GL Team


Aurelio hernandez: Guatemala country director

Aurelio has worked with GL since 2003; prior to his involvement he worked with El Centro Linguistico, La Union in Antigua. He coordinates all on-the-ground activities in Guatemala, connecting GL with local partners for service projects and cultural exchanges. He has worked in Tourism and Hotel Management since 1994, and holds a degree in Business Administration from the Universidad de Francisco Marroquin. Aurelio enjoys working with foreign visitors to Guatemala and believes strongly in the benefits of building partnerships between Guatemala and foreign organizations toward a common goal of creating a better living standard for all Guatemalans.


Billy Lopez: Guatemala Program Director

An Antigua native, Billy graduated in an accounting career in 2007 and is currently studying Auditing and Public Accounting at la Universidad de Mariano Galvez. Before becoming involved with GL, he was a regular teenager, unaware of the injustice around the world. In his last year of high school, he began to volunteer with GL, and was deeply impacted by the work he did constructing a school near his hometown. He stayed involved with the project for the rest of the year, adopting the school as his final project. That same year, he was invited to be on the Guatemalan GL staff. With GL he is a trip leader and specializes in cultural exchange, teambuilding, and leadership. He loves challenging paradigms and helping students develop a new way of perceiving the world during their learning adventures with GL. Of his experiences with GL, he says: “I’ve learned that education is the most important thing to make change in myself, and from this acknowledgement can extend change to my fellow countrymen, working together to build a just world. My dream for GL is to create the same opportunities that I’ve had for other Guatemalan youth.”


Joe Fontana: Co-founder and executive director

In 1997 Joe and Jason Morgan-Foster planted the seed of an idea to take students into the world and teach leadership and service learning.  Joe's brother Chris collaborated on this idea and Chris grew the program to incredible heights. Global Leaders has become a standard bearer for youth leadership training and service learning. The students who join the GL family become members for life and have consistently given back to their communities. 

For 30 years, Joe taught Geography, History and Leadership classes at Thompson Valley High School in Loveland, Colorado, and Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton, California and Poudre High School in Fort Collins. He has been an advocate for student voices and positive action since his career began. He believes by equipping students with education, leadership skills, and empowerment, students are capable of positively changing their world; today, not tomorrow.

Joe is a dreamer and believes in the impossible. This is evident as he is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. He holds a B.A in Social Sciences and an M.A. in Educational Leadership both from The Colorado State University.



Claudia Hernandez: Guatemala Program Assistant

Claudia Irene Hernández García was born in San Miguel Escobar and received a degree in tourism in 2007.
In February 2013 she started working with Global Leaders after processing coffee with her family for 9 years. Claudia values the strengths taught at GL, including leadership, integrity and honesty.
Claudia also believes that by stepping out of our comfort zones we can become global leaders today to help meet people’s basic needs: identity, education, expression, dignity, and respect.


Rachel Weakland: Program Director

Before Global Leaders, Rachel taught both high school and middle school science while in grad school for Environmental Management and Global Sustainability. She gained a passion for service in university, where she volunteered at the English as a Second Language program for three years. She went on to work in Costa Rica, Brazil, and Puerto Rico on various service projects revolving around sustainability and education accessibility. She loves bugs, animals, plants, traveling, and music. After finishing an internship with GL in 2018, she began her career with GL as the fundraising coordinator. She is ecstatic to fill the position as program director this year and have her dream job working with youth to make a positive impact locally and globally!



Natalie Stockley: Program assistant

Natalie joined GL when she was a student at Poudre High School. While studying at CSU, she interned with Global Leaders, and has spent the past 2 years as our Program Assistant. Natalie is a first-year math teacher at Poudre High School, and her favorite singer is Taylor Swift!


Laurel Twiggs: Girls' Rites co-founder

Laurel has been with Global Leaders since 2012, and brings with her a passion for travel and volunteerism. After graduating from Chapman University with a B.F.A. in Creative Writing, she moved to Spain, where she studied Spanish and got a taste for experiencing other cultures and ways of life. Colorado called her home, and she hasn’t stopped working to build her community here since. She has worked with non-profits specializing in food and environmental justice, and volunteered with numerous organizations in Colorado and California, including the SAVA Center and the League of Women Voters.

Inspired by the promise of the energy for change that is so bright in our youth, Laurel is excited to share her passion for engagement and awareness with Global Leaders’ students. In 2016, she worked with colleague Cass Poncelow to develop the new GL Girls’ Rites program, and led students on their first journey in the summer of 2018.

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Cassie Poncelow: Girls' Rites co-founder

Cassie is a Fort Collins native who grew up spending her childhood exploring the mountains with her family and  has spent much of her adulthood guiding trips into the hills for young adults and adventuring on her own. Powerful women have continued to shape her life in the form of family, colleagues, mentors, friends and often most prevalent and impactful - her students. As a Counselor at Poudre High School, Cass believes that connections matter and that authenticity wins AND believes the same about Girls Rites and our own work as humans. Looking for her beyond Poudre or Girls Rites? She's exploring - walking her silly pups in the neighborhood or hiking the foothills with a friend. Or she's exploring herself with a good book and some personal writing. And always cheering for the Colorado State Rams! Cassie's favorite road trip snack is beef jerky and road trip anthem is Feel it Still by Portugal, The Man. 

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Deborah Gutof: Senior Journey Leader

Deborah Gutof has been a senior leader since 2000. She brings a unique element to the program that combines her passions as an artist, educator, parent and athlete. Her ability to develop and foster relationships with all people makes her a true assert and ambassador for our GL family.


Lisa Mahler: Logistics Coordinator

Lisa’s bio is coming soon!