During the occupation of the communist regime known as The Khmer Rouge in the late 1970’s, Cambodia was ravaged by genocide. Anyone considered to be an intellectual was hunted down, leaving Cambodian culture in ruins and the educational system in disarray.
To this day, Cambodia and her people are resilient as they continue to rebuild what was once lost.
Founders, Kari and George Grady-Grossman, had a strong desire to give back to the children of Cambodia in the name of their adoptive son who hailed from the country. They gave them a gift in the form of a school, but two years later they returned to find the school in ruins, completely abandoned.
This was not an unusual sight. Finding their school as it was, led to Kari and George dedicating themselves sustaining this school, and with the help of a small team of dedicated Cambodians, SSI became officially recognized as an NGO in 2008.
Rita brings extensive international and organizational development experience to SSI. After robust career consulting to global corporations on intercultural skills and strategic alignment she was a performance coach to senior level executives. Most recently she was Acting Country Director for the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan and Moldova. The programs she oversaw are very similar to those that SSI sponsors in Cambodia; education, small enterprise development, and youth development. She has a long history with Cambodia. During the reign of terror under the Khmer Rouge she volunteered for American Friends Service Committee and gave presentations raising the awareness of the atrocities occurring. After serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines she was an instructional supervisor in a refugee camp preparing Khmer for resettlement in the US. Rita holds a Masters Degree in Organizational Communication from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She and her husband have two daughters and the whole family enjoys travel, sports and the outdoors.
A Colorado native, Amy has been volunteering with local organizations for most of her life. She believes that the benefit from helping others is one of the greatest rewards life has to offer. She has worked in schools, churches, mentoring programs, as well as with dance companies and sports organizations. She currently holds a supervisory position in a national corporation in addition to her duties at SSI. Amy travels every chance she gets but resides in Colorado with her daughter. She holds a BA in Computer-Mediated Communication from Colorado State University.
Sem Kong is the first Leadership Academy alumni. He is also the first of his generation from the Chrauk Tiek village to graduate from university, to have advanced job training, and to improve his English skills in the USA. Kong’s family consists of eight members, who are all farmers, living in Chrauk Tiek. Like many youth from this rural area, Kong’s siblings were unable to continue their education because the family relied on them to earn an income and support the family farm. Sem Kong wants to bring his country the knowledge and skills to be successful and desires to continue his work with SSI, building local school capacity resulting in stronger communities.
Chomnan Sok was born in Phnom Penh; the second son of three in his family. He graduated in TEFL (Teaching English as a foreign language) from Build Bright University. During university, Chomnan started his career as a part-time teacher of English as well as a community outreach officer and was inspired to help the community. He has held several positions within the Cambodian educational system. Excited to be a part of SSI, he wants to see the SSI Seed model utilized by more NGOs and communities while expanding usage of this model to other areas of Cambodia. Most importantly, Chomnan is pleased to see the scholarship students pay the gift of education forward, he believes that they will all become leaders for their family and community. Chomnan strongly believes that SSI's work will create lasting positive impacts on rural communities for generations to come.
Jeanne has been an adviser to SSI's Project Community Prosper (PCP) since January 2016 helping to improve operations and lending practices. As part of her coursework in graduate school, Jeanne designed and implemented a monitoring and evaluation framework for PCP. In June 2016, she traveled to Cambodia to carry out a first-time impact study among a sample of PCP clients to assess how the micro-loans were having an affect in the Aoral community. The results have since been used to validate PCP's effort in helping rural entrepreneurs expand their businesses and access capital. Jeanne earned her Master's degree in International Development with area specializations in microfinance and social enterprise development. Much of her research analyzed livelihood programs serving extremely vulnerable populations, such as human trafficking survivors. She previously worked in various roles at a Guatemala-based microfinance organization in their social performance, finance, and fundraising departments. Most recently, Jeanne served as Research Faculty at the University of Colorado Boulder's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence where she oversaw implementation of a healthy youth development program in public schools across the U.S. Jeanne's passion lies in helping to improve the lives of others by giving impoverished communities the tools needed to help themselves. She believes that SSI's social enterprise model is doing exactly that.
Andy Fenselau is a Silicon Valley high tech veteran, currently Chief Marketing Officer for the AI Analytics leader, Anodot. His prior executive roles include product management, marketing, business development, and venture capital at EMC, Symantec, Silicon Graphics, Delphix, Taproot Ventures, and A.T. Kearney. In addition to SSI, he also helped build the leading Bay Area environmental non-profit, Acterra, as a Board member and President. Andy lives in Sunnyvale, CA with his wife and children, and received his B.A. from Harvard and his M.B.A. from Stanford. “My commitment to Cambodia comes originally from the adoption of my oldest son in 1999. My passion for education comes from years of parent-teaching in my children’s progressive education school. To help an entrepreneurial organization that combines both these passions is amazing!”
Cynthia Mussinan retired in 2012 after 44 years with International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc. Most recently she served as VP of R&D and Director of Global Analytical and Sensory Measurement. She has edited a number of books, authored numerous scientific articles and holds more than 25 patents. She is a former president of the American Laboratory Managers Association and is an elected Fellow of the American Chemical Society. She holds a BA in Biology from Georgian Court University and an MS in analytical chemistry from Rutgers. She lives with her family in Howell, NJ.
Education has been Polly’s passion for over 30 years. She has been a teacher, a mentor and an administrator. Polly served on and chaired Parent Teacher Associations, Boards, and Committees, led accreditation teams, strategic planning efforts, and developed curricula. After teaching for over fifteen years, Polly served as head of Friends’ School in Boulder, Colorado for 17 years. As a head of school, she provided leadership that coordinated and developed all aspects of the school including the program and community, business and administration, and advancement. After leaving Friends’ she briefly did consulting work with schools, boards, teachers and administrators. Currently, Polly serves on several boards. She is a graduate of the Shady Hill School Apprentice Program, holds a Masters in Education from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a BA in Art History from Boston University. She lives in Boulder, Colorado and has two children, Cate and Robert, who are pursuing educational and legal careers respectively and a daughter-in-law Jessie May, a branding and marketing coach, along with a ‘grand-dog,’ Junebug.
A former writer for Discovery Channel Online, Kari is the author of Bones That Float, A Story of Adopting Cambodia, winner of the 2008 “Peacemaker of the Year” Award from the Independent Publisher’s Association and a Gold Nautilus Book Award for World Changing Books. The Colorado Parents Day Council named Kari and her husband George the 2008 Colorado Parents of the Year and the American Family Coalition named them National Parents of Excellence. After traveling to Cambodia in 2001 to adopt their son, Kari and her husband created the Grady Grossman School. Since then she has traveled to Cambodia several times to provide on-going support to the growing culture of education in rural Cambodia. Because of Kari, the Grady Grossman School had the first primary school music program in Cambodia, a teacher’s residence and library. She started a silk import business and an environmentally sustainable cooking fuel business to support schools. She holds a BA in writing for Television, Radio and Film from Syracuse University.
George is a former CPA and the owner of Happy Lucky’s Teahouse and Treasures in Fort Collins, CO. Prior to moving to Colorado he started Wild Heaven Productions, LLC, a media company specializing in video production, photography and book publishing. Since leaving public accounting in 1990, he has created several successful businesses as a video producer, cameraman and photographer. He was a founding board member of Adventures in Learning, a non-profit organization, providing inquiry based educational resources in Lander, WY. He is co-founder of Sustainable Schools International (formerly Friends of the Grady Grossman School), a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, to support education in Cambodia. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Babson College.
Tavia was born and raised in Oregon and now loves her new home in Colorado. She has several years of experience working in the public health sector, both in the U.S. and internationally, including; Cambodia, India, and Uganda. Fun loving yet service driven, Tavia was initially introduced to SSI while completing her Master’s of Public Health Degree with a focus on Global Health and Health Disparities. As a graduate research assistant, she aided the formation of the Leadership Academy mentorship program, served as a public health mentor, and initiated a school water, sanitation, and hygiene (SWaSH) program. Upon graduation, she served as SSI's Communications and Development Manager. Tavia now welcomes the opportunity to serve as a public health adviser. She strongly believes that, together we can make a difference in the lives of Cambodians for generations to come by supporting sustainable community development through education and entrepreneurship.
Andreas Randow is an accomplished technology advisor and implementation specialist with 20 years of experience, who has held numerous C-level technology growth roles and also experienced multiple successful exits from his own start-ups. His expertise runs both wide and deep, ranging from highly specific technological details of software and data architecture, data acquisition and imaging, big data, mobile applications, SaaS, and media services; to business management including turnkey business development; and high-quality functional design. Formerly VP of Technology for Data Translation, Inc., he is currently a Managing Partner at Proper Orange, LLC. He is also the Startup and Emerging Company Advisor for East Horizon Investments at the Cambridge Innovation Center. Andreas is the technical lead behind Mina's List, a non-profit organization with the mission to realize women's equal political representation in national governments.
Donita Tefft, is an adoptive mother of two sons, the eldest is 13 and is from Cambodia, the younger is 9 and from Guatemala. Their family spent five months in Cambodia (January – May 2015) helping students at SSI’s Leadership Academy in Phnom Penh begin developing an English as a Second Language school called the “English Zone”. One of the unique aspects of the school is the opportunity for the Cambodian students to skype with native English “conversation partners” on a weekly basis. Donita is a speech/language pathologist who currently works for Oklahoma State University as their Clinic Director. Many of the conversation partners are her undergraduate and graduate students at OSU. Her work experiences have been with professionals addressing accent and language differences, as well as help with communication disorders resulting from neurological or developmental issues such as strokes, head injuries, cerebral palsy and autism.
Dr. Ryan is an Assistant Professor at Colorado State University. She serves SSI as a public health advisor and mentor. Her research explores the complex interactions of food components with gut microbiota and the immune system. Her interests span both enteric disease and cancer control and prevention, with collaborators and translational application to the broader fields of microbiology, immunology, oncology, pediatrics and nutrition. Dr. Ryan's global health research program also includes developing innovative solutions to food systems that will enhance food security.
Gail Belmuth is a communications expert with 30 years of experience in the international corporate, political and not-for-profit sectors. She has held leadership roles at large communication agencies, including Burson-Marsteller, and was global head of corporate communications at International Flavors & Fragrances. For the past 10 years, she has run her own consultancy, serving clients including Alcoa, CVS Health, Marsh, Novartis, Accenture, Deloitte, Xylem, Ingersoll-Rand, International Rescue Committee, and Electrolux. Gail also has extensive experience consulting leaders in developing nations and reforming governments throughout the former Soviet Union and Latin America, and is co-author of a chapter on global corporate communication in Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication, Routledge Press. She received her B.A. in Russian Studies from Brown University and lives with her family in Western Massachusetts.
Jessica Davis serves as agricultural advisor to SSI. She and her husband have two children, one from China and one from Cambodia. They have been longtime supporters of SSI and had the pleasure of visiting the schools back in 2012. Jessica has a PhD in Soil Science from Texas A&M University and is a professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University. She has worked in Niger, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Guatemala, and Indonesia in addition to providing mentorship for Sokea, SSI's first BS graduate in agriculture. A strong agricultural base is critical to rural development and will provide a solid foundation for the schools in Aural District.