Colorado’s ElevateAI Program Awarded Grant to Enhance AI Literacy and Transform Education and Workforce Development

March 20, 2024

Local and national partners collaborate to equip educators and students for an AI-focused future.

Denver – ElevateAI, a groundbreaking program aimed at building artificial intelligence (AI) literacy among Colorado students and educators, has been awarded an Opportunity Now Seed Grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) focused on driving future innovation, strengthening the state’s economic position, and addressing equity gaps in the workforce. Co-led by Colorado Education Initiative (CEI) and SparkFun Electronics, the program is a collaborative effort between industry and education training partners and Colorado school districts to develop sustainable infrastructure, innovative practices, and future-focused skills and experiences.

ElevateAI creates a talent pipeline that can meet the demands of emerging industries that will contribute to our state’s economic recovery and growth. To accomplish this,  ElevateAI re-envisions the teaching profession by equipping educators with the skills necessary to leverage AI in their practice and better prepare students for a future where AI is integral.

“As the explosion of AI reshapes how we learn and work, learners and leaders are rethinking every aspect of education and looking to trusted voices for guidance,” said Rebecca Holmes, president and CEO of CEI. “ElevateAI brings leading expertise in AI together with local leadership to support school districts with implementing AI for career-connected learning, workforce development, and teacher retention. This work will create a blueprint for how Colorado can empower learners, educators, and leaders to leverage AI as part of advancing education and industry partnerships that develop thriving young people and flourishing communities.”

This program focuses on building diverse talent pipelines to meet state hiring needs in computer and mathematical occupations and secondary education, including through connecting students to jobs in Computer Science and STEM. “We are thrilled to leverage our state and national industry partner network to help bring the vision of Opportunity Now to life through deep work with Colorado school districts,” said Jahnell Pereira, Chief Business Development Officer at SparkFun. Through this grant, SparkFun will ensure focus on the competencies that students and educators need to be prepared for an AI-future; provide mentoring with industry partners; and help shape a program for student internships, job matching, and job placement. “ElevateAI is not just about education; it’s about shaping the future workforce to meet the needs of industries like ours. By building AI literacy, we’re ensuring that Colorado remains at the forefront of technological innovation and economic growth,” said Jahnell.

Given Colorado’s designation as a Quantum Tech Hub, ElevateAI also creates a unique opportunity to explore the integration of quantum computing into K-12 education career pathways in partnership with statewide efforts.

Additionally, ElevateAI creates opportunities for educators to leverage AI in reshaping the education profession, enabling districts to retain educators and support job advancement. One of the key components of this program is providing professional development for educators, growing the pipeline of teachers and leaders within systems who are prepared to lead this work into the future. will deepen its place-based work by investing in Colorado through this partnership. “Supporting Colorado teachers through ElevateAI allows us to contribute to the transformation of the teaching profession, making it more relevant and exciting in the age of AI,” said Adeel Khan, Founder and CEO of

ElevateAI builds on a partnership that CEI and The AI Education Project (aiEDU) initiated in 2023 to expand the conversation around the potential and impacts of AI in Colorado education, including the launch of a new statewide AI in Education Steering Committee. The steering committee and aligned working groups will produce a statewide roadmap for AI in Colorado education this summer that identifies urgent policy and practice priorities and pathways to create conditions that foster promising solutions for AI in education, specifically in spaces and communities that have historically lacked access to economic advancement. ElevateAI will advance a district- and school-facing strategy to complement steering committee efforts and resource the implementation of recommendations in local communities.

“Colorado is continuing its longstanding commitment to be a national leader in innovation,” said Alex Kotran, co-founder and CEO of aiEDU. “We have seen leaders from across the state and areas of education — K-12, higher education, industry — come together to support AI literacy in all schools and for all students. Colorado’s approach should be seen as a model that other states could replicate.”

Core program elements include:

  • Developing a shared vision for competencies, including AI literacy skills that are community informed and industry aligned.
  • Integrating opportunities for students to develop AI skills and competencies and engage in career navigation supports. 
  • Preparing educators with evidence-based AI certification programming.
  • Advancing leadership and systems building, including networked learning and personalized technical assistance.

Partnerships with school districts and industry and education training partners will be formalized this spring.

About Colorado Education Initiative (CEI)
CEI’s mission is to champion, empower, and ignite Colorado leaders to deliver on the promise of public education to develop thriving young people and flourishing communities. CEI has built our reputation by playing three primary roles: implementation expert, strategic partner, and statewide convener. In the 2022-23 school year, CEI partnered with 97 districts statewide, of which 87 percent serve students of a 50 percent or greater population of “furthest from opportunity” as defined by race, income, or rural designation, reflecting our experience working with diverse districts in various regions of the state. Learn more at

About Sparkfun Electronics
SparkFun helps turn ideas into reality — whether you’re creating a smart weather station, exploring the frontier of machine learning, building a robot for school or prototyping your first (or tenth) product. No matter your vision or skill level, our open-source components, resources and online tutorials are designed to broaden access to innovative technology and make the road to a finished project shorter. SparkFun operates on the philosophy of keeping products open source so anyone can use them, pay it forward to the community, manufacture all products in-house, and promote electronics as a tool in education. Learn more at

About The AI Education Project (aiEDU) 
aiEDU is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that creates equitable learning experiences that excite and empower students everywhere with AI literacy. We believe that everyone — especially those who are likely to be disproportionately impacted by AI systems — should have access to the conceptual knowledge and skills they need to thrive as workers, creators, consumers, and citizens. Learn more at

At the core of teaching is interacting with a child to help them grow — a deeply human, demanding, and complex responsibility. But today, teaching requires an unreasonable amount of work behind the scenes, much of it repetitive and tedious. are a team of lifelong educators. We’ve not only taught in classrooms, we’ve also spent countless hours doing behind-the-scenes work for our students, like adapting texts to different levels, writing exemplars, and emailing families. We know firsthand just how much work teachers do outside the classroom in an effort to make our time in front of students count. Learn more at