Meet The Team
Derek is native to the Pacific Northwest, growing up in Vancouver, Washington. He was an all-state high school basketball player at Evergreen High School and then went on to play at Portland State University from 1996-2000, where he was an Academic All-American as well as an inductee into the 2006 Hall of Fame Class.
During and after college, Derek played basketball in 14 countries around the world. It was those trips that planted the seed for Courts for Kids as he saw the universality of sports and how a simple concrete court could be such a vital asset to a community. He also saw a tremendous change in his own life through those cross-cultural experiences and developed a strong desire to take other Americans to share in similar experiences. After a random email from the Philippines in 2006 expressing a need for a basketball court and a group of Americans ready to volunteer, these two visions became a reality and Courts for Kids was born.
Selene Nesland also grew up in Vancouver, Washington, and attended college at Seattle Pacific University. She has worked in the non-profit sector for over a decade and also has her Masters of Arts in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. Derek and Selene are married and have two sons, Channing and Bryton.
Selene has worked with both high school and college students her whole career and has a passion to see them expand their worldview, try new things, and be pushed out of their comfort zones so they can grow into responsible, caring and empathic adults who want to serve others. She is passionate to create a mission that is accomplishing just that in Courts for Kids. She also enjoys watching her two sons play sports and wants to provide the same opportunities for children all over the globe. In July of 2015 the whole Nesland family went to Nicaragua making Courts for Kids a passion the whole family shares in.
Juan Carlos Herrera
Panama In-Country Director
Juan Carlos is a native from Bogotá, Colombia and a graduate from Universidad Surcolombiana where he received a BA in Education. After college he moved to the United States where he pursued becoming a Medical Interpreter in Portland, Oregon and worked for the Public Health Department.
He wanted to use his skills to make a difference in the world so he applied to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. In 2014 he was assigned to Panama as an Agriculture Systems volunteer. Juan Carlos ran projects to promote food security in a very remote area of Panama. From creating a fish-farming project to increasing productivity in staple crops, he worked side by side with local farmers to better their quality of life.
Upon completion of a two-year service he applied for a third year and was accepted as a Community Health Worker for Peace Corps Response. In this new role Juan Carlos trained local members in a Ngöbe indigenous community to act as health promoters. Medical care in this part of Panama is scarce so he worked together with the community members to develop and disseminate health care curriculum.
During his service Juan Carlos was introduced to Courts for Kids because they often collaborated with Peace Corps. He witnessed the work of former in country director Anibal Cárdenas and was inspired. This led him to commit to continue working in development in Panama, and found Courts for Kids to be a perfect fit.
Dominican Republic In-Country Director
Marlennis was born and raised in Los Ríos, Southern Dominican Republic. From a very young age she has always been hardworking, and cared for others. As a child, she was sponsored by Compassion International, which she thinks was the root of her formation as a community leader. She has always been a good student and received multiples awards and scholarships for it. One of these scholarships was granted by USAID and Georgetown University, through which she got to study at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon for two years.
After finishing her studies, Marlennis returned to her native Los Ríos to continue working for her community. She submitted a home garden project to a grant from the German Embassy and managed to obtain financing. She has worked in the private and public sector. She has been a teacher for about 7 years in the Dominican public education system for high school and university students. She still found time for her community work with NGOs such as Peace Corps, in which she has supported volunteers in their community work, helping to create a Green Brigade Group, the Sports Club of Las Estelares for girls and adolescents, with disciplines such as volleyball, softball, basketball and soccer. Also, with a team of community leaders managed to build a multi-use court with Courts for Kids, which is how she met this wonderful organization. Marlennis also organizes yearly camp for children in the urban and rural areas of Los Ríos, where she also has managed to bring medical missions from the USA, as well as other local and international locations.
Marlennis is a person who does not give up easily, she recently enrolled in university to continue to acquiring knowledge that will allow her to grow alongside her community. Among her believes, Marlennis thinks that sports can keep kids busy and out of trouble and being able to work with the Courts For Kids and help communities develoop their courts, along with living a cultural exchange experience.
Marlennis firmly believes that knowledge is borrowed and must be shared, and she also believes that we all have a social responsibility towards the world and must pay it forward.
Sofia Cerdas Viquez
Costa Rica In-Country Director
Born and raised in Costa Rica, Sofia is a keen traveler who since a very early age has been passionate about intercultural exchanges and different ways of human development. Sofia earned a master's degree in strategic and prospective planning with an emphasis on climate change and regenerative development at the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica. She also holds a bachelor degree in social anthropology from the University of Costa Rica (UCR), where she took additional courses on environmental engineering. She has always enriched her education by studying different fields to better understand culture from different lenses, taking food safety, cartography and stakeholders mapping certifications. Interested in other subjects, she studied french for a year in Montpellier University in order to read and communicate with many francophone countries.
Sofia has led multiple development projects in Costa Rica. She developed “Sembrando Autonomía”, a joint effort with UCR, which supported community organization for cultural recuperation in Térraba, an indigenous community that was on risk of disappearing in 2010. Furthermore, she directed a community agricultural food project to address health problems in Ngabe Buglé indigenous territory, in coordination with the UCR and the national health care system: Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS).
She has focused most of her efforts in strengthening the culture and environment of ecosystems, understanding communities as part of them. Sofia has developed multiple educational and cultural workshops in rural communities, as a way of empowering communities for sustainable growth.
As a former triathlete and current dancer, Sofia believes movement is essential for body and mind well- being and healing. Sofia created her own dance movement called “Tropical Flamenco” but also dances Latin and African rhythms. She enjoys healing and self-knowledge movement, yoga and acroyoga.
She promotes sports as it helps to fortify personal and group health and identities, facilitating social organization. Courts for kids makes a perfect match with her philosophy of life and own professional practices as they promote collaborative management through sports.
Sam was born and raised in Entebbe, Uganda and graduated from Makerere University Kampala with a Bachelor’s of Economics and a Masters of Economic Planning and Policy. For the past 8 years Sam has worked as Quality Assurance Leader and Project Administrator with Research Study for Kaposis’ Sarcoma Cancer with the University of California in San Francisco.
At Makerere University Sam played into the Basketball Hall of Fame and later coached both the men’s and women’s teams. Sam played semi-professional basketball with the Uganda Falcons, served as coach, and is now the team’s Technical Director.
Since 2008 Sam has worked as Courts for Kids’ Africa Representative leading teams of volunteers to help build courts all over the continent. Sam lives in Uganda with his wife Barbara Atuhuura and son Liam Kimara Seth.
Board of Directors
- Trips: Peru 2012, Costa Rica 2014, Cambodia 2017
- Community Volunteer/ Retired Attorney
- “I serve on the board of Courts for Kids because this organization provides life-changing experiences. Having taken 2 trips with my husband and 3 girls in tow, I’ve seen first-hand the impact of traveling to a far-away place, working and living with strangers who soon become friends, and pushing yourself to do more than you thought possible. It is a real privilege to join with the communities we visit, build something together, and learn from one another. Most importantly, these trips are just plain fun, and unexpected and amazing things always happen.”
- Trips: Philippines 2006, Uganda 2008, Costa Rica 2009, Panama 2017
- Head Men’s Basketball Coach, George Fox University
- “I serve on this board because I believe in the mission and values of Courts for Kids. Having been connected with Derek and Selene from day one I love being a part of the growth this organization has experienced. Most importantly though, I love the opportunities provided by Courts for Kids to serve in the developing world, while also being challenged to think outside of our comfort zone and to be stretched. It is an honor and privilege to be a part of this organization.”
- Trips: Peru 2011, Costa Rica 2014, Cambodia 2017
- CFO Phoenix Industrial
- "The thing I love most about Courts for Kids and the reason I’m excited to be more involved in the organization, is the spirit of collaboration and camaraderie that is developed between the volunteer groups, the local contractors, and the host communities. There may be language barriers, lack of materials, bad weather, etc. but people all working toward a common goal usually manage to figure it out."
- Trips: Azerbaijan 2014, Paraguay 2016, Cambodia 2017
- CEO of J/Fit
- "As a small business owner who travels to remote areas of the world every few months, I would consider myself a “global citizen”. Last year, I went to Azerbaijan with Courts for Kids and immediately realized my worth as a global citizen. I was able to see how a simple court, with some real equipment to play with, can completely transform a community.
Courts for Kids serves in two ways: the first being the court for the village, the second being the global consciousness that impacts our own children and adults that travel to build the court.
Through play, we develop creativity, decision making, conflict resolution, and cooperation. Through volunteering, we develop acceptance, empathy, and a sense of purpose. If I can inspire just one child in the village to sustain their dreams even in the most dire situation, or a volunteer to return home with a sense of purpose to inspire others, then my time, efforts, money and support have all been worth it!”
- Trips: Samoa 2010, Uganda 2011, Indonesia 2013, Cambodia 2017, Morocco 2019, Jamaica 2019
- COO, RBC Construction
- Trips: Coming soon!
- Attorney at Buckley Law
- "I got involved with Courts for Kids because of the organizations unique ability to positively impact and make a difference in the lives of people from vastly different backgrounds in every trip. Further, athletics was an important part of my childhood and the opportunity to build a court which provides a place for kids in developing regions to play is truly special."
- Trips: Costa Rica 2019
- Retired Marketing Executive and Management Consultant: HP, Blount International
- “I've seen first hand the life-changing impact Courts for Kids has on the young adults who participate. The reward of working hard and reaching a difficult goal, side-by-side with people from very different cultures and life experiences is a great formula for building a better, more understanding world. It seems that those who go on a trip to give -- end up receiving far more in return. I love being a part of this organization and seeing the impact it has on our youth and our world."
- Trips: Nicaragua 2015, Paraguay 2016, Cambodia 2017
- Owner, Wollam and Associates
- "It has been a privilege to have participated on multiple Courts for Kids trips with my family. It is an opportunity to serve while immersed in a foreign culture. Greater than the gift of the court that is built; is the impact on mine and my families lives through the experience, relationships, and humbling perspective gained."
- Trips: Paraguay 2016, Cambodia 2017
- Youth Director, Union Chapel
- "Courts For Kids has been one of the greatest learning and growing experiences for our family. It's amazing what a ball, a few bags of cement and a lot of sweat can do - cultures and strangers come together through shared hard work, vision, and play. Now more than ever, we need to be people and raise people who find beauty and inspiration from other cultures and who are willing to stand next to each other and learn from each other. Courts for Kids provides opportunities to do this. One week in a different country provides paradigm shifts that last a lifetime. I am on the CFK board because I believe in the mission and want to help bring these trips to more students and their families."
Board Member Emeritus
- Trips: Coming soon…
- Owner, Avamere
- “I got involved with Courts for Kids because this organization literally changes people’s lives. Not only does it have the obvious impact of changing the kids lives who we build the courts with, but it positively impacts every person who volunteers to build the court!
Board Member Emeritus
- Trips: Rwanda 2010, Tanzania 2011, Dominican Republic 2012, Costa Rica 2013, Azerbaijan 2014
- President, North Pacific Management
- “I am humbled by the entire organization and the idea of those with more helping those with less. However at the end of the day my firm belief is that those that might be perceived with more get far more out of the experience than those who are perceived as having far less. Funny how that works. The trips always help me find a little more perspective, a little more humility, a little more patience, and in the end I hope help shape me in to a man of character and integrity in this journey we call life.”
- Paul Van Gasse, M.E.
- Steven Ellis, P.E.
- Jeff Trautman, J.D.
- Rob Closs