Ceiba is proud and honored that the following group of talented, dedicated, and enthusiastic individuals make up our Board of Directors. Each brings a unique set of skills and strengths to Ceiba and has contributed tremendously to the development of a holistic program for all. Further, as Ceiba grows, a Board position will be available for one of our student alumni, so that we, as an organization, always share Ceiba’s direction with one who has experienced the program in a way no one else has.
I am excited to be a part of Ceiba’s Board because I’ve experienced first-hand what a positive and life- changing opportunity international and experiential education is. I am passionate about getting the word out about the academic and personal growth Ceiba holds for everyone involved, as well as giving students the chance to be immersed the feast for the senses that is life in Antigua!
My life really changed in 2002 when I participated in a field-studies-based study abroad semester in Costa Rica. With the School for Field Studies’ Center for Sustainable Development Studies, I learned about Costa Rican culture, sustainable development, and tropical ecology by visiting communities, nature reserves, and national parks to learn from the scientists who are involved in the preservation of Costa Rica’s natural habitat. Realizing that this hands-on, up-close experience was what education can and should be, I dedicated my academic and professional career to science and environmental education. Through these fields of study, I strive to meaningfully connect people with the world around them in a way that develops appreciation and respect for their natural surroundings. It didn’t take long before I fell in love with Central America, and later returned to live and teach science for three years in Comayagua, Honduras. My most impactful teaching experiences happened when I took my students for their own field experiences in Honduras’s national parks, to foster a love and sense of responsibility for their country’s incredibly diverse ecosystems.
Currently, I serve urban youth at Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools in Washington, DC as a chemistry teacher. I live in the DC metro area with her husband, Alexis, and our beautiful young daughter, Stacy.
I am a lifelong learner and truly believe in the Rumi phrase, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” For the majority of my life, I have been pulled by a deep desire to squeeze whatever I can out of life, to meet as many people as I can, and to experiment with the limits of what experience teaches. It is for all of these reasons that I was thrilled to be asked by Scott to become a part of the Ceiba family.
My international experience began in college when I studied at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland for a semester. During that time, I was fortunate to have had the chance to travel throughout Europe. I was always writing in my journal, trying to capture all the new sights, sounds and tastes. It was truly a magical, albeit difficult experience. I have had wanderlust ever since. Professionally, I have been a classroom teacher for 14 years teaching all ages from Kindergarten through seniors in high school. I launched my career in education in Pittsburgh at Shady Side Academy where I coached Varsity girls field hockey and ice hockey. From there, I moved on to New York City to complete my graduate degree at NYU, where I spent a semester at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. I taught in Brooklyn and Manhattan from 2001 until 2009. It was then that I embarked on a journey that would forever change me for the better.
In 2009, I moved to Guatemala to take on the job of writing an English curriculum for a school in San Lucas, Guatemala. Educare became a second home, a passion, a new set of eyes. I’d like to think of it as my first encounter with “experiential education” for I was encouraged to learn a new language, a new culture and a new set of “rules” to apply to my life. I completed the curriculum and stayed on to teach 7-12 grade English until October 2013. While In Guatemala, I came to love the country and its people. Aside from working for Educare, I also spent a good deal of time volunteering with other NGO projects, mostly schools, and have gotten to know many of the people with whom our students will be working with.
Although I am currently back in the United States, I know that it was more than providential that I have been connected with Ceiba. I hope to assist the Board in all ways to make our program one that is engaging, dynamic and life changing for all of the students. I am also looking forward to creating a solid orientation program that will give our students the tools that they need to navigate the uncharted territories that they are embarking on. In addition, I recognize the importance of having a support network, especially during the transition periods as I am well versed in the challenges that can develop. My background in Expressive Arts and Mindfulness Education will be essential tools for our students. I have no doubt that Ceiba will help future students approach life with open minds and open hearts.
Nayna Raval, Board Secretary
In 2008, at the age of 52, I arrived in Guatemala as a volunteer at the Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro, a public hospital in La Antigua, to work with abandoned, malnourished, and disabled children. The experience did, in that unique way, change my life. I stayed for a year and realised that there is a lot that I could do to help and support this free hospital for the poor, and in some way improve the lives of the children. I look forward to supporting Ceiba students as they make their own discoveries in their own development and through service to their global community.
Prior to 2008, I taught in Secondary Schools in the UK and later became Head of Faculty for Science, Maths and Technology as well as a member of the Senior Management Team for different schools. During this time I also worked as an advisory teacher for the London boroughs to design and implement an intervention programme to improve attendance and achievement in the communities. Following these great experiences in the UK, I moved to the island of Seychelles to work with the international school there, first as head of the Science Department, and then to develop the Sixth Form programme for students 16-19 years, assisting with and preparing them for university.
After teaching for over 30 years in the UK and Seychelles, and raising my four sons, I decided to devote more time to charity work and specifically the free hospital in Guatemala. I believe that everyone can do something, no matter how small, that can bring a change for the better. One aspect of my work is setting up and running clinics in remote villages in Guatemala, to improve access to health for rural communities. Ceiba project partners offer equally valuable work in their communities and there is an unforgettable learning experience in each day here in Guatemala.
Eric Ruljancich, Board President
After graduating from high school, I went on an international exchange program to Honduras. This was a powerful and important experience that forever changed my life and world view. Since that time I have traveled and worked overseas in 25 different countries, and have dedicated my career to providing life changing experiences for young people.
I have worked as an outdoor and environmental educator, formed my own youth development program, and currently work as a consultant for youth and conservation corps. I am excited to be the the chair of the board, and to share my passion, insight, and experience to support this meaningful program.
I believe that Ceiba is a critical component of a peaceful and prosperous world. It is through programs such as Ceiba that we can break down barriers and create tolerance, respect and solutions to the challenges that we face as a global community. I look forward to sharing my knowledge of program design, coordination, and experiential education in helping Ceiba meet these objectives.
Scott Garrison and Kamillia Hoban are also members of the Board and their bios can be found on the About Us/Ceiba Staff page. Kamillia serves as the Board Treasurer.