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Our people


Micklina Kenyi
Executive Director

Micklina Kenyi fled her homeland of South Sudan during the genocide that has claimed the lives of over 2 million people. She came to the United States as a refugee in 2003 and founded a non-profit organization, The Community of South Sudanese and American Women (CSSAW), with the mission of resettling young women from South Sudan to the United States. Kenyi holds dual undergraduate degrees from the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) in Political Science, and Women and Gender Studies; and earned a master’s degree from CU in Educational Foundation Policy and Practice. In 2008, Micklina became a citizen of the United States. She is the recipient of the Channel 7 Everyday Hero Award, The Community Service Award for Women and Gender Empowerment, and the Award for Women Who Make a Difference Globally. Micklina produced a documentary film chronicling the lives of several of the South Sudanese women who immigrated to Boulder, The Dawn Will Break. Micklina was the chair of the board of the Empowerment Through Education Foundation non-profit she founded (ETE) with the mission to provide K-12 educational opportunities for South Sudanese girls in refugee camps in Uganda and South Sudan. Currently, Micklina is the Executive Director of Girls with Books! (GWB), created from the merger of two small but effective organizations. 

Ray Stranske
Board Chair

Ray has worked in the Denver non-profit community for over 40 years and for 27 years he led Hope Communities, an organization that provided affordable housing for many Sudanese refugees arriving in Denver to escape war and violence in their country. Ray was a volunteer and board member for 17 years at Project Education South Sudan, and after its merger with Girls With Books!, is now on the Board of the new organization. Ray was born and lived in Sudan, as well as other East African countries, until age 14, before moving to the US. This early life experience resulted in a lifelong interest in partnership with the country and its people. 

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Mike Ritter

Mike received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado in Biochemistry in 1981.  He worked as a quality control chemist and in pharmaceutical sales before pursuing a career as an educator.  In 1984, he received his teaching certificate in science and math and taught those subjects in high schools in Florida, New Jersey and Massachusetts.  His family became involved in 2006 with the Sudanese women refugees who resettled in Boulder under the U.S. State Department’s refugee program.  In 2007, he joined the nonprofit Community of Sudanese and American Women (CSAW).  Mike was elected as board president in 2008 and continued in that position through the transitions of the organization after South Sudan became the newest independent country in the world.  CSAW’s mission was fulfilled when the women they served completed individual educational programs and achieved financial independence.  The organization changed its name to Empowerment Through Education Foundation and its mission: from supporting the women in the U.S. to providing educational opportunities to girls in South Sudan in 2016.  During this past year, he was a member of the committee that worked to bring about the joining of PESS and ETE to form Girls With Books!  He has traveled the world, visiting 30 countries to date.  He has also lived in three countries outside of the U.S.:  Iran (1966-69); Mexico (1975-77) and Italy (2006).  He and his wife are looking forward to visiting Africa in the near future. 


Omunu Abalu

As a human rights activist, Omunu believes in the importance of education as a way to empower young girls in South Sudan and in the refugee camps in Uganda.  He is fueled to continuously push for equal educational opportunities for all, no matter ones’ background.  


Elizabeth Achulo

Elizabeth came to the United States in 2006. Before resettling in this country, she was in a refugee in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. She was able to move out of the camp with the help of Sister Luise and Micklina Kenyi, who helped find sponsorship for the Lost Girls to come to the States. She has spent time in an orphanage that Sister Luise founded while going to school in Limuru Kenya.  Elizabeth went to school at the University of Colorado in Boulder where she graduated in 2014 and now she is working at the university as Grant Accountant.  After, graduation, she have been volunteering with Empowerment through Education (ETE), focusing on education for girls back in South Sudan.  

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Jim Broyles

Jim is a small business owner who has enjoyed a diverse career. His most memorable work was as a management consultant working with Colorado nonprofits to strengthen their skills in financial management and information technology. He has also worked as a software developer in a rapidly growing technology company and most recently built a successful online agency in the international travel business. Jim has been an active volunteer with Project Education South Sudan since its founding in 2005 and is excited about the future of Girls With Books!  He enjoys songwriting and music performance.  He has written a successful folk opera and has recorded two CDs of his original music.


Dinah Frey

Dinah works in non-profit program development, focusing on efficiencies and innovation. She previously worked as a teacher and in education policy. Dinah has a passion for social justice and sees education as one of the means to improving economic security. She earned her B.A. in Education & Bible and M.A. in Sustainable Development. She is committed to using her time and experience to support our global community.


Lee Ann Huntington

Lee Ann is an attorney, whose legal practice included over 25 years of litigation experience in federal and state courts. For many years, she was a partner in a prominent San Francisco law firm, where she also served as managing partner. After graduating with honors from Harvard Law School, she began her legal career as an appellate attorney for the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C.  Lee Ann is also an experienced mediator.  Now retired from legal practice, she volunteers and teaches in various educational, legal and horticultural areas. She became a Board member of Project Education South Sudan in 2009, after helping her daughter record the stories of many Lost Boys for a high school project. Lee Ann traveled to South Sudan with the PESS team in 2011.

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Donna Lester

While watching television as a high school student, Donna came upon a newscast of suffering children in Africa. The images she saw instilled in her the strong desire to reach out and relieve their suffering, “someday”.  After high school, and not one to follow the crowd, she enrolled in the then-new academic field of computer programming and subsequently pursued a successful career in the IT world.  Her interest in the great outdoors propelled her to move her family to Alaska where she resided for 14 years running a team of sled dogs, building log homes, enjoying the great outdoors, and raising 2 children.  In 2013 she moved to Colorado where she started her own LLC (hand sewn active active apparel) and became an IT consultant/trainer for a large company which provides software to school districts around the world.  Donna is the leader of Salida River Tribe – a vibrant energetic African dance troupe in Salida, Colorado.  It was through this dance troupe that she met Micklina Kenyi, who changed her life and allowed her to pursue her lifelong dream of “helping children of Africa”. 


Stella Lunyaramoi

Stella was born in what is now the independent country of South Sudan.  She earned a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and a certificate in Peace & Conflict Resolution from the U. of Colorado Boulder and began studies at American University for a MS in Development Management. In 2014 she was awarded a fellowship at the White House where she worked in Mrs. Obama’s Communication Office. Her experience includes strategic communication, program management, governmental consulting, and client relationship, among others. She previously worked for the Department of Homeland Security where she worked closely with the critical infrastructure community to identify and analyze the most significant risks to our Nation. She now works at CU as the Associate Director for Development & Engagement at the Rene'e Crown Wellness Institute. Along with her passion for social justice, Stella cares deeply about the education and empowerment of women. She enjoys mentoring young women as well as forming partnerships with community members and organizations that are strategically working in impoverished communities.  Stella loves yoga and is a plant mom.


Lily Ribiero

Lily Ribeiro lives in Longmont, Colorado, and has had a heart for South Sudan and its people since she was in high school and first learned about the persecution of Christians by the Sudanese government. After South Sudan became independent in 2011, she continued looking for ways to support its widows and orphans. In 2017 she began doing trauma healing work at Kakuma refugee camp with South Sudanese widows. 2017 was also when she learned about PESS, and she joined the board shortly after. She is a pilot and a mom to Noah and Bianca and a one-eyed cat named Mochi. 

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Ken Scott

Ken Scott graduated with honors from both the University of Colorado-Boulder and Harvard Law School and has devoted his career to public interest law.   He served for twelve years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, where he investigated and prosecuted some of the Justice Department’s largest criminal cases.  In January 1998, Ken moved with his family to The Hague, Netherlands, where he was a senior prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for fourteen years, successfully investigating and litigating cases against thirteen major war criminals, including a prime minister, defense minister and two army chiefs of staff.   In recognition of his work in the former Yugoslavia, Ken received the Mostar Peace Prize in November 2017 (previous recipients include Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and Jacques Chirac).   Since returning to Denver in 2011, Ken is engaged in an extensive human rights, war crimes and international criminal law practice. From March 2014 to December 2020, he was the special prosecutor at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (in The Hague), investigating and prosecuting high-profile obstruction of justice cases. Ken has been extensively involved with South Sudan since March 2014, including as a UN Commissioner on Human Rights in South Sudan.  He has served as an instructor or lecturer at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the University of Colorado (both undergrad and at the Law School) and Regis University, concerning international law, human rights, international courts, international criminal law and constitutional law.

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Dr. Lawrence Wongo

Lawrence Wongo, Ph.D. has been on the Board of ETE Foundation (formally CSAW/CSSAW) since 2013, later becoming its Vice President. He served in various capacities as a Program Director and Associate Producer of a documentary film, The Dawn Will Break and Rumors of War.  Dr. Wongo has also worked on a variety of projects for national and international humanitarian organizations, such as CWAPS, SUPRAID, CARE, ADRA, CRS, AICAD and FAO in developing  sustainable solutions to challenges in education and food security. 


Dr. David S. Bassiouni

Dr. David S. Bassiouni is the Chairman and CEO of the New York City based firm The Bassiouni Group, consultants in international development and investment in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Dr. Bassiouni is also the President and Chairman of The Mary N. Bassiouni Foundation, which focuses on girls' education, women's economic empowerment, maternal health, and youth empowerment.  Dr. Bassiouni previously worked within the United Nations  for thirty years in various high level positions, including as Principal Officer of the UNICEF Office for Emergency Programs, Chief of the Emergency Response Branch of the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Security Council’s direct appointee as its Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance during the Somalian civil war and UNICEF’s Special Representative to seven different countries: Somalia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Ethiopia, Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories, Egypt and Bangladesh. Prior to his career in the UN, Dr. Bassiouni served in senior ministerial positions in Sudan’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, serving in Juba (now South Sudan), as well as Khartoum. Dr. Bassiouni graduated from the Veterinary Medicine School at Khartoum University. He holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and was a Senior Parvin Fellow at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy.  Since 2014, Dr. Bassiouni has served as a mediator and advocate among the South Sudanese diaspora groups seeking to bring peace and stability to South Sudan. 

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Dr. Peter Van Arsdale

Dr. Van Arsdale is recently retired as director of African Initiatives at the University of Denver, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, where he also served as Adjunct Professor. He previously served as a senior researcher for eCrossCulture Corporation, based in Colorado. An applied cultural anthropologist, he has worked in E. Africa, S.E. Asia, the Balkans, Latin America, the Caribbean, and North America, emphasizing community water resources, human rights, refugee resettlement, and humanitarian intervention. He is a noted author, journal editor, and former president of the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology.

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Steve Werner

Steve Werner is an international development consultant after a 25 year career working with large NGOs, such as CARE, Habitat for Humanity, Water For People, and the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. His major focus is capacity building, program development and evaluation, fundraising planning, and board development. He served in Peace Corps – Korea as a two-year volunteer from 1976 – 1978 and Peace Corps Response Volunteer – Georgia from 2016 – 2017. He has served in Rotary, through the Rotary Club of Denver Southeast, since 1989 and still serves at the club, District and International levels as a Water and Sanitation specialist. He has served in Leadership San Antonio, the Kellogg National Leadership Program, and the Salzburg Seminar. He is a past board chair of the National Peace Corps Association. Steve along with other Denver area Rotarians helped to develop the partnership between Peace Corps and Rotary and he is the charter president of Partnering for Peace: Friends of Peace Corps and Rotary. He has three grown children and five grandchildren. 

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