Executive Director- Jok Nhial
Jok Nhial founded the Liliir Education Project with a hope to bring educational opportunities to his native homeland which has been devastated by decades of civil wars. Jok started his schooling “under the trees” in the Liliir area of Sudan where he walked one hour every morning to attend classes. Without proper educational materials, Jok was forced to learn how to write by drawing with his fingers in the dirt.
In 1991, an attack that reduced all villages in the Bor area of Sudan to heaps of ashes and killed thousands, forced 6 year old Jok to leave his family behind and flee to a displacement camp. He spent the next few years traveling between displacement camps in South Sudan. Continual migration became a necessity as South Sudan became a battlefield and there was no safe place to hide. Jok left for Kakuma Refugee Camp in Northern Kenya which had housed thousands of other Lost Boys since 1992. Jok is one of the 3,800 Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan who were granted resettlement in the United States.
After graduating from Henry Foss High School in Tacoma, Jok attended Gonzaga University. He graduated with a double major in Political Science and Sociology and was awarded a certificate in leadership. Jok tutored and mentored at-risk youth at the Tacoma Urban League until August of 2010. Jok truly understands the value of helping develop education in underprivileged communities and simultaneously improve their standard of living. Jok is currently attending Seattle University as a master’s student in public administration with an emphasis in non-profit management.
Board of Directors
Secretary– Haley McCann
Haley grew up in Tacoma, WA and graduated from Bellarmine Prep in 2004. She developed an interest in helping out the community through participation in the Junior Orthopedic Guild, volunteering in local elementary classrooms, and teaching the Children’s Liturgy of the Word in her church. Haley graduated from Gonzaga University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and an endorsement in Elementary Education. While working toward these degrees, she also participated in a variety of service activities. She volunteered as a tutor for the Saturday Literacy Program, served as a mentor for youth in Campus Kids, and belonged to the Setons of Gonzaga- a charity group of young women who raised money for community housing of disabled adults in Spokane. Haley is currently teaching second grade in Lynnwood, WA. Haley is currently attending Seattle University as a master’s student in primary education.
Ken is Vice President and partner in the Schiewetz, Johnson Group of Morgan Stanley. Giving back to the community in which he lives and works has been a major driver for Ken as he has been a member of the Federal Way Sunrise Rotary and involved in supporting local and international projects for the last 20 years. In addition, he has been involved in fundraising for Federal Way Young Life and the American Cancer Society.
He is passionate about reaching out to worldwide missions by supporting missionaries in Morocco, Papua New Guinea, and Guatemala and others primarily by serving on his church’s mission committee. He was instrumental in starting a partnership in Guatemala with Hands for Peacemaking as well as the local Faith in Action program at his church. In addition, Ken had the opportunity to do relief work after Hurricane Katrina, primarily in southern Mississippi.
Ken lives in Federal Way with his wonderful wife Kim and has 4 children, Kate, 34, Karen, 34, Karly, 29, Kurt, 24 and King the dog.
Don Cowan retired in 2000 from the Seattle School district where he served as Director of Information Technology for 18 years. A graduate of Whitworth University in Spokane, he spent his entire career in IT, programming, teaching, and directing IT departments in community colleges, industry, and then K-12 education. Don served for several years on the board of the Society for Information Management and as a board member and president of the Association of Computer Professionals in Education.
Since retirement, Don has been involved in IT consulting along with some volunteer projects for Habitat for Humanity, and Stephen Ministry leadership. His current passion is co-directing a program called “Bikes for Kids” which he and a small group from Marine View Presbyterian Church started, to refurbish donated bikes to kids without bikes. This work has expanded to a group of more than 50 volunteers with new projects providing bikes through various agencies working with needy adults in the local area, Bay Saint Louis, Seychelle Islands, and Africa.
Don’s interest in the Liliir Education Project comes from his and his wife Carolyn’s long careers in education and the opportunity to become foster parents for one of Carolyn’s students from South Sudan.
Kerry Brink is a principal in the established lawfirm of Vandeberg, Johnson & Gandara, with offices in Tacoma and Seattle, Washington. Before being admitted to the Washington State Bar in 1988, Ms. Brink served as a Washington State Certified School Psychologist and as a community psychologist for three years in Neu Ulm, Germany. Ms. Brink emphasizes Estate Planning, Probate, and Elder Law. She has served on several community boards of directors, is admitted to the U.S. Tax Court and is a member of Bar Sections on Taxation, Estate Planning and Elder Law. She has served as Treasurer for the Washington State Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and has served as Chairperson for the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association Guardianship Committee.
Ms. Brink has spoken frequently to community groups and professional groups on issues related to Charitable Giving, Elder Law and Estate Taxation. She and her husband reside in Tacoma, Washington and are recent “empty nesters,” with son, Clinton, off to college.
Jean O’Loughlin is a lead attorney for the Pierce County Department of Assigned Counsel currently providing legal services to juveniles in Pierce County Juvenile Court and to indigent persons accused of crimes in the Pierce County Superior Court. An attorney with DAC since 1985, Jean spent a number of years representing patients at Western State Hospital. Jean graduated from Gonzaga University and received her law degree from Seattle University.
Lil Erola – Treasurer
Lil Erola has a B.S. degree in Mathematics-Economics from Seattle Pacific University. Recently retired from the Washington State Health Care Authority, Lil worked in healthcare finance for both the private and public sectors over most of her career. She resides with her husband in Tacoma, WA and they have three grown children. Their daughter lived and worked in West Africa with the Peace Corp for two years.