Meet Our 2023-24 Fellows

The Bell Policy Center launched its inaugural group of fellowship projects in November 2023 to advance game-changing research and conversations intended to further economic mobility and equity in Colorado. Learn More

Portrait of a smiling woman named Kelly Mitchell, highlighted as a storyteller with fellowships for Denver's Five Points neighborhood.

Kelly Mitchell grew up a short distance from Denver’s Five Points neighborhood, and as a Black female felt a connection to its rich history and called to teach and lift up its young people. She has been a classroom teacher, high school administrator, and state-level employee. The higher she ascended in the system, the more apparent it was to her that it was broken in ways that were a disservice to people that look like her. The systems were failing marginalized people in foundational ways. For this reason, and to make the world a better place for her daughter, Hazel, she is working to tell the story of communities and their beauty. Kelly has a bachelor’s degree in statistics from Colorado State University, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Denver. She is pursuing her doctorate at University of Colorado at Boulder, and is Founder and Principal Consultant of Inclusive Design Group.

A professional portrait of a woman named Robin Kniech, with text introducing her and highlighting her work on land use reform issues and fellowships.

Robin Kniech was raised in a working-class family, the daughter of union members in construction and factory work. This experience ignited her awareness of the importance of decent wages – and safety nets – to ensure families can make ends meet and live good lives. Robin recently completed three terms as an at-large member of the Denver City Council. Elected in 2011, she was the first out LGBTQ member to serve on council. Robin supported affordable housing access and funding, innovations in resolving homelessness, expanding access to good-paying jobs and protections and safety net benefits for immigrant workers. She recently completed a decade of service on the Board of Local Progress, a national network of local elected officials committed to economic and racial justice, and frequently shares models of success, training and technical assistance with state and local government peers throughout Colorado and nationally. Robin is an attorney by training, and has a bachelor’s in sociology and English from Drake University, and a law degree from Northeastern University School of Law. Prior to her elected service, Robin worked as a community coalition organizer and policy advocate, in state government, and on women’s choice and anti-violence.

Portrait of Yesenia Silva-Estrada featured next to a brief description of her work, alongside Sara and Zach, on an equity-focused housing blueprint for Colorado with the 2023-24 Fellows

Yesenia Silva-Estrada hails from rural Chihuahua, Mexico, and takes immense pride in her Latinx and ancestral heritage as the daughter and granddaughter of indigenous Tarahumara Rarámuri farm and agriculture workers. At the age of six, her parents immigrated to rural western Colorado. Overcoming numerous challenges, Yesenia emerged as a trailblazer within her family by becoming the first to attend and graduate from college. She earned an Associate’s Degree in Business from Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley Campus in Glenwood Springs and then went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from Regis University and a master’s degree in social work from University of Denver. She is the Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives at Colorado Mountain College, implements strategic projects and initiatives aimed at enhancing access and success for specific student populations. Yesenia’s unwavering dedication to education advocacy has been instrumental in driving positive organizational change and empowering students from diverse backgrounds. She has been personally impacted by gentrification due to rising cost of living and by necessity lives more than 30 miles west of her hometown.

Meet Our Fellows: A spotlight on Zachary Haberler, highlighting his collaboration with colleagues on a rural housing project in Colorado.

Zachary Haberler is a first-generation college graduate. He became passionate about issues of social, cultural, and political inequality in the process of earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from the University of Colorado at Denver, before earning a doctorate in education, society, and culture from the University of California. He has 15 years of experience researching, evaluating, writing, and occasionally teaching about education. He is passionate about holding organizations and communities accountable to principles of social justice and using innovative approaches to data analysis in support of that work. Currently, he is the Manager of Strategic Analytics at Colorado Mountain College.

Meet Our Fellows: A promotional graphic introducing a woman named Sara Walsh, who is contributing to an equity-focused housing blueprint in Colorado alongside Yresenia and Zach as part of the 2023-

Sara Walsh was raised by a single mother and public school special education teacher, which shaped her belief that education is a social justice imperative. She began her career as a corporate attorney, but left in 2016 to pursue equity-driven work in education, capital investment, and housing. Sara managed planning and real estate for Denver Public Schools, and has managed significant real estate, housing, and private/public partnership projects throughout her career. She is currently the Manager of Academic and Capital Initiatives within the Strategic Initiatives department at Colorado Mountain College. Her legal experience and business background, coupled with her direct experience in public K-12 and higher education, give her a foundational skill set that enables her to think critically about big policy questions. Sara has a bachelor’s degree in international business from Northern Arizona University, a law degree and master’s in business from DePaul University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from The Broad Center.

Skip to content