Board of Directors
Shyaam Shabaka, Board President
Shyaam has over 33 years of leadership experience in the fields of public health and sustainable urban agriculture. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Eco Village Farm Learning Center in Richmond, California, and previously served as the Director of Health Planning, Education, and Promotion for the City of Berkeley Public Health Department. Shyaam has worked on a projects to promote environmental, social, and economic justice in low-income urban American communities and in Sub-Saharan Africa. Highlights include serving as a United Nations Election Observer for the first democratic elections in South Africa and attending the World Summit on Sustainable Development as a Ford Foundation delegate. Shyaam has completed numerous consultancies for governments and non-profit organizations, including the Albert Einstein College of Medicine Department of Community Health, the City and County of Los Angeles Redevelopment Agency, and the West County Partnership for the Public’s Health. Shyaam has made an enormous contribution to ICRI through his many years of service to the organization, including over 10 years as the Board Chair.
Chris Ellison, Secretary
Chris Ellison is a partner at Ellison, Schneider & Harris, a California law firm specializing in energy, water and environmental law. Since admission to the California bar in 1977, Chris has specialized in energy matters, concentrating on transactional, regulatory and arbitration work on behalf of energy suppliers, customers, trade associations and regional reliability organizations. After working for the California Energy Commission, the California Department of Justice Environment Section and another private law firm, Chris helped found Ellison, Schneider & Harris in 1990. He has been a leading participant in restructuring the electric industry to promote open access transmission, customer choice, reliability standards, competition, licensing of new power plants and the promotion of renewable energy. Chris also serves as an arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association.
Chris has been active within several Western electricity forums on matters of transmission access and electric reliability. He was selected by the California Bar Association to serve on its Committee on the Environment. He has been selected by other attorneys for inclusion in “Best Lawyers in America” (2006), selected for “Northern California Super Lawyers” (2005, 2006) and by Sacramento Magazine for “Best Lawyers in Sacramento” (2006).
John has served as an ICRI Board member since 2010. His focus is to further strengthen the effectiveness and viability of ICRI in childhood care and education through our worldwide programs and collaborations. His education, including a Bachelors, Masters, and PhD, from UC Berkeley, is in Materials Science and Electronic Materials, and he has experience in Silicon Valley as a researcher, technical manager, and executive in large corporate entities as well as in venture-funded start-ups. He was Associate Professor of Materials Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His commitment to improving childhood education worldwide increased as his daughter, Emilie, completed her teaching training in Madrid, Spain, and as his son, Martin, completed a two year Peace Corps commission teaching young children in Gobabis, Namibia.
Leslie Falconer is the President and CEO of the Experience Early Learning Co., a publisher of early childhood books, music and preschool curriculum. She has written, produced, and published several child development tools including the Mother Goose Time preschool curriculum and children's music. Leslie has been invited to be a guest author for various early childhood education journals and has spoken on related topics for several early childhood education organizations. She is also the trustee of the Alabaster Fund which supports early childhood education initiatives worldwide. In her free time, Leslie loves to be outside hiking and enjoying beautiful Traverse City, Michigan with her husband and three active daughters.
In 1999 Melanie Jones left a lucrative career in the corporate sector to devote herself full time to the character education program for youth she began in 1986. She is the Founder and Director of Speak to Children, a non-profit organization specializing in teaching children and youth character development. Melanie has worked to integrate her program in education and has devoted years traveling nationwide and globally to bring Speak to Children to schools, associations, and teacher and parent trainings. She believes in teaching the whole child, on the academic, social, and personal levels. Fostering self-awareness and educating youth with important life skills creates leaders who bring positive social change and influence society in a dynamic world.
Melanie studied psychology, child development and sociology. She earned her BA from the University of San Francisco and has a Masters of Science in Organizational Development from the Masagung Graduate School of Management at the University of San Francisco.
Avonelle Hanley-Mills is the CEO of the The Parent Movement, a strength based organization focusing on the innate strength and resilience of the parental figure and the child/youth.
Dr. Samuel Lartey
Samuel Lartey is a licensed Investment Representative, Corporate Adviser, and a certified educator and teacher. He is an Information Technology and Financial Information Scholar and an Investment Banker. Samuel has profound experience and knowledge in global universal banking, finance, capital markets and global project management. Samuel have held many different leadership positions, applying creative problem-solving and management skills to achieve optimum resources utilization and profit maximization. Samuel was appointed as a Full Professor in Computer Management and Financial Information Systems in 2013. He holds a PhD in Financial Management an MBA in Management Information Systems), and a Degree in Political Science and Philosophy. He is a Chartered Financial Manager and a Chartered Project Engineer. Samuel is a member of The Institute of Directors, of the UK and Ghana, a member of the European Institute of Financial Directors, and currently an Adjunct Lecturer at Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Accra and with Carayol University College. Samuel chairs and sits on several Boards both locally and internationally.
Rufaro Kangai is Director of Programs for Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, Advocacy, Media, Technology & Crisis Response for the Global Fund for Women. Rufaro works closely with grantee partners to assure they are engaged in high-impact movements to advance the rights of women and girls. Throughout her career, Rufaro has worked locally and globally to advance the sexual reproductive health and rights of women and girls. Her passion is rooted in her personal history, having lost 22 female relatives, including her close aunt, to the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Before joining the Global Fund for Women, Rufaro worked as the RiseUp Program Manager at the Public Health Institute (PHI). In this role, she launched the Champions for Change (C4C) to build a movement of advocates in the sub-Sahara Africa region that benefitted more than 67 million girls and women. The program is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, and AstraZeneca. Rufaro was the first Country Director for the Child Resource Institute, Zimbabwe (CRIZ), working at the front lines to supported 20,000 leaders and 150 grassroots organizations in evidence-based grant-making and advocacy. Rufaro earned a Bachelor’s in Media Communications from San Francisco State University and a Master’s in Leadership and Management from the University of Zimbabwe. She has been an invited speaker at conferences such as CSW 59 Beijing +20 (Commission on the Status of Women) New York, Women Deliver, Denmark and Nigeria Summit on RMNCAH ( Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child and Adolescent Health), 2010 World Forum on Early Care and Education.
Dr. Ellen Hall
Dr. Ellen Hall was one of the foremost researchers, program developers, and international leaders on early childhood education worldwide. She founded the Boulder, Colorado Journey School and developed one of the preeminent Masters Degree programs in Early Childhood Education between the University of Colorado and the Journey School. Ellen was a leader of the Global Collaborative for Peace Education And Conflict Resolution of the World Forum on Early Care and Education. She advised numerous states in the United States and other countries on policy and program development for children and families.
Ellen passed away peacefully on March 7, 2018 in her Denver home. Her death followed a long and brave battle with pancreatic cancer. She is survived by her husband, son, and grandchildren. Ellen is also the first recipient of ICRI's World Hero for Children award, as of April 7, 2018.