Education & Exchange Team
David Mota De La Parra | Latin America Education Director
David believes the connection between people and nature is the key to social change, with this idea in mind he studied psychology in his native Mexico and completed his Master’s in Culture and Development Studies in Belgium graduating from both with honors.
For the past fifteen years he has worked leading projects in many countries around the world in topics related to cultural diversity, sustainability, community building and education. These experiences have only strengthened his conviction on the possibility of a profound positive change in societies when we take the time to listen to one another and build together. Through his work with GSE he wants to share this experience with young leaders.
Cecilia Montesdeoca Álava | Bahia Regional Director
Cecilia is a native Ecuadorian and was born in Calceta, a city in the province of Manabi. She grew up in a rural community called Sarampión and feels a strong connection to nature that made her decide from early on she wanted to work in environmental protection topics. She studied tourism at the university ESPAM and began collaborating with GSE first as a volunteer, intern, trip leader, education program coordinator and now regional director.
Her knowledge of the challenges of the region and her involvement with every level of the organization in the project in Bahia give her a great grasp of the local reality. She uses this deep understanding to make the project better for students and have a strong impact in the community. She is a passionate educator, hard worker and is excited to work alongside other passionate people striving for positive change.
Maya Normandi | Bahia Exchange Program Manager
Maya was born and raised in the San Geronimo Valley of Northern California, where she first became involved with GSE through a 2010 high school trip to Bahia de Caraquez. Upon her return, she worked with GSE to create Drake High School’s first school garden, which marked the beginning of her GSE love affair. Since then, Maya has participated in four GSE exchange trips, worked as a Student Rep at Seattle University and U.C. Santa Barbara, and is delighted to return to Bahia as Exchange Program Manager.
With a B.A. in Environmental Studies from U.C.S.B., Maya is excited to use her environmental expertise, love for adventure and enthusiasm for education to empower young environmental leaders in their local communities, and abroad.
Marcelo Cedeño | Bahia Local Program Coordinator
Marcelo grew up in a community with many challenges and began working hard since he was very young thus he knows first-hand the power of meaningful work in the development of young adults. He was born in Bahia and coming back to make the place better gives him great satisfaction.
He studied tourism because it was the meeting point of some of his passions; a love for the natural landscapes and an interest in the different cultures. He was an intern for GSE during his studies and this experience increased his knowledge of environmentalism and added an interest in education. He thinks local youth working together in their communities will change the lives of the students and improve the places where they work.
Kenneth Berreman | Bahia Exchange Leader
A fan of composting and growing veggies, Kenneth grew up backpacking, snowboarding and spending time outdoors with friends and family. The time shared with them in nature has helped him grow his love for the environment.
In his first experience with GSE in 2014, Kenneth, inspired by the local students of Bahía, discovered his desire to teach in an intercultural setting. Four years later, with a degree in Agricultural and Environmental Science Education from UC Davis, Kenneth is excited to use his experience to not only teach about sustainability, but to also help facilitate cultural exchange and cultivate environmental stewardship.
Rebeca Araya Rodrigúez | Cuenca Regional Director
Rebeca was born and raised in the small mountain town of Zarcero in Costa Rica. Her passions for traveling, hiking, nature, agriculture and education has led her to become engaged with different environmental NGOs. Prior to this new adventure she worked for Raleigh International as a International Volunteer Coordinator and then with GSE where she learned about social development projects and the importance of empowering young leaders.
Rebeca received her BA in Eco-Tourism Management in November of 2016 and is now dedicating herself to thriving in this career working towards sustainable educational programming.
Connor Cargill | Cuenca Exchange Program Manager
Connor genuinely believes in the positive power of nature on the human psyche and how that influence can affect change through our daily interactions with what sustains us. Having grown up in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, Connor was always learning about the importance of the environment from his mom, a biology teacher. Upon graduating with a degree in International Business and Spanish from the University of Texas at Austin, he moved to Montana to experience life amongst large patches of pristine, reserved lands. After his time spent living near and working in national parks, Connor found a rejuvenated passion for responsible, thoughtful actions toward the environment.
He loves the idea of growing programs and collaborating with other passionate individuals, and hopes to facilitate productive - both physically and relationally - experiences for all visiting students and locals involved.
Omar Flores | Cuenca Local Program Coordinator
Omar Flores graduated with a BSc degree in Rural Development from the Universidad Nacional Agrarian (UNA) in Managua, Nicaragua, the city where he was born.
In 2014 he won a scholarship, and began his studies in a Masters in Science in Rural Development at the UNA. As part of his ongoing professional and academic development, some of his most fond experiences have been working as a team leader for different organizations and as a social educator in Proyecto de Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes Trabajadores en la Calle (NATRAS).
He has discovered the importance of human capacities and skills for development, becoming a strong believer and fighter for educational approaches to development. He will be implementing this knowledge in his role as a program coordinator in Cuenca.
Kelly Carpenter | Guatemala Regional Director
Kelly Carpenter is a Santa Barbara, California native. Her passion for exploring the interconnectivity of people, environment, and health and wellbeing in development drove her to complete a Master’s degree in Global Public Health with a focus in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from the University of South Florida.
Kelly has always geared her travels and studies towards the diverse communities of Latin America, spending the last four living and working in Bolivia, Nicaragua, and now Guatemala. Kelly previously worked for GSE as a Program Director in Nicaragua and now turns her enthusiasm for program structuring and development to the Guatemala project in her new role as Regional Director. She is deeply vested in the idea that sustainable, holistic growth occurs solely through collaborative and inclusive efforts together and from within the community. Contact her at email@example.com
Katia Espalter | Guatemala Exchange Program Manager
Born in Cuba and raised in Nicaragua. Katia is passionate about nature, health, and culture. She has been a young activist since she started painting social justice-themed murals at age 15 with FUNARTE in Nicaragua. After graduating from the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in León as a Dentist, Katia began working with medical brigades in rural communities of Nicaragua. From 2014 to 2016 she coordinated Natural Resource Management and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene projects with Raleigh International in both Nicaragua and Tanzania and managed over 400 volunteers as Society Officer, developing youth-led social and environmental projects.
Katia’s story with GSE began in 2017 when she took on the role of Exchange Coordinator, leading trips in both Nicaragua and Ecuador. When trip season concluded, she focus her talents on logistics, planning, and relationship building in Nicaragua, and continues this year as the Exchange Manager in GSE’s newest site in Guatemala!
Katia is dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. Through continued study, work, and travel her long-term goal to start an organization that, with an environmental focus, provides free healthcare and education opportunities in the most vulnerable areas. In her free time Katia loves to hike and explore new places. She is fluent in Spanish and English.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Johnny Castro Perez | Guatemala Local Program Coordinator
Originally from Costa Rica, faithful lover of nature and the traditional knowledge of medicinal of plants, Johnny has lived throughout his life in semi-rural towns, always involved in some way with agriculture. He studied administration courses, focused on the agro-business sector. He also has a degree in Production of Organic crops, so it has experience in the elaboration of organic supplies. Passionate student of ethnobotany.
Volunteer in different NGOs, lover of poetry and equality as a way of life. Has traveled and worked in indigenous territories and rural communities. He has experience working as administrator or organic farms, entrepreneurship and as a teacher of agroecology, with organizations like Red Costarricense de Agricultura Ecológica (Red CAE). He believes education is the key to create new opportunities for youths.
Contact him at: email@example.com