The Board of Directors (BOD) is a volunteer group of people who are located worldwide and who are responsible for the overall organizational and fiscal health of BEST. They include BEST’s co-founders, as well as other motivated and energetic young professionals who play an active role in increasing BEST’s impact. To become a BOD member, one must be nominated and selected by current BEST BOD members.
2017-2018 Board of Directors:
Juliana Wilhoit – Co-Founder, Chair
Juliana Wilhoit is a native of the Chicago area, and a lover of shopska salata, banitsa, and the Black Sea. She has been involved in speech and debate in a variety of forms since she was in seventh grade. She credits much of her success in life to finding an avenue in which she could succeed.
During the 2012-2013 school year she was an English Teacher at the Fifth Language School in Varna. Juliana holds a Master’s in Urban Planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and currently works for a research institution conducting urban security research.
Anna Fuselier, Vice-Chair
Anna Fuselier is the Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors. Anna began her time in Bulgaria as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Montana in 2014, where she founded and coached a BEST team. After seeing the impact of BEST first hand, Anna moved to Sofia and went on to serve as Managing Director the following year, eventually joining the Board of Directors in 2017 out of a desire to continue to facilitate BEST’s growth. Anna has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs with a specialization in International Development from George Washington University and presently works for an education consulting firm in Washington, D.C.
Alex Kieselstein was a two-year Fulbright ETA and BEST Coach at Second English Language School in Sofia. Originally from Chicago, he received his B.A. in International Studies from Kenyon College and is currently studying in Italy.
He is also the undisputed godfather of BEST’s world-class social media presence, and any young whippersnapper running the Facebook page now should bear that in mind. He also likes dogs.
Athena Lao – Co-Founder
Athena Lao helps manage Fulbright- South and Central Asia for the Institute of International Education. She holds an A.B. in Classics from Harvard University and an M.S.Ed. in International Educational Development from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Athena served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant for 3 years at Ezikova Gimnazia “Akademik Lyudmil Stoyanov” in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. During that time, she co-founded BEST with five other Fulbright ETAs and started her school’s award-winning English language speech and debate team. She served as the first Chair of the BEST Board of Directors from 2015-2017. Athena loves the enthusiasm of BESTies, speech and debate, Bulgarian cuisine, and a good horo.
Ettie (Tzvetelina) Nikolova graduated from Cornell University with a B.A. in Government and Russian Literature. After graduation, she lived in the Republic of Georgia, Taiwan, and Bulgaria, where she taught English at Bertolt Brecht Language Academy (located in the best city in Bulgaria- Pazardzhik).
In 2015, Ettie left Bulgaria to obtain her Master’s in Business Administration from Yale University. Although she no longer lives in Bulgaria, Ettie’s heart will always be with BEST and her former students. She is excited to watch BEST continue to grow!
Lazar Lazarov is currently in his final year pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Computing Science at Newcastle University. His first encounter with BEST was in late 2013 when he competed in his first speech and debate tournament as a senior in high school. His passion for BEST and the positive impact of BEST on Bulgarian students was so great that he continued his involvement after graduating by joining the Bulgaria-based Management Team in early 2015, aiming to help with tournament operations. In mid-2017 he joined the Board of Directors eager to help facilitate the future of BEST, speech and debate in Bulgaria as a whole, and by extension, the development of the best and brightest of Bulgarian youth.
Michael Pelehach is from North Carolina where he studied Psychology and Markets & Management at Duke University. After graduation, he spent four years working for Target Corporation in Minneapolis, MN. In search of more meaningful work, he accepted a Fulbright Grant to teach English at Peyo Yavorov Languages High School in Silistra, Bulgaria.
Michael is currently pursuing his Master’s in Business Administration at Northwestern University, where he is learning to apply business principles to solve social problems.