The Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative team is here to support you!  

Shelley Banker, Director

Shelley Banker joined the Colorado Department of Higher Education in August 2014. As the Director, Shelley is responsible for the implementation and management of the Initiative.  Shelley is passionate about fair and equitable education outcomes and enjoys the opportunity to work alongside communities as they develop the necessary resources to support students and workforce needs. Previously, Shelley worked with the Mile High United Way supporting former foster youth in their transition to independent living focusing on workforce development and reducing educational barriers. Shelley was also a team member of the Bridge Project building positive connections to education with children from low-income communitiesShelley currently volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for Denver CASA. 

She received a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Denver focusing on community outreach and studied the use of animal-assisted interactions with youth. Prior to receiving her MSW, Shelley led email and social media marketing efforts for Pearson Education's eCollege, and TopSchool, Inc.

Cynthia Armendariz, Program Director

Cynthia Armendariz officially joined the COSI team in August 2018.  She leads the day-to-day management of grants, grantees, and network support.  Cynthia served as the lead in the development of the Community Partner Program Grant Pre-Collegiate and Postsecondary Resource Guides. She has worked in the higher education field for more than ten years serving traditional, non-traditional and transfer students, with a focus on access and student success.   

She received her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the Metropolitan State University of Denver, her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and her Ph.D. in Education and Human Resource Studies/Higher Education Leadership at Colorado State University. Cynthia’s passion and research are focused on the development of programs and strategies to increase matriculation, persistence, and degree completion of underserved students. 

Carla Castillo, Student Success Network Manager

Carla Castillo serves as COSI’s Student Success Network Manager.  She most recently served as Colorado Challenge’s lead counselor at Auraria Campus and has been with the Colorado Department of Higher Education over four years. Prior to joining the Colorado Challenge Team, she served as a college advisor at Denver East High School with the Denver Scholarship Foundation and as a community relations manager with College Invest. Carla received her Master’s in Nonprofit Management from Regis University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Spanish Language and Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder. 

Jacquie Granados, Student Success Network Coordinator

  Jacquie Granados serves as the COSI Student Success Network Coordinator.  She joined the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) in January 2017 as the Transition Coordinator for Colorado Challenge where she coordinated, developed and implemented transition programming to support students as they graduate high school, enroll in college and began their first year. Prior to CDHE, Jacquie worked at the Metropolitan State University of Denver as a Pre-Collegiate Counselor advising and helping high school seniors enroll for college, apply for financial aid and access scholarships. Jacquie also worked for Colorado Uplift as a Teacher Mentor in Denver Public Schools and at Mi Casa Resource Center as a Kellogg Foundation Fellow helping to spearhead a community change project that focused on Youth and Adult Partnerships. As a Daniel’s Fund Scholar, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Denver in Communications.

Robin Gentry, Application Developer

Robin Gentry joined Colorado Department of Higher Education in August 2015 as an Application Developer.  In her role, she is responsible for the creation, management, and continued development of the Scholarship Initiative’s Student Support Directory. Robin has a B.S. in Computer Science from Colorado Technical University. 

Jay Hale, Financial Assistant

Jay Hale is a former History Colorado employee where he was an Administrative Assistant to Michelle Zale the State Controller for the museum. In his role, Jay was responsible for Accounts Payable, receivables, opening, and closing purchase orders and contracts. He also helped with fixing and solving issues with the launching of the State's new accounting system, CORE. He is currently pursuing a Bachelors in Accounting at Columbia College of Denver with an Associate’s in Business Administration and Human Resources. Jay grew up in Aurora, CO most of his life. He enjoys modifying cars, volunteering, and cooking.

Angelica Valdez, CareerWise Apprentice
Angelica Valdez (Angie) is a CareerWise apprentice, she joined the COSI team in July 2018 and will continue with the COSI for three years.  She is a junior at Westminster High School while also working as an apprentice three days per week. Angelica helps to manage and facilitate various COSI projects with a special focus on the student network and providing administrative support to the COSI team.  Angie has an interest in being an educator and shares a strong passion for high quality and fair opportunities for students. 

Lindsay Knowlden, COSI MSW Intern 
Lindsay Knowlden is a COSI MSW intern who is currently working on getting her degree at the University of Denver. She is originally from New York state, where she completed her undergraduate degree in sociology and community development at Siena College. She has experience working with a variety of populations in a number of direct human service capacities. Through this internship, she is looking forward to exploring macro-level social work, specifically policy and advocacy, while learning all about the work done here.

Office Location

Colorado Department of Higher Education

            1600 Broadway, Suite 2200

            Denver, CO 80202

            Phone (303) 862 - 3001

1600 Broadway