“The ELK staff is highly trained and dedicated to providing high quality educational opportunities to our community. We are committed to working with ELK for this reason.”

- Tom Boasberg,
Denver Public Schools Superintendent


Loretta Pineda, Executive Director

Loretta grew up on a farm in Weld County that made her develop a great love and respect for the land and the people who work to keep Colorado special.  She earned her Bachelors of Art in Technical Journalism from Colorado State University before receiving certificates in Tufts University’s Citizen Participation Institution Coursework, and New York University’s Government Public Affairs Coursework. Prior to joining ELK, she devoted 33 year of service to the State of Colorado, Department of Natural Resources.

Loretta is a founding ELK Board member, and was also ELK’s 2011 Lifetime Legacy Award recipient.  She continues to serve on several Boards throughout the metro area, dedicated to enhancing Denver’s community and youth. She looks forward to enhancing the lives of ELK students and their families, with all of the heart and soul that is ELK!

Contact Loretta at lpineda@elkkids.org 

Kimberly WeissKimberly Weiss, Education Director

Kim received her Master of Arts in environmental education and conservation from Rowan University, in Glassboro, NJ in May 2004. Previously, she was an Angler Education Assistant for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Before moving to Colorado, Kim was a camp director for YMCA Camp Onyahsa in western New York. There she was responsible for directing all programs as well as supervising staff. As a part of her Masters thesis she developed a year-round environmental education program for Camp Onyahsa. She implemented the program during the summer of 2004. Kim maintains her First Aid/CPR for the professional rescuer certification.

Contact Kim at kweiss@elkkids.org or 303-291-7554.

Amy WrightAmy Wright, Associate Education Director

Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Amy received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Northern Arizona University. While pursuing her science degree, she began student teaching chemistry courses, and found her true passion—Science Education!  Over the years, she embarked upon the world of informal education and most recently was an Educator at the Children’s Museum of Denver. At the museum she focused on STEM curriculum and implemented the science program. She continually strives to be a good steward to our environment, and attributes her love for nature to her early experiences in the outdoors. She firmly believes that all children should have the opportunity to experience our natural world. When not teaching, she can often be found in the mountains with her two dogs, Zoe and Otis.

Contact Amy at awright@elkkids.org or 303-291-7147.

Amy WrightBen Gregory, Manager of Finance & Operations

A non-profit professional for over 18 years, Ben received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Averett University in Virginia.  In 2001, Ben moved to Colorado to continue his life-long passion for exploring the outdoors.  As Deputy Director for Colorado Conservation Voters, Ben worked to hold our state legislators and Governor accountable for their policy decisions while growing the political power of the environmental community.  In his free time, Ben enjoys photography, playing bass guitar, and filling his National Parks Passport with stamps.

Contact Ben at bgregory@elkkids.org or 303-291-7553.

Amy WrightTheresa Simcic, Major Gift Manager

Theresa grew up camping, hiking, swimming, and boating on the east coast. She has a passion for working with under-resourced youth and has a deep desire for every child to have access to the same opportunities for growth, learning, and ultimately success in life. She believes that nature is a dynamic tool for teaching and one of the greatest sources of inspiration.

Theresa has a B.A. in Psychology from Shippensburg University of PA. She holds masters in Experimental Psychology and Public Policy from the University of Kentucky. She has previous experience helping to grow nonprofits in experiential education as well as entrepreneurship education. In her personal time, Theresa enjoys any fitness challenge, traveling, experiencing and learning new things, and exploring with her dog, Dakotah.

Contact Theresa at tsimcic@elkkids.org or 610-751-3841

Kristina OpreKristina Opre Gray, Corporate Relations & Marketing Director

After spending a year at UNC in Greeley CO, Kristina received her Bachelor of Art degree in Political Science from MSU Denver in 2011. From there, and after realizing that systemic change will never come from the top down, she enlisted in an assignment with the Corporation for National and Community Service's AmeriCorps VISTA program to do her part in fighting poverty and advocating for equality for all. Her incredibly positive experience as a VISTA solidified her dedication to living a life devoted to increasing opportunities for the far too often underserved. When she isn't busy roundhouse kicking poverty in the face, Kristina loves to dance, rollerblade and fish- but only when they're biting of course!

Contact Kristina at kopre@elkkids.org or 303-291-7502.

Justin Twist, Education Coordinator

Justin grew up in upstate New York where he spent his childhood days meandering through the woods and streams. He graduated in 2013 with a B.S in Environmental Science from Le Moyne College. Inspired to share nature with others, he has spent time teaching environmental education with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Shenandoah National Park, and McDowell Environmental Center. When not sharing what our awesome world has to teach us, Justin enjoys exploring new places and cultures, hiking, fly fishing, and reading. After completing a year of AmeriCorps VISTA service with ELK, Justin was hired on full-time to manage our summer Urban Ranger program, in addition to our Leaderships Corps!

Contact Justin at jtwist@elkkids.org

Taylor Ruffin, Education Coordinator

Taylor Ruffin grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and received his B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology from University Wisconsin Stevens Point in 2015. While finishing his degree, he began teaching conservation education with the U.S. Forest Service in the Urban Connections program, where he was able to connect Milwaukee youth to the outdoors. Taylor moved to Colorado for the opportunity to work as an interpreter on Mt. Evans in the Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest and after that was an educator with Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the Schools in Outdoor Learning Environments program. He is excited to start working with ELK and continuing to provide stellar outdoor opportunities and experiences for Denver’s youth. In his off hours, Taylor enjoys hiking, foraging for edible plants and longboarding.

Contact Taylor at truffin@elkkids 

Christina Hoffman, Annual Fund Manager

Christina is a Denver native who has channeled her passion for social justice over the past 12 years working for non-profit organizations. Her work has ranged in focus from advocating for the homeless, scholarships for American Indian students, and access to health care in Colorado and she’s now excited to work for an organization that gets kids outside and excited about science and nature. When she isn’t studying, she enjoys spending free time cooking, reading, jogging, and exploring the outdoor world with her husband and young son.

Contact Christina at choffman@elkkids.org or 303-291-7503

Chris Urias, Student Coordinator

Chris joined the ELK Family in 2010. His first trip was ice fishing and he was hooked ever since. He is a proud Montbello Warrior and is currently a student at the University of Colorado Boulder. While being a student, Chris has also worked for the University of Colorado Environmental Center as the ECO-Visits Coordinator, helping his fellow peers save energy, water, and money. As a Daniels Fund Scholar, he has experience with applying to many scholarships and gives advice to high school students on college and scholarship applications. He often spends his time with family and friends, playing guitar, hiking, and staying involved in extra-curricular activities.  

Contact Chris at curias@elkkids.org

Yesica Chavez, Student Coordinator

Yesica is a first-generation student at the University of Colorado Denver getting her B.S. in Psychology. She was born and raised in the Montbello community of Denver. As a high school student, she joined ELK’s Leadership Corps program, where she received the help she needed to get her to her next step in life, which was higher education. Eventually, she joined ELK's Urban Ranger summer employment program. As an Urban Ranger, she taught hundreds of kids to fish, helped supervise camping trips, and began advocating for the importance of getting youth outside. After three years, she became the College Lead for the team. Her leadership since then has grown tremendously, as has her passion to help her community. Currently, Yesica is ELK's Student Coordinator where she helps lead the program that helped her, Leadership Corps. She is also the Youth Ambassador for the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Office, a volunteer for Latino Outdoors, and a Natural Leader with the Natural Leaders Network. In her free time she enjoys hiking, dancing, or binge watching Netflix shows.  

Contact Yesica at ychavez@elkkids.org 

Gabriela Molinar-Castillo, Denver Foundation Nonprofit Internship Program Intern

Gabriela is a recent graduate of the University of Denver. She received her Bachelors of Arts in Cultural Anthropology and Communications. As a marketing intern with Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), Gabriela will be creating blog content for the year and a marketing strategic plan. She is excited about having the opportunity to intern at ELK during the summer while continuing to pursue a Masters from the Morgridge College of Education in Teacher Education. She is passionate about teaching, advocating for students in her community, and supporting students in reaching their potential. When she’s not studying, she enjoys spending time with her family and cat, Charlie.

Contact Gabriela at Gabriela@elkkids.onmicrosoft.com