Meet Us

Passionate Purpose

EPIC TEAM

Nicole Riehl

President and CEO

Nicole joined Executives Partnering to Invest in Children (EPIC) as President & CEO in September of 2019 and works with employers and business executives to advocate for early childhood investments, policies, and workforce solutions. Nicole previously held the position of Chief Operating Officer at Denver’s Early Childhood Council and her experience spans across the private and non-profit sectors, with her career beginning as an early childhood teacher at the employer-based child care program for StorageTek in Louisville, CO. She entered the private sector and after working in the finance sector with a large national homebuilder for several years, Nicole returned to early childhood and supported the launch and onboarding of over 200 child care programs participating in the Denver Preschool Program when it was authorized by Denver voters in 2006.

Nicole earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from the University of Colorado at Denver and a graduate certificate in non-profit management and leadership from Duke University. She was recognized by the Denver Business Journal with the Outstanding Women in Business Award in 2022, by Colorado Biz Magazine as a Gen XYZ Top 5 Young Professional in 2023, and by the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce for the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Business. She is a nationally recognized thought leader on child care solutions for the workforce and stays active within the community as a local volunteer, national board member of Book Trust, and board member of the YMCA of Metro Denver. Nicole is a Colorado native and loves to travel, swim, and spend time outdoors with her husband and young daughter in her free time.

Steph Itelman

Chief Impact Officer

Steph joined EPIC in early 2024 as Chief Impact Officer. She brings to the team a rich mix of organizational leadership, professional services expertise, and dedication to early learning and K-12 education. Steph was a collaborator of EPIC’s since 2019, partnering with EPIC to serve dozens of employers in working through employer-based care feasibility and planning. Steph’s first engagement with employer-based care was partnering with Guild to launch its on-site early care and education center, The Beehive, in downtown Denver during the COVID-19 pandemic. At this time, Steph was leading 5280 Impact Partners where she advised organizational leaders on both strategic and tactical topics,helping them to advance their most important priorities. This included contracting to provide strategic planning support and interim COO services to Clayton Early Learning as Clayton looked to expand its impact and working with The Efshar Project to assess and develop possibilities for shared services across a network of early childhood programs.

Prior to this work, she was a Denver public charter school executive director and spent 6 years as a leader at Bellwether, providing advisory support to education organizations around the country ranging from strategic planning, growth strategy projects, strategic Federal grant application development, and implementation support. Before joining Bellwether in 2013, Steph was the Chief of Staff at Aspire Public Schools. There she also held the role of Director of Growth and Strategy, where she led the development of new schools and facilities. Over the course of her four years at Aspire, the organization grew from 21 to 35 schools. A former Broad Resident and Education Pioneer, Steph has also worked as a consultant for Bain & Company and the Bridgespan Group. Stephanie earned her M.Ed. and MBA at Stanford University and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia. She lives in Denver with her husband and two daughters.

Alethea Gomez

Colorado Executive Director

Alethea has worked in both early education and business for more than 15 years. Her undergraduate studies focused on Business Administration, Early Cognition and Development, and she completed her Masters in Life and Developmental Sciences at CU Denver’s Department of Human Development. She also holds several licensures in Colorado, and continues to pursue opportunities to deepen her experience and knowledge of the field.

Alethea has extensive experience overseeing large educational institutions in both leadership and administrative capacities, working privately and professionally with families, and creating vision, structure and growth in the departments she has led. This has honed both her ability to support the needs and goals of complex projects, and make direct connections to the incredible benefit of the integration of family and business needs.

Her past tenures included work with UCLA, Harvard University, Pixar, Facebook, and Bright Horizons Family Solutions – specifically supporting the needs of children and families – and equipping her with a unique ability to understand and represent the needs and support structures for business owners, educators and families. She is thrilled to continue this work supporting the goals and expanding the influence of EPIC across Colorado and beyond.

Ellen Braun

Employer Engagement Director

Ellen Braun is currently serving as the Employer Engagement Director at EPIC. Ellen joins EPIC following a 14 year tenure at the Denver Preschool Program, most recently the Chief Operating Officer. Her key duties included operational and fiscal management, communications oversight, quality program development, staff and culture management, and upholding the organization’s philosophy, mission, strategy, and annual goals and objectives. Through her dedication and deep commitment to DPP, she championed the evolution of the organization’s communications strategy, was a key visionary in launching a new tuition credit scale, managed a $32 million annual budget, led the transition to build the latest DPP staffing team, and much more.

Ellen holds a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Colorado. She is also a 2014 graduate of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation’s Impact Denver, a 2019 Civic DNA Fellow an alumni of the 2023 Leadership Denver class. In 2021, she proudly received the Denver Business Journal’s C-Suite Award.

Originally from Minnesota, Ellen is now proud to call Colorado home. She resides in Observatory Park with her husband, where they try to keep up with their two girls and a wild Australian Labradoodle. She enjoys spending time with friends and being outdoors in the beautiful Colorado landscape.

Aya Takemoto

Employer Engagement Director

Aya’s career began in 2006 as a Peace Corps volunteer in the education program for Madagascar. She then went on to teach in classrooms in Japan and New York City, before settling into the world of education non-profits. She’s worked across a variety of impact areas, including: supporting international aid organizations to re-build schools in post-conflict countries, and developing robotics programs in low-income schools in New York City.  In almost a decade with the College Board, Aya led national initiatives to build equitable pathways for students to access critical opportunities on their path to college and career. Through it all, she’s built a reputation as someone who can tackle big, sticky problems, and get stuff done in service of the communities at the heart of the work.

A native of Walla Walla, Washington, Aya left home to pursue her BA at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and later earned her MA from Teachers College at Columbia University in New York City.  She and her family moved from New York to Colorado to be closer to family in Estes Park and across the west coast. She lives in Denver with her husband, two young children, and her polydactyl cat, Leroy.

Marianne Hodge

Director of Finance and Governance

Marianne joined EPIC in December of 2019 and on the very same day, she and her family moved into their first mountain home in Bailey, Colorado. Formally, an east coaster, Marianne grew up in Upstate Ny in the Adirondack mountains. After, obtaining a B.S. in Finance at Siena College, she decided to seek out a business career in Washington, DC. After a couple years in the business sector, Marianne followed her heart and switched paths into education. She worked as a paraprofessional, until she found her calling as Lead Teacher, in the Child Development Center at Sidwell Friends. There she learned the value and importance of a child’s most formative years from zero to three, and there she learned of her desire to shout it from the roof tops! While happy with her purpose in life, the mountains were calling her name, except this time it was the Rocky Mountains. She knew she needed to be around like-minded individuals who not only cared about the importance of early care and education but also cared about it from 5,280 feet. She picked up and moved to cap hill in Denver, where she could walk to Warren Village and teach her students and their parents in a full circle operation about how the brain develops, and how important “windows of opportunity” can impact a child’s future success.

Prior to EPIC, Marianne served as a Quality Navigator at Denver’s Early Childhood Council, where she helped over 45 child care providers with business administration, PDIS, and navigating the QRIS system to effectively use QI funding.

Marianne has collectively 10 years’ experience as an Early Childhood Educator and home provider, while she stayed home with her now 6 year old son for his formative years until he was ready for preschool.

When she is not busy maintaining EPIC’s daily operations and supporting EPIC’s President & CEO, advocating for early care and education, she is spending time with her friends and family enjoying the outdoors of colorful Colorado.

Cassie Leyva

VP of Development & Operations

Cassie joined the Executives Partnering to Invest in Children (EPIC) team as the Senior Director of Business Development and Communications in October of 2023. She brings 15 years of nonprofit management, communications, and fundraising experience to her role. Her early career in banking gave her a strong foundation to start her own microfinance and education nonprofit in Tanzania, East Africa which she managed for over 6 years. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Law & Global Studies from Winona State University, Cassie moved to Denver where she met her husband and continued her career in the Denver Metro area.  

While working for The Center on Colfax, Cassie grew her donor management experience and developed key interests in the business community’s involvement in complex challenges facing the Colfax community. This is where her passion for Colorado’s social and economic issues grew, which she further cultivated working with philanthropists at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus. 

Most recently, Cassie worked on state and federal early care and education policy with the David & Laura Merage Foundation. There she managed the only center-right national policy reform and advocacy campaign on affordable and accessible child care. Her passion for young children continues as she serves on an executive board for an organization that supports children with developmental disabilities in Tanzania. In her free time, Cassie enjoys traveling, camping, and gardening.

A photo of Brooke Flower wearing a jean jacket and blue shirt against a brick wall

Brooke Flower

Director of Communications & External Relations

Brooke serves as EPIC’s Director of Communications and External Relations. She plays a crucial role in advancing EPIC’s mission and increasing visibility through communications strategy, media relations, social media management, special events and partner engagement.  

Brooke came to EPIC with a rich background in digital marketing, communications and a fervor for mission-driven work. She brings nearly 20 years of B2B, B2C and agency experience in the nonprofit and healthcare sectors, including a decade leading the online storytelling and content strategy for Children’s Hospital Colorado. There she partnered with executives, clinicians, researchers and patient families to market one of the top 10 pediatric hospitals in the country. 

Brooke most recently managed the digital communications and CRM at The American Foundation for the Blind, where she created an omni-channel strategy focused on accessibility for blind users with adaptive devices. By working closely with the blind, low-vision and disability communities, she developed an even greater urgency to advocate for digital inclusion in an increasingly online world.

In her spare time, Brooke enjoys reading, hiking, cheering on the Denver Broncos and seeking out the perfect pizza. She credits her two daughters with igniting her passion to advocate for high-quality childcare, education and healthcare

Angela Ervin

Senior Operations Coordinator

Angela has worked in early childhood education and with children and families for the last 8 years in a variety of settings. She started her career in different preschool environments as well as worked with the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Butte County in Chico, CA. After obtaining her B.A. in Child Development with a minor in Family Relations from California State University, Chico, she went into the Early Intervention Field working with children under the age of three with developmental delays. There she learned the importance and just how crucial the birth to age three years truly are. She was able to meet the child where they were at developmentally, support families, and aid children and families to meet goals and developmental milestones. 2 years later, she became a Program Manager in Early Intervention and was able to manage her caseload of children’s programs, supervise others, as well as gain experience and knowledge about Autism Spectrum Disorder, IEP meetings, and much more.

Once COVID hit, Angela began exploring options and moved to Colorado in October 2020. That’s when she began her Montessori teaching career as an Assistant Guide in a Toddler environment. Shortly after she began, she received a sponsorship to get her AMI Montessori Training from birth to age three and became a Lead Guide in a Toddler environment while in her training. She finished her AMI Montessori training in August of 2022. Overall, Angela is thrilled to join the EPIC team and to be a part of advocating for early care and education.

Dedicated Expertise

EPIC SUBCONTRACTORS

Beth Melton

Melton Strategic Solutions, LLC

Beth is the founder and principal consultant at Melton Strategic Solutions. Most recently, she served as a full-time local elected official in Routt County, Colorado. Her run for office and her work in office were motivated by a desire to support working families with housing, child care, health care, and smart land use.

She was also deeply involved in supporting economic mobility for families, developing strategies to support communities transitioning away from traditional energy jobs, building a new public health department, developing a local climate action plan, and managing the COVID-19 pandemic emergency response. She was honored to serve in several leadership positions including Governor’s appointments on the State Board of Human Services and the Governor’s Commission for Community Service.

She built federal grant programs from the ground up, taught classrooms full of 10-year-olds, ran many successful political campaigns, and founded a nonprofit serving children with dyslexia.

Over the course of her career, Beth has worked extensively in the government, education, nonprofit, and political sectors. She is a leader, facilitator, and problem-solver with a knack for project management. She excels at creating order from chaos by charting a logical path to solutions anchored in reality, and she prides herself on keeping meetings on track.

She has degrees in psychology, early childhood and elementary education, and educational leadership and policy studies.

Beth is currently fulfilling her family’s long-time dream of living in Central America. She remains deeply connected and committed to building good policy that works for people. She loves to read on the beach, debate politics, and is brushing up on her Spanish.

William Mutch

Mutch Government Relations

William Mutch, President of Mutch Government Relations, works with government relations at the local, State, and Federal levels.

Mutch has a strong track record managing associations, winning candidate campaign and legislative issues, building effective grassroots programs, managing political action committees, fundraising strategies, and building/managing broad legislative coalitions.

Experience includes campaigns for state and federal offices and organizing large statewide campaign efforts. As a lobbyist and association manager, Mutch has represented some of the largest companies and legislative coalitions, both nationally and in Colorado. He has also organized successful statewide initiative campaigns and has broad experience counseling business clients, elected officials, and candidates on both legislative and media issues. Additionally, Mutch has worked in the capital markets and understands financial services issues from the standpoint of the private sector as someone who has raised alternative investment capital and structured municipal bond transactions.

Leah Weatherman

Leah Weatherman Consulting

Leah Weatherman is a data and research specialist who supports organizations working to solve complex social problems. Her expertise lies in integrating qualitative and quantitative tools into a research-based, action-oriented approach.

Leah was first introduced to the potential impact of research over a decade ago, working as a research assistant exploring the transformative benefits of music therapy with migrant farmworkers in North Carolina. Driven by a deep-rooted desire to foster positive change, she has since taken on diverse roles in interpretation, education, and community outreach. Wanting to understand the mechanics of sustainable solutions more deeply, Leah joined Colorado State University’s Impact MBA program, where she studied the early childhood education business model and innovative solutions for Family Child Care Homes.

Now, as a data and research consultant, she works with organizations that are unafraid to ask big questions to solve big problems. Today, Leah is based in Zaragoza, Spain, where she continues to actively support capacity-building efforts for Colorado communities.

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