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our team

WE ARE A FAMILY

OUR COLLECTIVE OF BOARD MEMBERS, STAFF,  ADVISORS, AND VOLUNTEERS BRING JERICHO'S VISION TO LIFE BY DARING TO BELIEVE THAT HOPE CAN CHANGE A PERSON. THAT HOPE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.

MEET OUR U.S. TEAM

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KELLIE SIMMONS

Executive Director

Kellie lives in Kalamazoo with her 2 sons, late husband’s grandmother, and 2 very spoiled dogs (because of the mentioned grandmother). In 2014 she decide to make a career change and offer her 20+ years of office administration/staff training/management experience, to a virtual assistant to help other companies. KK Virtual Assisting is the result of that decision. Her guilty pleasures are a good cup of coffee, chocolate (not bias), riding her motorcycle, dance music - has been known to still bust a move even though mentioned sons will roll their eyes. Kellie was part of the 2019 Fall Summit team where she saw the impact the students could have in making a change for generations. 

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KERA JOSEPH

Marketing and Communications Manager 

Kera resides in Lansing, MI, with her dog and two cats. She completed her undergraduate studies in Advertising at Michigan State University and obtained a Master's degree in Business Administration from Walsh College. She enjoys spending time with her family, participating in outdoor activities, traveling, and learning new things in her free time. Her strong desire to help others and her sense of purpose led her to Jericho Foundation.

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SARAH HANSAN

Administrative Assistant 

Bio to come. 

MEET OUR
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA TEAM 

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NEJRA VRETO

BiH Director - Sarajevo

Nejra Vreto was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She graduated with a Social and Political Science degree at the International University of Sarajevo as the best student in her generation. She later pursued a Master's degree in Democracy and Human Rights at the University of Bologna, Italy, and Sarajevo. For the past six years, she has worked as a Program Manager. During this time, she successfully developed numerous initiatives and educational activities for youth and women in Bosnia & Herzegovina and the wider Western Balkans region. She is a certified trainer for political academies and youth-related workshops. In her free time, she likes to learn new languages, travel and spend time with her family and closest friends. 

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ENA JUGO

BiH Student Coordinator - Mostar

Ena lives in Mostar, BiH, with her husband, Adan. Ena and Adan were students in the Jericho Scholars program, and she graduated from the Faculty of Teacher Education in the Department of Psychology at the University of Mostar in 2018. Ena enjoyed an internship in the US at Stryker and Kalamazoo Psychology. In BiH, Ena volunteered at the Bijeli Brijeg Hospital in Mostar and the Mostar Penitentiary as part of her master’s thesis research. For a year after graduating, Ena worked as a project counselor to people with disabilities from all over BiH. She enjoys traveling, being outside in nature, and spending time with family.

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ELDINA GRABOVIC

BiH Student Coordinator - Tuzla

Eldina lives in Tuzla, BiH, with her husband, Pera, and son Aron. She has a bachelor's degree in Theology and has work experience in many areas. She is happiest when she can support young people with goals and dreams they want to achieve. During her studies, Eldina missed the support she needed, so her goal was to be a strong support to young people. As a result, she began working for Jericho. Along with supporting our Jericho students, Eldina helps others by being a scout leader in her community. She also is passionate about singing and motivational speaking, and she enjoys camping, traveling, and spending time with her son, family, and friends.

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ALISA HIDIĆ

BiH Student Coordinator - Sarajevo

Alisa comes from a small town called Doboj and has resided in Sarajevo since college. She obtained a Master's degree in Electrical Engineering with a focus on Telecommunications. Additionally, she participated in the Jericho scholarship and US internship programs. After completing an internship at a BiH company, she began her career in the IT industry. As a Jericho student, she always thoroughly enjoyed participating in various activities organized by Jericho in BiH.

Alisa finds pleasure in baking and decorating cakes during her leisure time. However, spending quality time with her young daughter is what brings true joy to her life. Alisa is a remarkable illustration of how our alumni utilize their education to secure better job opportunities to provide for their loved ones.

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JASENKA SELIMOVIĆ

BiH Student Coordinator - Sarajevo

Jasenka and her husband live in the beautiful city of Sarajevo. She graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Sarajevo and is currently working for an insurance company using her power of attorney as a lawyer to represent them in cases of compensation for damage.

 

She started primary school during the war in improvised classrooms, with pupils and teachers often risking their lives for education and primarily relying on humanitarian aid for classroom supplies. Ultimately, this led her to believe that education and support are the most critical things for BiH youth, eventually leading her to the Jericho Foundation. She enjoys being outdoors and exploring with her family during her free time. As well as she finds joy in traveling and discovering new locations.

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AFRODITA SINANI

BiH Student Mentor - Zenica

Afrodita lives in Zenica with her husband and daughter. She is a Jericho graduate who holds a Master's degree and currently works as a teacher and college assistant. She is also Jericho's first student enrolled in the Ph.D. program. Her ultimate goal is to become a college professor and establish a daycare or primary school. Cooking is one of her favorite hobbies, and she truly enjoys her career. 

 

Her quote on life is, "Everyone is capable of doing everything; just go for it. Dreams will come true if you work for them."

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ALEKSANDAR CESIC

BiH Student Coordinator - Banja Luka

Aleksandar currently resides and works in Prijedor, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a Project Assistant in a joint project that deals with financial and educational support for socially marginalized children in the local community. Aleksandar has also volunteered for many other projects, including seminars and camps for youth and children.

 

For many years, Aleksandar has also resided in the U.S. (mainly in Erie, PA, and Phoenix, AZ), where he obtained experience and contacts with people from many different areas of employment and servitude. He received his Teacher Assistant Certificate from Ashworth College, Georgia, and plans to continue his education, working towards an Associate's/Bachelor's Degree in Special Ed/Early Childhood Ed.

MEET OUR U.S. BOARD

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JOANNA SHIELDS

Founder

Joanna Shields' journey is a testament to the power of dedication and compassion. In 2000, from her kitchen table, Joanna founded the Jericho Foundation, inspired by a little girl she met in a refugee camp in 1995. She initially aimed to help this girl attend university in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). With no prior experience in the non-profit sector or fundraising, Joanna's unwavering commitment transformed the foundation into a beacon of hope, assisting hundreds of students in BiH and creating a ripple effect that will benefit future generations.

Living in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with her husband Mike, they are the proud parents of four children and two grandchildren. Her love for hiking and nature reflects her adventurous spirit, and she remains an avid traveler. She especially cherishes her trips to BiH to stay connected with her "Bosnian family."

Even after retiring as the executive director in 2023, Joanna's passion for the Jericho Foundation's mission remains undiminished. She continues to nurture relationships with supporters and tirelessly champions the foundation as its founder, ensuring its enduring impact and legacy.

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TYLER DEWITTE

Board President

Tyler Dewitte, his wife Laura, and their four children reside in Hudsonville, MI. Currently, Tyler works as an Area Sales Manager at Ferguson Enterprises. He completed his bachelor's degree in general business from Trinity Christian College in 2007, where he discovered his passion for aiding people and participating in missions. Over the years, he has been involved in various philanthropic activities, including contributing to the establishment of a business mentorship program in Malawi and spending two years with Remember Niger to construct schools in Niger. Tyler enjoys coaching his son's sixth-grade travel basketball team and watching his children compete on the swim team. His favorite activities are barbecuing with friends, golfing, attending sports events, and socializing with new people. Tyler became interested in serving the Jericho Foundation after attending his inaugural Night of Hope event.

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IGOR ZNIDARCIC

Board Vice President

Igor was born in Mostar, BiH. When he was six years old, his life tragically changed as the war tore his country apart. His family escaped but still paid a high price in losing their home, jobs and the country they loved. His family eventually settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Igor attended Western Michigan University, earning his BA in Business Management and Spanish. Igor currently lives in Portage, Michigan with his wife and daughter. He is employed with the US Social Security Office.

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HEIDI BISH

Board Member Secretary

Heidi joined Consumers Credit Union as a Consumer Lender 9 years ago but discovered a passion for mortgage lending. She enjoys helping and educating people so her role as a Mortgage Loan Officer is a dream job. Heidi graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2005 with a Bachelor’s degree in secondary education. Heidi's free time is spent happily with her husband and 3 amazing children, camping, boating, and biking. she also finds time for many volunteer organizations that include Meals on Wheels, helping in various schools, Greater Kalamazoo Association of Realtors, Women's Council of Realtors Southwestern as a founding board member, and the Jericho Foundation.

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LINDSEY WEGELER

Board Treasurer

Lindsey and her husband Jordan live in Mattawan, MI. She graduated from Western Michigan University earning a degree in Personal Financial Planning. She's been working for Plante Moran as a financial advisor since 2017. Lindsey's family has supported Jericho from the beginning and Lindsey traveled with Jericho to Bosnia back in 2013. Lindsey is excited to continue her support by joining the Jericho Board in 2020.

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BILL TRAYWICK

Board Member

Bill Traywick, resides in Kalamazoo, Michigan with his wife. His focus on the Board has been in strategic planning and establishing the Foundation Endowment. His professional experience in sales management includes a 32-year career with Procter and Gamble and the Kellogg Company. Bill traveled to BiH in 2013 and 2016 to be part of the student leadership seminars. He also has extensive volunteer experience with Kentwood Public Schools. Bill is involved with Jericho because he believes we are making a difference by helping young people achieve a college education. These young people will become the future leaders of this recovering war-torn country.

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MARK DRAKE 

Board Member

Mark lives with his wife, Ann, in Lawton, Michigan. They have two kids and five grandkids in West Michigan who all love and support the Jericho Foundation. Throughout his adult life, Mark has worked in the financial services industry and founded Drake Financial Group, located in Portage. His passion lies in educating individuals on managing their finances and ultimately achieving their goals. His passion eventually led him to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2018 to teach our scholarship students about personal finance. He came home from that experience impacted by the resiliency and positivity displayed by the people he met there and devoted himself to serving Jericho in an even larger capacity. Ever since he has assumed the position of a leader in our yearly golf event, sits on the board of directors, and along with his spouse, hosts Jericho's summer interns.

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KALYN HOFFMAN

Board Member

Kalyn lives with her husband and daughter in Kalamazoo, MI. She graduated from Western Michigan University earning a Masters Degree in International Development Administration. Kalyn joined the Jericho family in 2013 with our Project HOPE Team. Her love for the students and belief in God’s unconditional love has kept her returning to BiH ever since.

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