Ashlee Lewis

(She, Her, Hers)

Executive Director

(303) 839-551o ext. 101

Ashlee Lewis began her work at The Initiative in 2011 as a part-time Victim Advocate/Statistician, she then became the Program Director, and was appointed as the Executive Director in October, 2015 after the passing of Sharon Hickman, the co-founder and Director of 30 years. As the Executive Director, Ashlee provides strategic leadership and vision to The Initiative and ensures the achievement of its goals for program development, financial stability, and community engagement. 

Ashlee is a longtime activist of international gender-based violence and human rights issues.  She has found her home with The Initiative and has a vision of doing international work to prevent abuse of persons with disabilities and to ultimately help our culture evolve to where everyone is safe. Ashlee focused her research and studies on Sociology and Psychology with a special emphasis on ethnic studies. She always had one question in mind: “Why do people suffer?” and has learned that the suffering of different groups of people is the result of oppression and the systems that we all exist in.  

Ashlee was born in South Korea and was adopted by a wonderful American couple in Boulder, Colorado at age 11 with her two biological younger brothers. Ashlee lost her birth mom at eight and her birth father not long after. She lived in an orphanage and with different families for 3 years before she was adopted to the U.S. It wasn’t long before the love and stability of her new parents helped her heal from her traumatic past and understand that being adopted to U.S. afforded her many opportunities that she would not have had as an orphan, or as a poor woman in Korea.  Now she happily lives in Aurora with her two teenagers, Ethan and Hanna, and two little dogs, Lukee and Charlie.


Amber Dower

(She, Her, Hers)

Chief Program Officer

(303) 839-5510 ext. 108

Amber Dower serves as the Chief Program Officer, Ms. Dower serves as a critical member of the executive management team. In collaboration with the Executive Director, she articulates and implements the strategic vision and leadership of the agency; oversees a significant portfolio of agency programs and related services; and evaluates the effectiveness of programs to provide ongoing feedback. Ms. Dower has over twenty years’ experience as a licensed massage therapist and has spent the majority of her time in practice working with people who face a variety of severe stressors such as illnesses, disease, recovering from accidents/injuries, and coping with loss/grief. Amber is also an experienced victim advocate and was formerly the Program Director for the Initiative. She has her bachelors in psychology and biology with an emphasis in human physiology, anatomy, and neuroanatomy. She was a teacher’s assistant and studied extensively on behavioral neuroscience, focusing on the effects of PTSD and chronic stress on the body and mind.


Emma Martin

(She, Her, Hers)

Program Director

(303) 839-5510 ext. 105

Emma Martin serves as the Program Director, where she oversees the advocacy-based service program and ensures that The Initiative provides high-quality services to survivors of abuse, including domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, caregiver abuse, human trafficking, and elderly abuse, against people with disabilities. She assists and supports clients with informational resources, domestic violence education and awareness counseling, and advocacy adapted to meet their specific needs. Ms. Martin graduated with a degree in Feminist and Gender Studies from Colorado College, where she worked to interrogate the impetuses for and implications of power and dominance, especially that which result in oppression based on sexuality, race, gender, class, citizenship status, and other markers. While in college, Ms. Martin also dedicated herself to collaborative, community-based activism, specifically around the issue of sexual assault and intimate partner violence on campus. Ms. Martin’s advocacy centers intersectionality, transformative justice, trauma-informed communities, and grassroots activism. Prior to moving to Colorado, Ms. Martin grew up on the high plains of Montana, and thus rural advocacy, particularly within rural LGBTQ+ communities, has always been a deeply personal passion.


Zoe Collins 

(She, Her, Hers)

Director of Communications and Outreach

(303) 839-5510 ext. 106

Zoe Collins serves as the Director of Communications and Outreach at The Initiative. In this role, Ms. Collins works to establish and maintain partnerships with other agencies, provides community education, and coordinates events. Upon graduating from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD with a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and Comparative Literature, she began her work with The Initiative as a Victim Advocate Intern. Her previous advocacy experiences include Legal Advocacy at The House of Ruth Maryland, a domestic violence center in Baltimore, where she assisted survivors with attaining Protective Orders and opening Divorce/Custody cases. While in college, she worked closely with the administration as a Resident Assistant and student activist to update the school’s Title IX policies and campus culture. It was in this position that Ms. Collins discovered her passion for advocacy while guiding students through the difficult process of reporting campus sexual assaults. After over a year as the Rural Advocacy Program Coordinator at The Initiative, Ms. Collins is excited to be taking on the Director of Communications and Outreach role. 


Maria Manriquez

(She, Her, Hers)

Special Programs Communications and Outreach Manager

(303) 839-5510 ext. 102

Text: 720-365-3780

*Hablo Español*

Maria Manriquez serves as the Outreach Director at The Initiative. Ms. Manriquez leads the Outreach Program in a manner that supports and guides The Initiative’s direction and mission. Mrs. Manriquez accomplishes this through coordination and outreach awareness by communicating information to organizations, service providers and other advocates who represent people with disabilities. Mrs. Manriquez is bilingual fluent in Spanish. Mrs. Manriquez has over 15 years of experience in case management and advocacy from her roles as the supervisor of over 20 Soldiers and as a Deputy probation officer. She has a Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice with a minor in Management, and a Master's degree in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management. Her focus is on social community justice, victimology and social policy. In her 10 plus years in military service she was designated as the victim representative assisting Soldiers report and navigate the military resources for victims of abuse, on top of her career as a logistician. Her military experience supports her advocacy in abuse. Her status as a former Soldier, veteran, mother, spouse to a veteran and ethnicity allow her to better understand multiple cultures and the different needs for advocacy. A devotee to disability advocacy and outreach, due to familial and personal disabilities.


Isaura Cardenas

(She, Her, Hers)

          Special Programs Direct Services Manager                    

(303) 839-5510 ext. 109

Text: (720) 431-6766

*Hablo Español*

Isaura Cardenas serves as the Bicultural Advocacy Program Coordinator at The Initiative. In her role, she works to coordinate high quality, culturally relevant advocacy to Spanish speaking survivors of abuse with disabilities. Ms. Cardenas is fluent in Spanish and Mexican culture, as she is a first generation Mexican-American and the first to have graduated from college in her family. She is proud of her heritage installed by her parents. Ms. Cardenas’ parents came to America and have struggled, and overcame barriers as immigrants. For her parents to provide for her and her three siblings a better life; Ms. Cardenas graduated from University of Colorado at Denver, where she received a Bachelors of Arts in Criminal Justice with minors in Sociology, Human Development, and Family Relations. Ms. Cardenas began her work at The Initiative as a victim advocate intern. Through her criminal justice lens, and previous volunteer experiences at Iskashita Refugee Network, Habitat for Humanity, and Humane Borders in Tucson, she realized the specific barriers and challenges faced by immigrants and/or undocumented immigrants and other marginalized groups, and discovered her passion for advocacy that fills these gaps.


Kashundra Smith 

(She, Her, Hers)

Victim Advocate

Kashundra Smith serves as a Victim Advocate at The Initiative. In this role, she works to provide advocacy support to victims of abuse who also have a disability. With her knowledge from the Human Service perspective, she is able to provide active listening and support to clients with a strong sense of compassion and empathy. Ms. Smith graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Human Services from the University of Phoenix. She discovered her passion for Victim Advocacy while providing social and emotional support to a friend who fell victim to domestic violence and a sibling who was a victim of gun violence. Ms. Smith began her work at The Initiative as a Victim Advocate Intern. She was born and raised here in Denver, Colorado.

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