Developing leaders for the education sector locally and globally

Around the globe, former staff and faculty members from ALA leave a lasting impact on education and youth development. They establish innovative youth programs, bring fresh perspectives to established institutions, and mentor future leaders, shaping educational landscapes beyond ALA’s campus. Wherever they go, these community members carry the mission, vision, and values of ALA, leaving an enduring imprint on the educational landscape.

Lisa Simelane: Deputy Principal Academics, Waterford Kamhlaba UWCSA

Lisa Simelane worked at ALA from 2016 to 2021, serving as ALA’s Director of Teaching and Learning from 2018 to 2021. She then returned to her native Eswatini to join Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa, where she now oversees teaching and learning. Lisa is a firm believer in transformative African education, aiming to empower young individuals to alter their own situations and those of others.

Diego Ontaneda Benavides: Co-Founder & CEO, Latin American Leadership Academy

Diego Ontaneda Benavides worked as Chief of Staff to ALA’s Co-Founder Chris Bradford from 2013 to 2016, where he was inspired to take the knowledge he acquired to his home region of Latin America. Diego left ALA in 2016 and while at Stanford Graduate School of Business he co-founded Latin American Leadership Academy (LALA). Like ALA, LALA believes in the power of youth to transform communities, countries, and continents for the better. Since 2018, Latin American Leadership Academy has identified and developed over 1,000 young people from 17 countries in Latin America.

Lara Rabiu: Founder, The Afara Initiative

Lara served as ALA’s Chief Financial Officer from 2013 to 2019. While at ALA, she founded The Afara Initiative, an organization dedicated to empowering Nigerian youth and uplifting their communities. Lara’s vision was to equip young Nigerians with entrepreneurial skills, leadership abilities, and global connections to drive Nigeria’s future prosperity. Through skills training and mentorship programs, The Afara Initiative aims to empower one million Nigerian university graduates to achieve economic independence and emerge as the next generation of transformative leaders for their nation.

Laura Kaub: UNHCR University Access Advisor, Duolingo English Test

Laura joined ALA in 2008 as the inaugural Director of University Guidance and later became the founding Director of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at ALA. She is a passionate advocate for expanding access to higher education for high-achieving, low-income students from Africa. Currently, as the UNHCR University Access Advisor for Duolingo’s English Test, Laura focuses on improving pathways to higher education for refugee students. She provides individualized guidance and support throughout the university and financial aid application processes, ensuring greater opportunities for those seeking education

Veda Sunassee: Chief Executive Officer, African Leadership University

Veda joined ALA in 2010 as a Princeton-in-Africa Fellow. During his five years at ALA, Veda held roles as an Admissions Officer and an Entrepreneurial Leadership Faculty Member. After leaving ALA, Veda played a pivotal role in establishing the African Leadership College (ALC) in Mauritius and served as the Founding Dean of the African Leadership University (ALU) in Rwanda. Currently, Veda serves as the Chief Executive Officer of ALC & ALU, responsible for overseeing operations and guiding the institution’s strategic direction across both the Mauritius and Rwanda campuses.

Bowen Kelley: History Teacher and DEI Coordinator, The Park School of Baltimore

Bowen spent five years at ALA, serving in various roles including University Guidance Counselor and African Studies Faculty. After leaving ALA, he pursued an Ed.M. in Teaching and Teacher Leadership at Harvard Graduate School of Education, focusing on Identity, Power, and Justice in Education. Bowen currently teaches history at the Park School in Baltimore, Maryland, where he teaches “Africa Through the Lens,” an elective he created at ALA, where students analyze how photography, film, and social media shape Africa’s narratives.

Sharmi Surianarain: Chief Impact Officer, Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator

Sharmi spent six years at ALA, first serving as the Director of Global Partnerships and then the Vice President of Lifelong Engagement. After moving to Kenya in 2018, Sharmi joined Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, a not-for-profit social enterprise that solves youth employment through partnerships. Now serving as Harambee’s Chief Impact Officer, Sharmi leads research, knowledge, and insights, analyzing Harambee’s programs and their ripple effect on systemic change across Africa.

If you’re interested in working at ALA, please visit our careers site.

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