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Academy Operations Team


Damon DiFabio, Director

Damon DiFabio is a longtime educator from Colorado Springs who took the helm of BuildStrong Academy of Colorado in the summer of 2019, after finishing his sixth year as Principal at Career Readiness Academy in District Two. Over his career in education, Damon taught at the elementary level and held Assistant Principal roles at elementary school, middle school, and high school. During his time as a principal, Damon had the opportunity to build relationships with students and help them acquire skills which would launch them into construction careers. Damon intends to leverage this experience to increase BuildStrong Academy’s impact on local businesses, trades, and the Denver Metro community.

Allison, Colorado Operations Manager

Allison Stepnitz, Operations Manager

Allison is a Michigan native and studied geology at Grand Valley State University before going to work as an exploration geologist at a gold mine in Alaska. She moved to Colorado in 2013 when she began working in the homebuilding industry in customer service, working her way up to operations manager for a local Colorado builder. She joins the BuildStrong Academy with a broad set of management skills and a passion for homebuilding and community impact. She hopes to lead the operations team to success by elevating their passion and experience with operational excellence, and joining them in making a meaningful impact on the skilled labor workforce and the local Denver Metro community.  Outside of work, she enjoys hiking with her little dog Kevin, camping, going to concerts, painting, spending time with her partner and his two kids, and neglecting her many, many houseplants.

Corey, Colorado Recruiter

Corey Boudreault, Recruiter (Incoming)

Corey has a passion for stories, and it is his goal to help grow the story of those around him. He has spent his career working through public service, recruitment and management, and has always been looking to help other people ignite their passions to build a better quality of life. Being community driven, making a connection with others has always been at his core. At BuildStrong Academy of Colorado, Corey is excited to help others build a solid foundation for their futures. When not at work, Corey can usually be found at home, spending time with his spouse, Luka, and their five cats, playing D&D, designing a board game, or working on building new fantasy worlds.


Kristin Davenport, Career Coach

Kristin Davenport is a native Coloradan and graduated from the Art Institute of Colorado with a Culinary Arts degree. Kristin has spent much of her career working in Corporate America as a recruiter for several Fortune 100 Companies (IBM, Comcast, UnitedHealthcare). Kristin previously worked for the City and County of Denver on the WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) Grant where she worked with employers all over the Denver Metro area to find the youth of Denver sustainable employment. Kristin has been a recruiter in the construction field for the last several years and looks forward to assisting BuildStrong Academy students/graduates with networking, resume building, interviewing skills and making introductions to employers in the BuildStrong Academy network. In her spare time, Kristin enjoys going camping, fishing and attending rock concerts with her husband, she is also known to throw dinner parties from time to time.


Irazú Hernández, Data Specialist / Bookkeeper [Bilingual]

After graduating from the University of Denver with a B.A in Sociology and Spanish, Irazu began her career in Community Engagement. After traveling to the heart of Community Organizing, San Jose, California- for a 9-month activist training, she soon realized that her passion was rooted within her community and the people. As a young immigrant Latina growing up in West Denver, she understood the importance of becoming the voice of those who do not have one. Irazu now supports students at the BuildStrong Academy of Colorado achieve their construction career goals by breaking down any social and economic barriers. Irazu enjoys exploring nature’s hidden gems while backpacking with her soulmate.

Caleb Harden, Community Engagement Specialist

Caleb is a native Coloradan, hailing from Thornton. An undeniable people person, he loves to tackle creative challenges and build relationships across communities. Growing up in Denver immigrant culture, Caleb developed a strong belief in the dignity of labor and the importance of stories. This led him to study the connection between people, work, and storytelling at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. 

Caleb was honored to be selected by Lead for America as a year-long Hometown Fellow. He is beyond grateful to be back home in Colorado and finds continual inspiration in the personal successes of BuildStrong Academy students and the student-centered heart of the team. At BuildStrong, he spreads the Academy’s mission through videography and social engagement. On weekends, you can find him on long drives/walks/hikes, spending time with family, or playing board games with friends.

Contact Caleb



John Kio, Lead Instructor

John has been married for 36 years and currently has 3 adult children and 3 grandchildren. He is a life-long building contractor and he custom-builds homes from the ground up. He is also a life-long missionary and has been involved in inner-city missions as well as overseas. John has been a teacher for many years, including vacation bible school, Bible College, youth, adults, and carpentry. Since being involved in the Academy, he’s been able to pass on his experience and skills to help carry on a building legacy within the community and help students to join a exciting new career in construction.


Stephen Abeyta, Instructor

Involved in the home building industry for over 20 years, Stephen has worked in positions ranging from Customer Service to Construction Superintendent. Between 2008-2013, Stephen followed his passion for supporting young people and worked in education, as well as coached football and baseball at the high school level. Stephen is a native of Thornton, Colorado, he has been married 23 years to a high school math teacher, and he has two adult children – an 18 year old son and a 21 year old daughter – and two 11-year old Maltese fur-babies. Stephen has always had a strong passion for family, education, and construction, and at BuildStrong Academy of Colorado, he has the unique opportunity to merge all his passions into one career path which supports the building industry.

Instructor Ed Shipp

Ed Shipp, Instructor (Colorado Springs)

Ed is an experienced trainer and teacher as well as a small business owner in Colorado Springs who is eager to use his knowledge and skills to train, empower and mentor the future workforce of Colorado’s Construction Industry.

Dave Lowrey, Instructor

Dave Lowrey is a Colorado native. After attending university for a couple of years, he left to enter a union cabinet-making apprenticeship program. After completing the program, he migrated to Houston where he eventually owned and operated a custom cabinet shop for 7 years, and met his lovely wife of 36 years. Throughout Dave’s extensive career, he’s gained experience in vertical wall concrete form design, concrete forming, supply sales, homebuilding, and home remodeling. 

Dave joins the BuildStrong Academy after working as a residential general contractor in the Denver Metro and surrounding areas for the last 22 years. Since moving back to Colorado, Dave has been fortunate to have raised six beautiful children and to be able to donate his time to several construction projects for religious organizations. In his spare time, Dave enjoys family gatherings, golfing, fishing, and hiking (to mountain lakes to fish, of course).

Part-Time Instructors


Mark Babcock

Bill Wood

Bill Wood

Bill Norwood

Bill Norwood

Brett Strait

Advisory Team

Craig Campbell

West Region | Starwood Land Ventures, LLC
Past President of Home Builders Association of Metro Denver

Renee Zentz

Chief Executive Officer
Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs

Jay Small

Precision Building Systems

Amy Schwartz

Executive Director
BuildStrong Education

Pat Hamill

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Oakwood Homes

Eric Holt

Scott Thorson

Chief Operating Officer
Oakwood Homes

Our Partners

Oakwood Homes
Precision Building Systems
University of Denver
Home Builders Association of Metro Denver


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