Boise Elementary Spanish
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Board of Directors

Boise Elementary Spanish is a non-profit organization governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. The voluntary board was formed in 1996 to oversee the operations of BES and is involved in developing policy, setting direction, overseeing curriculum development and making decisions concerning financial matters. The Board is comprised of the Executive Board and the Parent Ambassador Council.

Carol Meli, Board President

Carol joined the BES organization last year and is a passionate supporter of bilingual education for school age children and adults! After retiring from her job as a Sales Operations Manager at HP here in Boise, she has more time to work with BES to stay connected to the language and culture she has come to love during her years working with Spanish speakers around the world.

Carol says her study of Spanish was completely “elementary” until she began working with all the talented Spanish speakers at HP.  The philosophy and focus of BES recognizes the importance of starting EARLY (young minds have young synapses) resonated with her enough to contact BES and ask to join the talented team of people bringing Spanish to Boise classrooms.

Why Learn Another Language? (according to Carol)

It opens up a WORLD of opportunity

  • Make travel easier and enjoy the broad perspective of other cultures
  • Access literature and language from a completely different angle
  • Understand market research, brand management, finance and operations internationally

Leah Victorino, Board Past-President and Spanish-language educator

Leah joined the BES board in 2013 and served as president from 2014-2016.  She was born, raised, and lived in Boise most of her life, beginning Spanish at North Jr. High as one of the Boise School District students who did not have world language offerings until 8th grade.  She continued to study Spanish through university and a love of language led her to take up French as well.  Leah studied abroad one year in Bilbao, Spain, and earned a B.A. in Spanish and in International Studies plus a K-12 Education Certificate from University of Idaho.  She got her introduction to the nonprofit profession while serving a one-year stint as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Hispanic Cultural Center of Idaho in Nampa, then went on to teach Spanish and ESL  (English to Speakers of other Languages) in Nampa School District for 9 years.  She has traveled to over 20 countries but still has many more on her list!

Leah completed a Master’s in Global Development and co-owns a local small business, Empowered Solar, where she primarily focuses on the social impact and global sustainability.  Spanish language serves her well in cross-cultural and international work.  Although she is no longer in the classroom, she remains passionate about people learning languages and cultures the world and understanding how we are all connected globally.  BES provides invaluable opportunities for young children to spark an appreciation for Spanish and skills to navigate a world beyond borders.

Lael Uberuaga-Rodgers, Webmaster

Lael grew up in Boise, Idaho, where her interest in her Basque heritage and the established Basque community sparked her interest in the Spanish language. She studied Music, Spanish and Anthropology at the College of Idaho and has made several visits to Spain on tour with her dance group, Oinkari Basque Dancers. She is also learning Euskara, the first language of the Basque people (Spanish is the second.) She values cultural diversity, and knows that introducing children to Spanish as early as possible will not only help them develop cultural understanding, but arm them with a valuable skill that only becomes increasingly important in today's world.

Dustin Ayres, Secretary

Dustin is a Boise native and former BES teacher at Highlands and Lowell. 2011 was his first year with BES and he has been hooked ever since.

Let's get Boise on par with our multilingual world. Equip Idaho's students with a global perspective and the opportunity to speak multiple languages. That is the dream.



Ray Warner, Board Member

Ray Warner is a former student of BES, and can attest to the benefits of a head start in language learning from a young age. This interest in the Spanish language continued through high school and into his continued education. As a junior in college, he studied abroad in Mallorca, Spain where he learned the hard way how different Latin American and Castilian Spanish can be. He graduated from Westminster College with a degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies. Upon graduating, he and his wife went on to teach English as a Second Language in Colombia, Spain and Russia before coming back to Boise.

Being someone who is partaking in the life long saga of language learning gives Ray a greater understanding of what kids in the program are going through.  He is also passionate about community involvement and connecting people to foster relationships and furthering mutual goals. Being part of BES is a gateway to bring to light the importance of language learning in the community and to give back to an organization which served him well in his younger years as a budding language learner.

Melissa Hassler, Past Executive Director, Board Member

A native of California, Melissa studied Spanish for four years in high school and three semesters in college. But it wasn’t until she participated in UC Berkeley’s study abroad program and spent a year in Barcelona, Spain, that she was able to communicate comfortably in a second language. She worked so hard to learn Spanish, that she vowed never to forget it.

Living abroad was one of the best experiences Melissa has ever had. While in Barcelona, not only did she work on mastering Castellano (Castillian Spanish), she also studied Catalan (the language spoken in the northeast region of Spain) and sang in a Galician choir (Galician is the language spoken in the northwest of Spain.) Melissa relocated with her family to Boise from Southern California in 2015. She enrolled her daughter in a Spanish-immersion preschool and her son in the BES program at Roosevelt Elementary.

Melissa brings 15 years of experience working with clients in the entertainment, game, software, and consumer products industries. As a marketer and project manager, she has worked with every type of organization, from non-profits, government agencies, and startups, to fortune 500 companies including Microsoft and Disney.

Melissa believes that being multilingual is an essential key to success in today's world. Developing early second-language communication skills will provide our Boise students with exponentially more opportunities at every stage in life than their English-only speaking peers.  Every student in Boise and beyond needs BES! 

Maria Watson, Board Member

Maria was born and raised in Lima, Peru and came to the USA to complete her Master’s degree in Information Management at Syracuse University, NY. Even though her background  is in technology, she has always had an interest in teaching her native language. She started her career teaching technology and Spanish to middle school and high school students, and continues working in the area of information technology while teaching conversational Spanish to college level students. She has also tutored high school students and families interested in learning Spanish. She moved here to Idaho almost 6 years ago, and works at Joplin Elementary as the computer lab teacher.

Maria really enjoys sharing her knowledge of the Spanish language and culture, and is always trying to find different ways to teach it.  Her expertise in the tools of technology make it even more interactive and fun!

In Maria’s words:  “After spending a lot of time searching for a group interested in the Spanish language and its culture, I found found out about BES and was very excited to attend a class at JUMP with my family. There, I had the chance to meet the teachers and some board members. I was very impressed to see their strong interest for the spanish language, the culture and all the hard work they do to promote it.”

Maria joined the board this year and we are delighted to have her!


The BES board is actively seeking new members, specifically people with experience/interest in grant writing, accounting, fundraising and language acquisition. If you are interested in participating in the administration and development of Boise Elementary Spanish, please contact Jen Banes, Executive Director at or 208-867-5553.