Celeste Mergens, Founder & CEO
Celeste Mergens is the founder and CEO of Days for Girls. She has led the organization since its beginning in 2008, bringing twenty years of nonprofit and business management experience to the organization. She holds a Master's Degree in Creative Writing and Literature and audited a second in Global Sustainable Development. Her “can do” team-building approach has inspired thousands of volunteers and social enterprises around the world. Days for Girls is a two-time Girl Effect Champion, won the SEED award for gender equity and entrepreneurship, and was named by the Huffington Post as a ‘Next Ten’ Organization poised to change the world in the next decade. She is a sought-after speaker (you can download her Speakers One-sheet here) and has been featured in Oprah’s O Magazine, Forbes, and was recently named an AARP Purpose Prize Award winner, a Conscious Company Global Impact Entrepreneur of the year, and Women Economic Forum's Woman of the Decade. She loves being with her family when not traveling the globe. She is married to her best friend Don. Their family includes 11 phenomenal children (5 by marriage) whom all support Days for Girls, as well as 15 grandchildren, 4 foster children, and 4 foreign exchange students, and many beloved friends who have become family around the world.
Vicki Carew, Chief Programs Officer
Vicki is an impact-driven non-profit leader, education practitioner, and transformational speaker. For over 25 years, she has been committed to building and improving collaborative partnerships to generate a multi-generational impact for under-resourced youth, families, and communities.
Ms. Carew has served her community in various capacities including guiding clients through sustainable solutions as Lead Consultant for K. Brook Consulting Group. During her time as Director of Unit Development at Morehouse School of Medicine, she worked closely with the school’s centers and institutes to raise philanthropic funds. Prior to that, Ms. Carew served as the Executive Director of Institutional Advancement and Executive Director of Georgia Perimeter College Foundation. She successfully led the GPC Foundation’s development efforts that supported the college’s strategic priorities, leveraging private support, and effectively managing $100 million in assets.
Vicki's long-term commitment to philanthropic access, education, community engagement, and youth development has been evident in both her professional and personal life. She spent seven years with Project GRAD Atlanta, where she developed the organization’s model for college support and led retention efforts for students enrolled at over 70 colleges and universities. Prior to that, she championed the initial service-learning initiative at Morehouse College and played an integral role in leading their community service efforts.
She serves on a number of nonprofit boards and holds local and regional positions as an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She is originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Ms. Carew completed her undergraduate work in Finance and Economics at Temple University. She did her graduate studies in Economics at Clark Atlanta University and later, in Public Administration/ Nonprofit Management at Georgia State University.
Kim Christensen (Ojibwe), Chief Development Officer
Kim came to Days for Girls International with over 20 years of experience in resource development and communications. Her specialty lies in individual giving and grants management in which she has an established and sustained track record
of increasing and diversifying revenue sources and expanding the capacity of development departments.
Originally from the Northwest, Kim spent the last decade working for culturally-based community organizations. A common thread and expertise in her work are building culturally relevant development systems in partnership with program staff and board. This was especially evident during her most recent tenure as a development director with the National Indian Child Welfare Association where she played a critical role in addressing philanthropic equity.
Kim earned a master’s degree in International Public Service Management from DePaul University and a bachelor’s degree in economics and global studies from Pacific Lutheran University.
Gina Grimm, Chief Financial Management Officer
Gina graduated from Gannon University with a BS in science and math with an emphasis in computer science. She is a programmer who has focused on finance in her professional career. After raising three children with her husband Greg, she returned to work as an accountant. She has long been passionate about health, and has previously managed a First Aid/CPR training facility. In addition to working with Days for Girls, Gina manages the finances for a local dance studio, where she also exercises her talents as a dance teacher.
Jessica Williams, Chief Communications Officer
Jessica holds a Bachelor's degree from Wake Forest University in Communications and a Master’s degree in Strategic Communications from The University of Oregon. She is also an adjunct instructor for the University of Portland’s Pamplin School of Business Nonprofit MBA program.
Jessica has a broad range of professional experience from sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations to entrepreneurship. She is a Certified Scrum Master, a Certified Life Coach, and a Certified Yoga Instructor.
Prior to Days for Girls, she was the CEO of On The Rise Solutions, an organization dedicated to coaching, speaking, consulting, and live events for women in business. She founded On The Rise Summit (a popular annual conference for women in business). Jessica lives in Portland, Oregon with her two dogs, a cat, and her loving husband. You will often find her on a hike or having wine with friends.
Diana Nelson, Global Advocacy Director
Diana began her journey with Days for Girls while living in Bangkok, Thailand, and now gets to see DfG changing the lives of women and girls in Southern Africa. She has a broad range of experience as an educator, teaching in a university, high school, and elementary settings in the US, China, Thailand, and South Africa. She also has significant experience in organizing large-scale events for hundreds of participants including young women camps, community races, and school health and athletic programs. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. She loves spending time with her husband and three daughters, and enjoys being active in the outdoors.
Leyla Isin-Xiong, Global Education & Chapters Director
Leyla comes to Days for Girls with a Bachelor's Degree in International Relations from the Australian National University and a graduate certificate in TESOL. She is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Sustainable Development. Leyla lives in Luang Prabang, Laos, and is passionate about gender equality, women’s health, and access to education. She brings experience in project planning, management and implementation, and sustainable development best practice within the fields of community development, education, and women’s health. Leyla is responsible for overseeing and coordinating DfG menstrual health education programs and as well as DfG global volunteer programs and it's alignment with DfG strategy, programming, and growth.