Focusing on the holistic model of sustainability, we are building a pipeline of employment for communities who have traditionally been left out of the environmental movement. Along with our partners, we help Sustainability Skills Initiative (SSI) participants gain essential professional experience and skills to set them apart from the rest in the environmental field. Together, we’re helping grow the next wave of sustainability leaders so it’s more representative of the diverse communities Colorado.

how it works

We ensure our Sustainability Skills Initiative participants develop professional skillsets which will help them stand out and succeed in the sustainability field. This is accomplished through hands-on projects and engaging participants in real world work at The Alliance Center and the greater Colorado environmental community. Area’s individuals work in include:

  • Web design
  • Promoting diversity, equity, equality and including (DEEI)
  • Waste audits
  • Policy analysis
  • Elevating DEEI in the workforce
  • Social media management
  • Content curation
  • Blog post creation
  • Interviews
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Literature research

2021 Participants

Hira Baig

Health and Wellness Intern

Hira is passionate about creating a world better than the one she entered. A current student at the University of Chicago, she’s excited to learn from the climate in Denver and implement its goals elsewhere. Although unsure of her future plans, Hira desires a career with a tangible positive impact. She hopes to one day travel all over and gain knowledge from new places. As an ESL instructor, Hira firmly believes in the power of communication and connectivity. In her free time, she loves to read, play badminton and spend time in libraries.

Daniela Espinosa

Programs Intern

A lifelong urbanite, Daniela has always been fascinated with cities. Her interests in sustainability and urbanism arose from her experiences living in Boston, Chicago and Mexico City. She is currently her fourth year at the University of Chicago where she is pursuing a BA in Environmental and Urban Studies. She is particularly interested in the use of urban planning and design to make cities more sustainable and equitable. In her free time, she likes to work on crossword puzzles, visit museums and go on bike rides.

Ah’Shaiyah Mitchell

Programs Intern

Ah’Shaiyah, a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, is interested in working to better the lives of marginalized communities through whichever way she can. In the past, Ah’Shaiyah has worked on issues such as criminal justice reform. At The Alliance Center, she hopes to learn more about current sustainability and environmental justice initiatives to educate communities on the impacts of these efforts. In their free time, Ah’Shaiyah enjoys playing guitar, writing poetry and solving an unhealthy amount of logic puzzles.

Grace Oh-Willeke

Communications Intern

Grace, originally from Denver, graduated from Colby College with a BA in environmental science. Following graduation, Grace WWOOF’ed on an organic farm in Southern California and organized during the 2020 election. Grace is committed to empowering her community to engage in pressing local issues. She is particularly interested in urban environmental issues and equitable access to voting. In her free time, Grace enjoys tending to her houseplants, baking, thrifting and playing Scrabble.
You can view a blog post she wrote here.

Nasiftu Yusuf

Girls Inc. Intern

Nasiftu Yusuf is a student at Gateway High School and is a competitive swimmer for the Gateway and Tsunami team. She’s participated in many programs such as The Aurora FireFighter youth training, volunteered for Quanza at a homeless shelter and has participated in cello, taekwondo, and gymnastic classes. As an intern with The Alliance Center, Nasiftu is learning about, working with and interviewing companies that help the environment and sustainability throughout Colorado

Christina Zhang

Diversity, Equity, Equality and Inclusion (DEEI) Intern

From a young age, Christina was always interested in environmentalism and science, and this has since grown into a passion for environmental justice and intersectional policy. Her experiences in environmentalism, from a summer camp in Key Largo to pursuing projects in her high school environmental club, has only pushed her to continue pursuing a career in this field.  Christina is currently entering her second year of education at the University of Chicago and plans to double major in environmental studies and economics. In her free time, she enjoys painting, playing with her dog Atticus and skateboarding.

2020 Participants

Jennalee Casias

Girls Inc. Intern

Jennalee Casias was born and raised in Southwest Denver. She is committed to living a fulfilling lifestyle that benefits not only her but her community and country as well. She attends a small neighborhood art school where she participates and takes action in Student Voice and Leadership classes. In 2019 she was awarded the Colorado Youth Citizenship Award. In her free time you can find her doing her favorite hobbies: drawing, long boarding and playing sports with her friends and family.

View a blog post she co-wrote for the Alliance here.

Esperanza Chairez Uriarte

Programs/Communications Intern

Esperanza‘s love for the natural environment and the people who take care of it first began in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she was born and raised. She left her hometown to study at Amherst College in Massachusetts, where she became especially interested in environmental justice. After graduating, she worked abroad as a research assistant studying Peru’s tropical forest conservation program. Outside of work you can find her participating in community theatre, playing capoeira or riding her bike.

You can hear Esperanza in Episode 5 of our Climate Bridges podcast and view a blog post she wrote here.

Devani Dominguez

Girls Inc. Intern

Devani Dominguez was born and raised in Denver, Colorado and is entering her junior year of high school this fall. She has been in the Girls Inc. program for six years now and is in her second year of interning in the Eureka program. Devani enjoys trying new things and meeting new people. Some of her hobbies include playing volleyball, skateboarding, drawing and painting.

View a blog post she co-wrote for the Alliance here.

Maria Reyes

Programs Intern

Maria was born and raised in Honduras where she learned to love the outdoors and developed a passion for environmental sustainability. Currently, she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Chicago. Besides her academic work, Maria participates in Peer Health Exchange as a health educator for low-income Chicago high schools. She likes to relax by drawing and painting, solving crosswords, baking or simply being out in nature.

You can view a blog post she wrote for The Alliance Center here.

Kavitya Sarma

Programs Intern

Kavitya grew up enjoying hikes, bike rides, and gardening in his native North Texas. His interest in sustainability and public policy began when he worked on growing his residential high school’s bike share program. Kavitya is a student at the University of Chicago studying Economics with a Specialization in Data Science. He is interested in applying economics to educate the complexity of issues faced by public policy in sustainability and health. When Kavitya is not digitally commuting, he likes to work on puzzles, ride his bike, and cook.

View a blog post he wrote for the Alliance here.

Rachel Vigil

Waste Analysis and Reduction Intern

Born and raised in North Denver, Rachel has always felt a deep connection to her neighborhood and community. She is currently pursuing a BA in Environmental and Urban Studies at the University of Chicago, a field of study she feels perfectly encompasses the areas of urban design and environmental justice she is passionate about. She was very excited for the opportunity to combine those passions as an Alliance Center in her hometown, Rachel loves biking, baking and watching bad movies with her friends, especially at the Esquire theater.

Rachel’s work at the Alliance focused on organizational waste reduction and included creating and disseminating a tenant survey, reviewing and developing our TRUE Credit Tracker and exploring and suggesting operational improvements.

Kristin Mason

Programs Intern

Kristin is a graduate student with the University of Wisconsin working on an MS in Sustainable Management and a Graduate Certificate in College Teaching and Learning with Walden University. Kristin is passionate about sustainability and learned about the holistic subject while working on her undergraduate degree in business administration at Colorado Mountain College. In her free time, Kristin enjoys volunteering with local food banks and food producers, reading, cooking, and going on long walks with her little chihuahua mix, Sasquatch!


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University of Chicago logo. white background, red text. red badge with bird and book
University of Chicago logo. white background, red text. red badge with bird and book
The VF Foundation logo. Blue circle with white VF.


“Throughout my internship, I was pleasantly surprised by the great community The Alliance Center has cultivated. I received support, encouragement and feedback that allowed me to succeed and develop as a young professional. The work The Alliance Center leads is inspiring and has been massively influential to my future aspirations. At the Alliance, I realized the importance of building inclusive communities to advance growth and change in my community and learned how to do so.”

– Kavitya Sarma, Programs Intern 2020

“My summer internship at The Alliance Center has given me the opportunity to see so much more about the sustainability field than I am able to learn in a classroom. Presenting a proposal to the team was a new challenge for me and stimulated important conversations about diversity and inclusion. Being a part of the Emergence Series opened my eyes to how we can only effectively address our most pressing environmental and social justice needs through collaboration. Not only have I been able to expand my skill set, but I have also strengthened the skills I possessed coming into this position by further exploring the role of a mentor while working with high school interns.”

-Maria Reyes, Program Intern 2020

The Sustainability Skills Initiative is a new, intentional venture for The Alliance Center. We recognizes that we are at the beginning of this journey, and we are intentionally building partnerships with community leaders in this space.