Board of Directors & Major Volunteers

Chair of the Board:  Michelle Simmons

Michelle Simmons, LPC, holds a Masters Degree in Community Counseling from the University of Northern Colorado and is a licensed professional counselor. She has over 14 years of clinical experience in a variety of settings such as hospitals, community mental health centers and family service agencies. Michelle has extensive knowledge in crucial areas such as trauma, crisis intervention, child protective issues and the needs of foster parents and children in their care.

Treasurer & Social Media Director:  Rai Farrelly

Raichle (Rai) Farrelly achieved her PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Utah. Her area of focus is Second Language Acquisition Theory and Second Language Teacher Education. Her specific interests lie within the realm of teaching English to adult emergent readers who have lived through the refugee experience. Rai is also the founder of Project Wezesha, an organization which strives to increase access to education for children in developing countries. Currently, Project Wezesha is collaborating with a village in Western Tanzania to construct their first ever secondary school. Rai’s passions include hiking with packs of dogs, snowboarding, traveling, rock climbing, trail running, native language revitalization, grassroots activism, refugee advocacy and drinking red wine often.

Secretary & Events Director:  Mary Ann Williamson

Mary Ann Williamson comes to GEI with a background in communications, having worked as both a freelance and staff writer/producer in the corporate video field, as an adjunct professor of Technical Communications at Metropolitan State College of Denver, and as the Community Marketing Coordinator for the Boulder International Film Festival.  She served on the board of directors, and later as president of the International Television Association.  Currently, Mary Ann is at work on an independent film about the evacuees of the recent Fourmile Canyon fire.

Mary Ann earned her BS in Mass Communications from Illinois State University, and graduated cum laude from the Applied Communications Master’s degree program at the University of Denver.

While spending time with her family is her priority, Mary Ann also likes to run, hike, ski, and bicycle in the outdoors, then sit in darkened movie theaters to see as many independent films as possible.

Development Director:  Therese Thompson

Therese was Executive Director for Summit Cancer Solutions for three years and then became Development Director for the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association Foundation when the two organizations merged in January 2011.   She has a B.S. in biology, a M.S. in wildlife biology and  15 years of experience working in the public sector in policy analysis, strategic planning, fundraising and event management. Therese completed her Master’s degree in Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management through the University of Colorado in May 2010.  A master multi-tasker, Therese keeps her family on task and usually on time.  Therese is a voracious reader, and enjoys travel, music (listening and playing), hiking, backpacking, xeric gardening and tennis.

Board Member:  Steve Murchie


Girls Education International is excited to officially announce our newest board member, Steve Murchie. Steve is an entrepreneur and investor, primarily working in the software and cleantech sectors. He holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience in the software industry, starting as a programmer/analyst and progressing through a variety of roles in sales, marketing, and general management.

In the past several years, Steve has become active in the social sector, stemming from his membership in Social Venture Partners – Denver. In that capacity, he consulted with local non-profit organizations to improve their sustainability, which afforded him the opportunity to become involved in a variety of mission-driven organizations and causes, especially those just getting off the ground.

Board Member:  Loni Riley


Loni Riley completed her Master’s degree in Public Policy in May 2010 at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, where she focused on international development policy.  Loni’s desire to assist disadvantaged populations has kept her involved in various volunteer efforts over the years, work with the planning & evaluation office of the Gila River Indian Community and her current position as a program coordinator with the International Rescue Committee, guiding refugees toward the achievement of stable and prosperous lives here in the U.S.  Loni’s favorite past-time is any and all active outdoor pursuits, including rock-climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, snow-boarding and cross-country skiing.

Marketing Director (non-Board):  Carolyn McHale


Carolyn serves GEI by helping with marketing and providing graphic and web design assistance. She has owned design and web firm Boldface Design, Inc., since 1996, creating for nonprofits, businesses and government entities. Carolyn moved to Colorado in 2005 to climb, snowboard and mountain bike. Her love of climbing and passion for supporting women’s causes found her as a member, and later President, of womens’ climbing nonprofit sheclimbs, inc. Carolyn also served as PR/Marketing Coordinator for three of HERA Colorado’s Climb for Life events, which raise money for ovarian cancer research, education and awareness.

Co-Founder (non-Board):  Lizzy Scully


Lizzy Scully is a professional writer/editor with a Master’s degree in communications from Utah State University. She founded and published She Sends, the first and only women’s climbing magazine, and she has managed online and print publications, including and the Berthoud Recorder. In her free time, she travels the world on rock climbing expeditions, climbing big rock walls such as 19,700-foot Shipton Spire in Pakistan, and she regularly volunteers for nonprofit organizations such as the HERA Foundation and now Girls Education International. Her life’s goal is to empower women and girls with education and opportunities. She hopes to accomplish this through her work with Girls Education International. To read more about Lizzy, visit her blog.

Co-Founder & Events/Fundraising Chair (non-Board):  Heidi Wirtz

Heidi Wirtz is a North Face athlete who has traveled extensively around the world on climbing expeditions, from Canada to the big walls of Morocco. While continually raising the bar for her personal performance and for women’s climbing in general, Heidi’s vision for a broader view for her role in the sport in years ahead led her to co-found Girls Education International. She’s now able to work with people in need around the world. She’s also raised money and worked on projects for organizations such as the HERA Foundation and the dZi Foundation, and she regularly teaches Sherpas at the Khumbu Climbing School in Nepal. To read more about Heidi, please visit The North Face, Black Diamond or La Sportiva websites.

Non-Voting / Advisory Board Member:  Amanda Padoan

A climber and attorney, Amanda Padoan specializes in boulders and international law. She earned her B.A. from Harvard and J.D. from Pepperdine School of Law. As legal advisor to GEI, Amanda is committed to promoting girls’ education in the developing world and is working to establish our school program in rural Pakistan. She also serves as the Pakistan Program Director for the Mountain Fund.