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 at The Initiative, 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.


Isaura Cardenas

(She, Her, Hers)

Program Director *Hablo Español*

(303) 839-5510 ext. 105, Text: (720) 431-6766

Isaura Cardenas serves as the Program Director at The Initiative. In her role, she works to provide high quality, culturally relevant advocacy to The Initiative's clients, and oversees the Direct Services Programs; including the Internship, Bilingual, Rural, and LGBTQ+ programs. 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 overcome barriers as immigrants 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.


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, maintains the public image of the agency, trains staff and interns, and coordinates events. She also has a small caseload of active clients. Ms. Collins was previously the Rural Advocacy Program Coordinator at The Initiative, where she built up the program, worked with The Initiative's rural population, and discovered her love of community education. 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 in 2018. 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. Ms. Collins has personal experiences as a survivor, with chronic illness and other invisible disabilities, and as a proud member of the queer community. These identities have all greatly informed her approach to advocacy and activism.


Maria Manriquez

(She, Her, Hers)

Special Programs Communications and Outreach Manager *Hablo Español*

(303) 839-5510 ext. 102, Text: (720) 365-3780

Maria Manriquez serves as the Special Programs Outreach Manager at The Initiative. Ms. Manriquez leads the Outreach in our Rural, Latino/x, and LGBTQ+ Programs 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 and has training in Basic Legal Terminology & Phrases for translation. 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.


Kashundra Smith

(She, Her, Hers)

          Special Programs Direct Services Manager                    

(303) 839-5510 ext. 109

Kashundra Smith serves as the Special Programs Direct Services Manager at The Initiative. In this role, she provides and coordinates advocacy-based victim services and ensures that The Initiative is providing high quality, culturally appropriate services for all survivors, specializing in Bicultural, Rural, and LGBTQ+ advocacy. 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.


Nayeli Flores 

(She, Her, Hers)

Bilingual Victim Advocate *Hablo Español*

(303) 839-5510, Text: (720) 431-2815

Nayeli Flores is a Bilingual Victim Advocate at The Initiative. Ms. Flores is able to help victims of abuse from both Spanish and English-speaking communities. She began her work with The Initiative as a COVA intern and is thrilled to take on the opportunity to work full-time assisting victims of abuse. Ms. Flores was born in Juarez, Mexico and moved to the United States at a young age. Although her parents went through many hardships, they raised her to know about her culture and background. She was able to continue learning about the Spanish language and her heritage while going to an all English school. Ms. Flores holds a Spanish interpreter certification in Education, Health, and Human Services from The International Community Interpreter Program. She will be the first person in her family to graduate from college this upcoming December with a double degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology, a minor in Psychology and a certificate in Criminology. She has always wanted to help individuals, especially those who feel like the criminal justice system has failed them.

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