors
Youth Celebrate Diversity is led by the exceptional individuals below who are committed to advancing equity for young people across the United States by fostering conferences, workshops, conversations and experiences around human diversity.
Joyce Bignell is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Colorado Council for Community and Justice (CCCJ), which provides facilitation and leadership training focused on diversity issues in Colorado. She was previously Executive Director for the Mountain West Regional office of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). Among the youth programs she has developed are the Ed Hirschfeld Anytown Leadership Camp, the Power Lunch (mentoring program), Flash Judgments, It’s Your Move (diversity programs - high schools), and Don’t Laugh at Me Bully Prevention Initiative. She currently serves on the Mizel Museum’s Community Advisory Board and the Interfaith Council of Stapleton’s Board of Directors, and she serves as Vice Chair on Youth Celebrate Diversity’s Board of Directors.
Abby Ferber is a Professor of Sociology and Women’s and Ethnic Studies, as well as the Associate Director of The Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion, at the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs. Her research, teaching and service all coalesce around issues of inequality, privilege, and the intersections of race, gender and sexuality. Abby is the author or co-editor of numerous books including: Home-Grown Hate: Gender and the White Supremacist Movement; Privilege: A Reader; Making A Difference: University Students of Color Speak Out and White Man Falling: Race, Gender, and White Supremacy. She also co-authored Hate in America: What Do We Know?, a publication of the American Sociological Association. Abby is widely published in academic journals and mainstream news outlets. She received her MA and PhD from the University of Oregon, and her BA from American University.
Lorenzo Gonzales is currently retired, but served for many years as assistant principal at Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado. He was one of the main organizers of the National High School Diversity Conference, held in Denver in 1998. He currently volunteers his time as a coach and activist for public education in the Denver Metro Area.
Eve Torres Gracie
Eve Torres Gracie is a television personality and women’s self-defense instructor. She is the head instructor of the Gracie Women Empowered self-defense program, and teaches sexual assault awareness and risk-reduction to women from all walks of life, including college women and airmen in the US Air Force. Eve did her undergraduate studies in Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California.
Corey Jones is an experienced public speaker and educator, and has been working in the Front Range community for over 20 years. Corey is a Training & Development Specialist and the owner of Brignac Consulting, which provides training, education and support for private, governmental, and non-profit organizations. He has developed successful programming and learning opportunities for many organizations, including the Denver Mayor’s Office for Economic Development, the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the Apartment Association of Metro Denver. Corey earned a B.A. in Communications at Regis University, and studied Business Leadership at the University of Denver.
After receiving his undergraduate degree in psychology from Saint Louis University, Saj joined the Alum Service Corp (ASC) Jesuit Volunteer Program at Saint Louis University High School for the 1997-1998 school year. He joined the faculty of Regis Jesuit High School in 2000, where he teaches theology. He is also a professor at Metropolitan State College of Denver and Regis University.
Kierstin Miller has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference for over ten years and has also served as a workshop presenter for the conference. She has undergraduate degrees in Biochemistry and Art History from Colorado State University and is currently pursuing an MS in Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University. She serves as the organization’s Secretary.
Sandra Mitchell is the Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at University of North Dakota. Her role in this position is to provide strategic leadership and management in policy development, and in the creation, implementation and operation of programs and systems to achieve university diversity goals. She has more than 20 years experience in Higher Education Administration and holds a BS in Psychology and a MA in Higher Education from Drake University.
Karen Nakandakare is the Diversity and Community Partnership Manager at CH2M Hill. She has consistently played a role in diversity-related groups and initiatives in the Denver area, recently serving as project manager of the Summer Engineering Enrichment Program for Kids (SEEK), a three-year program with City of Denver and Denver Public Schools. Karen played an integral part of the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival for more than a decade, serving on the board of directors and operating committee. She’s also been involved with the City and County of Denver Human Rights & Community Relations Advisory Board, Asian Chamber of Commerce, One Colorado and LARASA. Her recognitions include the Center for Legal Inclusiveness, Girl Scouts Women of Distinction, Asian Pacific American Bar Minoru Yasui Community Award, Professional Woman of the Year Award from the Denver Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and others. She holds a BA in Communications with honors from the University of Colorado and a MA in Non-Profit Management from Regis University. Karen serves as Youth Celebrate Diversity’s Treasurer.
Janet Sammons, now retired, has taught social studies at Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado since 1980 and in Kansas for 10 years prior. Janet has worked on diversity-related issues both in and out of the classroom for many years. In 1994 she founded the statewide Cherry Creek Diversity Conference for high school students and their faculty advisers, and she has either directed or co-directed the conference for the past 21 years. Her recognitions include the Colorado Governor's Award for Excellence in Education, the Colorado ADL Community Builder Award, the GLSEN National Educator of the Year Respect Award, and the 9 Teachers Who Care Award from Channel 9, Denver. Janet received her teaching degree from Kansas Wesleyan and her MA in Education from Emporia State University. Janet is Youth Celebrate Diversity’s Chair of the Board of Directors.
Alice Bowling Wirth is a Lecturer in the University of Tennessee’s School of Communication Studies where she teaches a course called “Communicating Diversity and Inclusion.” She serves as Director of UT’s College of Communication and Information (CCI) Diversity and Inclusion Program and of CCI’s Diversity Student Leaders Society. Additional community service activities include: Chair, CCI Diversity and Inclusion Week; Vice President, Knoxville Christian Women’s Connection (former President); former President, University Area Optimist Club; emeritus member, Board of Directors, University of Tennessee Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature; and former member, Board of Directors, Knoxville Friends of Literacy.
Before moving to Knoxville in 2006, Alice taught consumer family science in Englewood, Colorado. While there she founded and directed Englewood Public Schools’ Diversity Program and Englewood High School’s True Colors diversity program. YWCA Knoxville named Alice as an Equality Category Award finalist for its 2011 Tribute to Women. The Anti-Defamation League and World of Difference Foundation selected Alice as Colorado’s 1998 Multicultural Educator of the Year, and the Cherry Creek State Diversity Conference presented her with its 2000 Humanitarian Award. Upon leaving Englewood in 2006, she was named the inaugural recipient of an award created in her honor, the St. Alice Award for outstanding service by a teacher. Englewood also created the Alice Bowling Wirth Diversity Scholarship, which is given annually to an outstanding senior. Alice holds an MA from the University of Denver and a BS from Michigan State University.
Beth Yohe is the Director of Training for the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Education Division. She oversees the development of the anti-bias training and curricular materials for the ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute, a leading provider of anti-bias education and social justice training. Beth also is an instructor for University of Colorado at Denver’s Department of Education in the Cultural Responsive Urban Education teacher licensure program. She serves on the board of the International Bullying Prevention Association, Mapleton Education Foundation and UCCS Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion. She has a MS in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University and a BA in Speech Communication from Texas A&M University.
As its Executive Director, Caleb Munro leads Youth Celebrate Diversity and is responsible for executing organizational strategy, marketing, fundraising and program management.
Together with Janet Sammons, he led the establishment of Youth Celebrate Diversity in 2014 in order to support and continue the important work of the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference, which hosts over 1,000 high school students and teachers from around the state of Colorado annually, as well as seek opportunities to expand on its model. Caleb has shepherded YCD through its formation by drafting its Bylaws and oversaw the organization's approval for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.
Caleb continues to build YCD's partnerships with school districts, colleges and universities, and other non-profit organizations to provide more opportunities for young people across the United States to attend diversity workshops and events, and to make a commitment to improve their local school or community.
Caleb has a BSFS from Georgetown University in International Law and an MA in the Teaching of Social Studies from Teachers College, Columbia University. He also serves as the Global Director of Digital Marketing for Dentons, a global law firm with over 120 offices in more than 50 countries.