Our Village

Gillian Wood

Gillian Wood

Founding Director, Gillian Wood, MPH, has a bachelor's degree in psychology and women's studies with a minor in African-American studies from Middlebury College and a master's degree in international public health from New York University. She has centered her lifelong advocacy and activism around giving voice to the silenced. Those who know her see a true fighter and survivor. She brings extraordinary wisdom and empathy to the Resilience Rising program and the larger anti- sex trafficking movement. "These kids matter. There is no such thing as a throwaway child. I am steadfast in my belief that children are not for sale." Read the full bio of RR's founder here.

Lead Residential Supervisor Aleesa “Alli” Weins, MSW candidate, has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and family services from the University of Northern Iowa. She is pursuing a master’s degree in social work with a certificate in animal-assisted therapy from the University of Denver. Alli worked as a youth specialist in a residential treatment center for adolescent girls. She completed an undergraduate internship at a psychiatric medical institution for children where she led groups on coping skills. Alli sought to join Resilience Rising as she was inspired by its multimodal approach to healing, particularly the canine therapy program. Alli is also a kickboxing instructor and hopes to introduce our girls to this physical outlet.

Elyssa Lewis

Lead Residential Supervisor, Elyssa Lewis, MA, is a poet, musician, and artist from Colorado. She has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Metro State University and a master’s degree in interdisciplinary humanities and social thought from New York University. Driven by a passion for human rights and social justice, Elyssa has volunteered alongside Habitat for Humanity in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, worked as a Girl Scouts counselor in the Yup'ik villages of rural Alaska, and worked as a caregiver for hospice and palliative care clients in her hometown. She has published literary pieces in various academic journals and poetry magazines, and her current artistic endeavors include a community poetry project for children in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood. Having always been drawn to the particular challenges facing women and girls in contemporary society, Elyssa's employment with Resilience Rising results from years of intuition-led preparation.

Lead Residential Supervisor, Meredith Clark, BA, has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Montclair State University. Initially wanting to go to school for music therapy, she coordinated a music program for adolescents in an alternative high school. Meredith’s experience also includes working with adolescents in an inpatient psychiatric unit where she enhanced her understanding of trauma care and recovery. Meredith demonstrates a particular interest in psychopharmacology giving her a strong grasp of substance abuse and addiction as well as psychiatric medications. She has an in-depth understanding of the neurobiology of trauma and DSM mental health diagnoses.

Esther Hernandez

Lead Residential Supervisor, Esther Hernandez, has been a consistent force on the RR team. Her ability to connect art to healing is an asset. Esther is currently a resident artist at Redline, a nonprofit contemporary art center that fosters education and engagement between artists and communities to create positive social change. She is also teaching high school students at the Center for Visual Art at Metropolitan State University; this summer internship engages the next generation in the evolving cultural capitol of Denver. Esther's artistic soul makes her real and accessible to the youth at Resilience Rising. And because of her consistency and commitment, the youth are able to recognize her as a genuine, stable presence in their lives.

Carolyn van der Vorst

Education Coordinator, Carolyn van der Vorst, MSW candidate, is pursuing a master’s degree in social work from Metro State University. She has a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in psychology from Calvin College and a second bachelor’s degree in religious education. A native of Canada and a bilingual Spanish speaker, Carolyn has lived, learned, worked, and served in the following countries: Belize, Nigeria, the Philippines, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. She has two adopted children from Haiti in addition to two biological now-adult children. Carolyn worked with teenage girls in a court-mandated locked youth facility. She also worked as a special education paraprofessional for elementary children with needs ranging from mild learning disabilities to severe autism. Carolyn’s passion for anti-sex trafficking work began thirty years ago after watching a film that “left a mark on my heart and soul that has never left me.” 

All staff photos provided by Sweet Justice Photography