Board Chair, President Ben is currently a Vice President for an education software company serving schools both in the US and internationally. He brings experience as a school principal and teacher, as well as over 15 years of working with both BEI and Baja Bound in Maneadero, Mexico. Ben holds a Doctor of Educational Leadership and is an adjunct professor with a large non-profit university. Ben has spent his career in the education space with a passion for underserved students. Ben currently resides in Seattle, WA; however he spends many weekends in Mexico throughout the year
Vice President, Secretary Edward Lopez is the President, CEO, and Qualified Manager of Lopez and Associates, Inc. For the past 30+ years Lopez & Associates has been providing specialized services to the legal, insurance, and educational communities. In addition, Ed has been instrumental in the development of three other corporations; he has applied this knowledge to help give form and structure to BEI. Although Ed is a native San Diegan, his father was a Central American immigrant raised in a situation of poverty similar to that which BEI addresses in Mexico. Ed has been involved in philanthropic work in Northern Baja California for the past decade, most recently along with his wife Nancy, through BEI and its sister organization, Baja Bound. He is the proud father of an adult daughter.
Executive Director Bill has been married to his wife Lena for 47 years. They have four grown sons and 14 grandchildren. Bill spent the last 32 years of his career working in the automotive industry in Michigan, ending his career working as the Global Automotive Business Development Manager before retiring in 2014. Bill has since volunteered for various non-profit organizations, starting with Life Remodeled, an organization which revitalizes neighborhoods and schools in Detroit. Bill started a tutoring program in the local elementary schools, helping bring students up to grade level in reading. Bill now serves on the boards of Pastors Beyond, End of the Road Ministries, and Baja Educational Initiative. Bill and his wife began their involvement in Mexico with Baja Bound in the 90s and have continued to this day. They became involved with Baja Educational Initiative over 3 years ago. They are excited to see how children receive an education through the resources provided by Baja Educational Initiative. Bill and Lena continue to live just outside Detroit in Brighton, MI.
Board Member Nancy has been involved in philanthropic work in Mexico since the 1980s, first with the Maryknoll Sisters in Oaxaca, then with Truck of Love in Tijuana, and currently with Baja Bound Ministries and Baja Educational Initiative, both in Ensenada. Her work in Mexico has included teaching elementary school, caring for the elderly, volunteering in orphanages, teaching English, prison ministry, food and clothing distribution, and building houses, as well as supporting students and education through her work with BEI. She has been an elementary school teacher for more than 30 years, working in communities which face socioeconomic challenges. She has taught in San Ysidro, on the US-Mexico border, since 2000. Nancy holds a BA and an MFA, both in writing. She is an award-winning author, with work published in literary magazines and a local newspaper. Nancy is the proud mom of two adult children, Susana and Julian.
Board Member, Treasurer Felicia Newbern-Kelley is an entrepreneur and the VP of a large National Title company. Her biggest passion is philanthropy and serving underprivileged children. Felicia was raised by her grandparents and grew up around nonprofits through her grandparents’ involvement. She has served on multiple nonprofit boards. She is very involved with foster children in the US, and has fostered children herself. Other areas of philanthropy important to Felicia are orphans in Africa and Mexico, sex trafficking victims, hosting house builds in Mexico with our sister organization Baja Bound, and hosting blood drives. She fell in love with BEI years back and knew that she had to be involved with the cause. Felicia lives in San Diego with her husband Adam Kelley, who she met on a house building trip in Mexico. In her free time she loves working out and going on adventures which include anything with adrenaline, traveling, skydiving, playing sports, riding dirt bikes or street bikes, or taking her therapy-certified mini horse and mini donkey to visit children and elderly folks in the hospital.
Dr. Karla Carmona
Board Member, BajaED Alumn Karla Carmona, MD, holds her medical degree in Mexico as well as her A.S. Degree in Science and Quantitative Reasoning as an Honors graduate in the US. Born in Mexico, Karla was raised by a single father. In order to help cover her school expenses, she began working during middle school and held such jobs as packaging vegetables at local farms, babysitting, and house cleaning, just to name a few. Karla was BEI’s first college graduate! She currently works as a physician in Siloe Ministries, a clinic in a rural community in la Mision B.C. Mx. For the past 18 years she has been involved with different ministries and associations to help in her community. She currently also participates in medical outreaches in Tijuana for patients with difficulty accessing medical care. Karla is passionate about medicine and encouraging education. “I have come this far not just because of my passion for learning but because of all of the people who believed in my dream and encouraged me: my family, Agua Viva, friends, Baja Bound, and BEI. Through BEI, I hope many more students will have the same opportunity that I had.”
John Van Laar
Board member John N. Van Laar holds an MA in Education. He has been a teacher for 31 years, and is currently teaching 2 nd grade in Pasadena, California. John grew up in Ohio on a produce farm working with migrant workers in the field and packing plant. Hard work and the success of the family farm helped him achieve a college education. He is grateful for the opportunity to help other students achieve higher education. He is married to his amazing wife Sonia, a nurse and Fuller Seminary graduate. They have three teen/preteen children: Isabelle, Joseph and Audry.
Administrator Nicole Soares holds a BS in Business/HR. She is currently working as a School Administrator at Ascension Montessori Children's Center. Nicole has been in church and nonprofit administration for over 15 years. She has been active in a variety of roles within church ministry. She is passionate about empowering people to serve in a way that gives meaning and texture to their life. Nicole and her husband Marvin are natives of San Diego, CA, and proud parents to Brielle and Liam.
Our Staff in Mexico
MS. Gabriela Smith
Field Coordinator MS in Biotechnology and Bionanomedicine. Born and raised in Ensenada, Mexico, Gabriela is the Field Coordinator of BEI in Mexico as well as a volunteer in various programs to help orphans and orphanages in the area. She is passionate about helping children in need and bringing them to understand the love God has for them. Gabriela is married to Caleb, a missionary to Mexico and they love serving together.