Get to know our Team Leaders

katherine smith. leading jarabacoa, dominican republic   october 15-23, 2016 & MARCH 11-19, 2017

Katie Smith grew up outside of Chicago, but has spent the past seven years living in Kenya where her family does orphan ministry. She is a sophomore at Notre Dame studying Business and International Peace Studies. If she isn’t playing with kids, she’s on a run, exploring new places, or drinking coffee with a friend. Katie has traveled to the Dominican Republic twice and Costa Rice once through Here For Kids and can honestly say that the things she experienced, people she met, and the way she encountered God on each of the trips have shaped who she is today. Katie’s dream is to see more college-age students fall in love with Jesus and say “yes” to serving him in the third-world, and that’s why she continues to lead students from all over the United States in short-term trips. She is very excited about the way Here For Kids is impacting both underprivileged children and college students, but she is eve more excited to watch how God continues to unite the two groups together with His wild love. 

Fun fact: I love watching UFC and mint chocolate chip ice cream is the way to my heart. 

Daniel hernandez. LEADING JARABACOA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC   OCTOBER 15-23, 2016

JORGE VELASCO. LEADING ROBLEALTO, COSTA RICA   NOVEMBER 12-20, 2017  &  MONTE PLATA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC MARCH 25-april 2, 2017

Jorge was born and raised in Oakland, California. A product of dedicated parents who immigrated to the United States for a better life, they strived to provide for the family, and to keep a son on the right path among the difficulties encountered in everyday life of growing up in Oakland. Jorge has an older sister, two younger brothers, and is proud uncle. Jorge is a first generation college graduate in his family, with a Bachelor of Arts from Saint Mary's College of California, concentration in Philosophy, Class of 2013. Jorge has been on various trips since 2013, having also completed a Jan Term class while at Saint Mary's to the Dominican Republic. Here is a glimpse to some of the trips thus far: January 2013 - Constanza, Jarabacoa, Monte Plata, and Caraballo, Dominican Republic, April 2013 - Constanza, Dominican Republic, April 2014 - Monte Plata, Dominican Republic, March 2015 - Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic, May 2015 - Jarabacoa and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, July 2015 - Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic, November 2015 - San Jose, Costa Rica, March 2016 - Monte Plata, Dominican Republic. It is safe to say that Jorge has the service bug! He continues to offer help and support in any way he can. Motivated by his family, his community, the greater community abroad, the relationship that have flourished in his trips, and through his faith in God, Jorge only hopes to continue to serve in any capacity. "Having been given so many chances at life, opportunities to be successful, and use the success to give back to the community is my ultimate goal. I connect with both young and old in such a way that my heart is called to serve" - Jorge. 

Fun fact about Jorge - master of none, jack of all trades! give him something broken to work on, and he is sure to find a way to fix it no matter how big or small! a critical thinker, and intuitive problem solver determined to do the best job he can.

Taylor Christensen. LEADING roblealto, costa rica   November 12-20, 2017

Hello my name is Taylor Christensen. I attended UC Berkeley between 2008 and 2012 and was a member of the women’s crew team for two of those years. Even though I stopped rowing at the end of my sophomore year, I actively participated in Athletes in Action (AIA), a christian ministry for athletes, throughout my entire college career. This is where I found out about Here for Kids International - Randy came to AIA to announce a trip and I elected to go to Constanza, Dominican Republic during my spring break senior year. After, that, the rest is history! I have been volunteering for Here For Kids in the role of Accounts Executive ever since and I have traveled to the Dominican Republic 8 times over the last four years. The majority of my trips have been sports and construction focused but I have also helped lead teams focused on oral health and nutrition. I am currently pursuing my Masters in Public Health in Nutrition and Registered Dietitian credentials. After I graduate from UNC Chapel Hill in December 2016, I will be moving to Constanza for a minimum of 2 years to start a nutrition program for Kids Alive in the DR. I love serving with Here for Kids because of its focus on Christ, relationships, and service. Finally, a few fun facts about me - I’m obsessed with Harry Potter, the color teal, and Jimmy Fallon! :) 

ANNE PAYTON BAKER. LEADING MONTE PLATA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC   MARCH 4-12, 2017

My name is Anne Peyton Baker, and I am originally from Birmingham, AL. I now call Nashville, TN, home as I am in my junior year at Vanderbilt University, studying Engineering Sciences and Spanish. Outside of school, I spend my time co-leading a sophomore Bible study through the Nashville Navigators campus ministry, contributing to several leadership roles in Chi Omega sorority, and working with the youth group at First Baptist of Nashville. I am hoping to pursue ministry vocationally, right now feeling especially interested in youth ministry. I've had the amazing opportunity to go on two different Here For Kids service trips: to Jarabacoa over spring break of 2015 as well as to Monte Plata over spring break of 2016. What a privilege it always is to see how God is working and moving throughout our world, especially in the Dominican Republic- I am so excited to get to co-lead a team and participate in God's work through Here For Kids over spring break of 2017! 

parker ragle. leading Monte plata, dominican republic   march 4-12, 2017

Hello my name is Parker Ragle. I am a sophomore at Vanderbilt University studying chemistry and economics while on the pre-med track. I play on the practice team for the varsity women’s basketball team, and I am also involved with BYX, the Christian fraternity on campus. Last spring, I had the opportunity to go on a trip with Here For Kids to Monte Plata, Dominican Republic. I felt called to lead and serve again because I had such an amazing experience. I had never been in a third world country before, and I was overwhelmed with the poverty I saw there. Despite knowing that our service was only a drop in the bucket of the help they needed there, I felt like I truly made a difference. One fun fact about me is that I know the first 100 digits of the mathematical constant pi.

MATTHEW KERBY. LEADING JARABACOA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC   MARCH 4-12, 2017

My name is Matt Kerby. I am a Junior at Cedarville University. For my whole life, my family has been going on mission trips, but never had I thought that I would make a career out of it- at least not until these past two years. I was invited to go on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, and it changed my life and perspective on my future. If you want to know more about it, just ask me (and make sure your schedule is clear for the next hour). My biggest passions are Jesus, music, and community. I feel called to lead this trip to the Dominican Republic because I think Cedarville has a huge variety of college kids that share my love for Jesus and missions; and I think that a group of Cedarville students has the potential to do incredible things through Christ. I also want this trip to inspire a change of heart and perspective through the individuals that go.

These are the mission trips that I was blessed to be a part of: China 2008 and 2010, Jamaica 2011, Ecuador-2012 and 2014, Dominican Republic 3/15, 5/15, 3/16, and 6/16, Kenya 2016

I have a heart for missions and can't wait to see what God has in store for Spring Break mission trip 2017!

CARLY LEWIS. LEADING JARABACOA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC   MARCH 4-12, 2017

Hi! My name is Carly Lewis, I am a Sophomore at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion Indiana. I am majoring in Elementary Education and TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) Education and minoring in Intercultural Studies. I have always had a heart for missions but it wasn’t until my freshman year of high school when I got to experience missions first hand. I had the amazing opportunity to go on a mission’s trip to the Dominican Republic with Kids Alive International. This experience completely altered by view of cross cultural missions work, my eyes were opened to things I never thought possible. Having gone on this mission trip it solidified my desire to work overseas and continue a life serving Gods children all across the World. I am a sucker for worship sessions, coffee and popcorn- preferably all at the same time. I love traveling, singing, playing guitar, immersing myself in the Word, movie nights, and of course…Coffee. I am looking forward to what God has in store for myself and the team as we grow closer to our Father by serving in His Kingdom!

MAckenzie brown. LEADING JARABACOA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC   MARCH 11-19, 2017

Anthony Tranquill. LEADING JARABACOA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC   MARCH 11-19, 2017

stephanie Romo. Leading Jarabacoa, Dominican republic   TBD

Kevin seebacher. LEADING CONSTANZA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC  MARCH 18-26, 2017

Hey, my name is Kevin Seebacher. I am currently a senior at Miami University in Oxford Ohio and I am studying Finance. I grew up in Centerville which is a suburb of Dayton Ohio with two parents and two younger brothers. I come from a family that has always displayed Gods love to me and almost everyone they encounter and it is something that I am very thankful for. As a result of this, family is one of the most important things in my life, second only to my relationship with Christ. In everything I do I hope to reflect Jesus and that has affected my life in many ways. My sophomore year of college I decided to become a volunteer Young Life leader and I have also gone on three mission trips. As a Young Life leader, I go to a local high school called Lakota East around 20-30 hours a week with the hopes of accomplishing Young Life’s mission: “Introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith.”. The mission trips I have taken include one during my junior year of high school to Gabon, Africa, one to the Dominican Republic last spring (2016) with HFK and JOY, and one leadership development mission trip this past November (2016) with HFK where we served at a bible home called Roblealto in Costa Rica. Through Young Life and all my mission trips I have seen how God can use the way he created me to bring glory to Him and I am excited for the opportunity to see this more as I lead the Constanza trip in March of 2017! Some fun facts about me are that I love being active, soccer is my favorite sport and I have played my whole life, I almost always love being around people, and I really love kids.

KELSIE BURKE. LEADING MONTE PLATA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC   MARCH 25- april 2, 2017

Hey everyone! My name is Kelsie and I'm currently studying business management at Oregon State University and I will be graduating on March 24th! At OSU, I spend my time raising money for Service for Sight and dancing for the Oregon State Cheer and Dance Team. Service for Sight is a foundation founded by my sorority, Delta Gamma, that provides education to blind students and assists adults with vision care. I'm super excited to be going back to the Dominican Republic this spring break. This will be my third trip! I first travelled to the DR in 2014 to Constanza and took my second trip last year to Monte Plata. I felt called to lead this year to help other students fulfill their desire to serve others as well as continue my own journey of pouring my heart into those kids. To finish, one fun fact about me would be that I have a horse, 3 dogs, 3 cats, 4 goats, and 9 chickens.  

JOHNEL DOCK. CONSTANZA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC.   TBD

What's up Here For Kids family! This is Johnel Dock or JB. I was born and raised in Ventura California.  Grew up playing sports, first love was basketball then moved on to football. Went to Saint Bonaventure high school where I played both football and basketball all four years.  Ended up earning an athletic scholarship to play football at Fresno State. Played three years before having a serious shoulder injury that ended my playing days.  Graduated in 2013 with a degree in communications.  After college I moved back to Ventura.  I am currently working as an electrician and coaching football at Oxnard high school  and for the Ventura packers youth team.

I was introduced to Here For Kids in 2012 through FCA at Fresno State. Was invited to join a service team headed to the Dominican Republic and it turned out to be one of the best weeks of my life.  Since that trip I have been back at least once a year. I was also able to do a 2 and a half month internship out there through Kids Alive, where I got do teach English and also run a P.E. class.

Through Here For Kids I was also able to serve on a team in Costa Rica.

MACKENZIE RING. LEADING CONSTANZA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC.   APRIL8-APRIL 16, 2017

attended Saint Mary's College of California where she earned her Bachelors in Kinesiology. played on the Division 1 Women's Soccer Team 2010-2012 and the Women's Club Soccer team 2013-2014. She has served on Here For Kids service teams in Perú (2011) and the Dominican Republic-Semana Santa (Constanza & Jarbacoa) 2013, 2014, 2015. "A big portion of my heart is in the DR. I have never found a good reason to not go back every year and I don't see myself finding one any time soon. Fun Fact: I have no idea... hahaha I am trying hard to think of one. I swam laps with Vince Vaughn. That's the only cool thing I have. I will keep thinking!"

zachary silva. constanza, dominican republic.   march 28-april 6, 2017 

Zach Silva attended Saint Mary’s College of CA from 2010-2014 and graduated with a degree in Sports Management. During his four years, he was the Head Manager of the Men’s Basketball team and loved every minute of it. His first service trip was as a junior in 2013 to Constanza, RD during Semana Santa. He became a leader the following year and has led a team to Constanza each year after. He felt called to serve because he has always loved working with and coaching kids and wants to create his own non-profit in the near future dealing with sports and youth. The relationships he has built with not only the children from Constanza and Jarabacoa, but the house parents and missionary family as well. HIs fun fact is that he was born during the Super Bowl in 1992!

MARCELINO PEREZ. LEADING CONSTANZA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC   APRIL 8-APRIL 16, 2017

marisol luna. LEADING MONTE PLATA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC   april 8-16, 2017

I have been traveling with HFK for two and half years and made my first trip to all 5 sites in the Dominican Republic back in January 2014. This will be my third time leading a team at the Monte Plata site, and my 5th trip to serve this community. I graduated from Saint Mary's College of California in 2015 with a B.S. in Psychology and Spanish and now work as a Mental Health Counselor with at risk youth in Oakland, CA. I played club soccer all 4 years of college, and am now the head coach for the Women's Club Soccer team at SMC and also coach youth soccer in Orinda, CA. I continue to travel with HFK because of my passion to work with children, and because over the years I've grown to love the people in these communities as if they were family. I'm looking forward to visiting Monte Plata which is the site where my sponsor child, Erickson, lives with his family! 

VICTORIA SHIMKUS. LEADING MONTE PLATA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC   MARCH 28-APRIL 5, 2017

Hi! My name is Vicki Shimkus and I am a graduate of Saint Mary's College of California Class of 2015. I majored in Sports and Recreation Management and was a member of the Division I Women's Soccer team during my time at SMC. 

During my freshman year I was introduced to HFK and went on my first spring break service trip to Lima, Peru (2012) where I fell in love with international service. Since then, I have been to the Dominican Republic twice (Monte Plata 2014, 2015) and back to Peru twice (Lima & Andahuaylas 2016) with HFK; these last two times in Peru serving as a team leader. I have also served outside of HFK in South Africa and Sri Lanka. International service has become a passion of mine and any time I am given the opportunity to go back to a place I have already served I cannot turn it down. There is nothing more rewarding than building relationships with the children that we serve and seeing them grow in love year after year.

frankie valencia. LEADING MONTE PLATA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC   april 8-16, 2017

I traveled to Monte Plata, DR for the first time in March 2016. I graduated from Chabot College a few months ago with an AA in Social and Behavioral Science and am in the process of transferring to continue on to a psychology degree. I currently work for East Bay Eclipse a soccer club based out of Orinda, CA where I coach youth soccer,  and am also an assistant coach of the Saint Mary’s Women's Club Soccer team. I felt called to serve again because spending time in the Dominican Republic helped me develop a relationship with God like I’d never had before and feel that God has called me once again to serve all the kids and beautiful people of the Dominican Republic, as well as being able to help other young men and women develop their faith the way I was helped by my previous team leaders while serving the kids. A fun fact about myself is that one of my life goals is to start my own podcast about soccer! 

MARIO HERNANDEZ DIAZ. LEADING LIMA, PERÚ   APRIL 8-16, 2017

Born in Lima, Perú. Bachelor degree in Engineering from Villareal University  at Lima, Perú. Master in Education from California State University at Hayward. experience: staff development department at Bayer Company Lima, Perú. Spanish, math & science teacher at West Contra High Schools, California. Spanish teacher at Miramonte High School, California. Previous service teams: " I have been serving since 2008 in Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Perú. My last trip was to Lima, Perú in March 2016. With more than ten serving teams traveling in those countries, I believe our Lord is training myself in this disciple. And, serving with college students has been a wonderful experience. A fun fact about me: I have found that students enjoy my funny stories about my life in Perú and the U.S.  

james barber. LEADING LIMA, PERÚ   APRIL 8-16, 2017

PAIGHTON PRIEST. LEADING CONSTANZA and monte plata, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC  MAy 8-22, 2017

Paighton Priest is a senior a California Baptist University’s nursing school. She went on the trip to Constanza this last May with Here For Kids and it greatly impacted her life. The kids and people she met there had so much love not only for her and her team but for eachother in the midst of so many of them having so little. She is excited to return and see all of the kids again especially her sponsor kid, Luis Pena. Paighton is also excited to be leading a medical team to Constanza and believes it will open so many doors to show God’s love there again. 

SCOTT SHAULL. LEADING CAP HAÏTIEN, HAITi.  JUNE 2-11, 2017

My name is Scott Shaull. I graduated from Saint Mary's College of California in Moraga, Ca in 2015. I majored in child/adolescent development and felt called into the teaching field. Currently, I am teaching in a middle school classroom full of 6th and 7th grade special needs students. As a school, we focus on kids with special needs, kids who are emotionally disturbed, and kids with behavioral issues. I am on year two and am planning on starting my mild/moderate special education credential at Brandman University in October. I was first introduced to Here For Kids in 2014, and since then, I’ve been to the Dominican Republic four times and Haiti once. I’ve also done service trips to Mexico four times and India once. I continue to come on these trips because, through these trips, God has continued to show me His big heart for kids with special needs globally. Through my travels, I have developed a heart for unlocking the gifts and passions of kids with special needs at the globally level. We can learn so much from the special needs community especially on how to love well even when those around us push us aside. The goals of my non-profit will be to help other ministries plant special needs programs as well as train teachers.

I’m looking forward to working with you all!