The Starfish team is more than a collection of hired hands. We are a dedicated, passionate team. We blend traditional values with progressive thinking. We act, we learn, we refine…and we act again.
Starfish consists of a streamlined support team in the U.S. and a broader operational staff in Guatemala. All of our staffers are 100% committed to the success of the girls in our program. The entire team, including our Board of Directors, is driven by Starfish’s core values.
We are a team of 20+ full-time employees in Guatemala. This team is 86% indigenous and 80% female. It is among the only indigenous-led organizations in Guatemala. The executive management office in Colorado has two full-time and one part-time staff. Click here for biographies on our leadership team.
Norma Bajan Balan
Director of Collaboration
Manager of Innovation and Collaboration
Director of the Starfish Impact School
Vilma Saloj Chiyal
Director of Programs
Educator and Santiago Atitlán Mentor
Concepción Cua Lacan
Social Studies Educator and Panajachel Mentor
Celena Cuy Chom
Panajachel Mentor (Starfish Graduate)
Math Educator and Sololá Mentor
Celestina Poz Bocel
Kaqchikel Educator and Sololá Mentor (Starfish Graduate)
Jeronima Sulugüi Chumil
Paola Elena Tzina Petzey
Sololá Coordinator and Art Educator
Santiago Atitlán Coordinator
Virgilio Yach Queche
Investment and Innovation Manager
Director of Finance
Rebecca brings her business background (Home Depot, Target Corporation) to Starfish. After visiting Starfish in 2012, she decided to visit again a few months later to learn more. Rebecca has made girls’ education a priority in her busy life with a young daughter and a husband conducting his medical residency. She and her family live in Las Vegas where Rebecca is the Director of People Operations of the Downtown Project. In 2015, Rebecca gave a TED Talk about human potential.
After a very successful career in commercial real estate, Scot continues to serve on a variety of corporate boards. Scot acted as an advisor to Starfish before formally bringing his business acumen to the Board in 2012. He lives in Golden, Colorado.
Julie’s 25 years of experience as a volunteer, fundraiser, and philanthropist inspired her to visit Starfish’s program in Guatemala in early 2014 and join the BOD this fall. She holds a BA in Spanish and a certificate in professional editing. Julie and her husband have three grown children and reside in Shoreline, Washington.
Wende is Starfish’s former Director of Development. She brings contagious enthusiasm that stems from a hugely successful career in international development and philanthropy. Wende has spend countless hours in the Starfish program and is ignited by the power of the “Girl Effect.” Wende holds an M.A. in international development and lives with her husband and two children in Evergreen, Colorado.
Susie is a writer, mother, and educational consultant. For 23 years, she was a high-school teacher and principal, then the director of Where There Be Dragons, a Study-Abroad program in developing countries for teenagers. She helped schools to strategically place leadership development and the empowerment of girls at the center of their educational missions. Susie lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two children.
Kael brings entrepreneurial expertise to Starfish as the founder and CEO of Fleeps and two other major fashion brands including Brazilets and Live Worldly. Robinson has enjoyed a career in fashion at top design houses such as Vera Wang and Talbots. Robinson’s passion for travel, girls’ education initiatives, and fashion inspired the creation of FLEEPS and the charity component that acts as the foundation of the brand. Kael lives in Denver, Colorado.
Julio is the Director of Acceleration at Pomona Impact, and Antigua-based impact investment firm. He is also a professor of entrepreneurship at the Universidad del Valle Guatemala. Julio brings his passion for entrepreneurship and collaboration within Guatemala to Starfish. He holds an MBA and also serves on the Guatemalan board of Enactus (Entrepreneurial Action Us).
Tami is an attorney focusing in on civil litigation with an emphasis on legal malpractice and school litigation. Tami’s commitment to women’s rights/social justice issues is evidenced by her pro-bono work. Prior to entering the law profession, Tami was involved in girls’ education and has traveled and lived throughout Latin America, where she learned Spanish. Tami and her husband live in Denver.
In addition to being the co-founder of Starfish, Connie was also instrumental in starting Friendship Bridge and was an early adopter of women-centered development when few knew of it. She is one of the prime torchbearers of the “quality over quantity” commitment and was the originator of the mentorship concept in Starfish. She also co-founded the Evergreen Alliance for Sustainability (EAS+Y). She lives in Evergreen, Colorado.
Mimi pioneered female-led business when it was a rarity. As founder and operator of Powder Pandas in Aspen, Mimi has gravitated towards women’s economic empowerment issues for decades. After spending years in the women’s microcredit field, Mimi co-founded Starfish. She left the Board in 2014 but remains active in the organization.
Ted is a semi-retired urologist, professor of medicine, insatiable reader, and recognized expert in the field of international development and medical anthropology. In addition to being a co-founder of Starfish, Ted co-founded Friendship Bridge. He holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Colorado for his international service, is a Rotarian, and serves on the Board of Evergreen Alliance for Sustainability + You (EAS+Y). Ted lives in Evergreen, Colorado.
Jess is changing cultural messages one brand at a time. From Barbie’s latest body evolution to Dove’s memorable Real Beauty campaign, the results of her work behind the scenes have come to light over the years, making significant waves in terms of how we approach women, girls and confidence. Jess is an acclaimed writer, speaker, author and entrepreneur with over two decades of experience as a thought leader on social and cultural change.She is the CEO of Talk to Jess, a consulting and strategy firm that acts as a thought partner for companies who seek to change their messaging toward women and girls.
Peter brings tremendous knowledge and experience to Starfish from a philanthropic and strategic programmatic perspective. Over the course of his career, Peter has managed a variety of foundations and brings this unique insight to Starfish. Peter loves Guatemala and has been visiting Starfish since its early days.
For 25 years, Paul has been an educator in independent schools. Since then, he has taught everything from kindergarten to college and he has won teaching and coaching awards along the way. Paul is also co-founder of the design thinking and strategy firm, Fleissig Design, whose mission is to help organizations find creative solutions to their problems and challenges. Since his first visit to Guatemala in July 2015, he has focused on helping Starfish develop school to school partnership and integrate design thinking into the Starfish Impact School.
Jodi is a highly skilled facilitator and has made a career of leadership development. She brings this expertise to Starfish’s offices in Colorado and Guatemala and focuses on helping Starfish develop the leadership skills of each mentor and Girl Pioneer.
Karen is a former broadcast journalist with a passion for education and women’s empowerment. She supports Starfish with her communication expertise and crafting of key messages that engage the listener. Karen visits Starfish annually and was the keynote speaker at Starfish’s first graduation ceremony.
Beth is a professor at University of Colorado’s Department of Theatre & Dance. She is a renowned expert in the field of women’s vocal empowerment, having traveled the world conducting workshops for marginalized women. Beth regularly visits Starfish to introduce techniques that equip Girl Pioneers with the power to express their unique perspective. Her work with Starfish is featured in her recent book published by Routledge.
David made a career out of being a numbers guy. As a retired expert on issues of taxation and accounting, David has been instrumental in helping Starfish develop and maintain the highest standards of transparency. He conducts annual visits to the field to check on the internal controls and support our administrative team.
Mariah knows a thing or two about education, having co-founded the Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST), one of Denver’s highest performing charter schools. She is a recognized expert in curriculum development and brings this experience to Starfish at a critical time. Mariah lives in Carbondale, Colorado.
There is no organizational model in Central America for an institution like the Starfish Impact School. Therefore, we are integrating systems, structures, and resources from high-performing organizations around the world. With the generous technical support of diverse thought-leaders, Starfish has designed and is currently systematizing a professional development program for emerging educators who are capable of creating high-impact educational environments. In June 2016, a cohort of educators will begin a formal Starfish fellowship program that includes peer-to-peer mentoring, in-depth training, and hands-on classroom experience. Through the fellowship program and Starfish Impact School, we aim to create replicable models that are transferable to other contexts, both within Guatemala and internationally.