Founder & Executive Director
Marina LeGree is the founding director of Ascend and brings over a decade of experience working in Afghanistan and other unstable environments. She specializes in creating development strategies and managing programs in remote and insecure settings, having done so for the United States Agency for International Development, GIZ, and the International Organization for Migration. Marina has also worked as a senior trainer and mentor to the United States government in Afghanistan, providing critical support to US troops and civilians in their stabilization mission.
As a lead civilian advisor to the US government’s stabilization program in the East of Afghanistan, Marina addressed insecurity by working directly with the Afghan people, especially women and youth. She brings a unique understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing women and young people in Afghanistan. Marina is an outdoor enthusiast who is passionate about preserving nature and securing access to the outdoors for all people.Marina holds an MPA from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and an MA from the George Washington University. She completed her BA magna cum laude at Washington State University.
Kelly Schumacher Fuller
Afghanistan Country Manager
Kelly Schumacher Fuller brings over 10 years of nonprofit experience to the Ascend team, having worked domestically and internationally on a variety of social justice issues. Coming most recently from the Office of Community Engagement at Old Dominion University, Kelly's expertise lies in community outreach, out-of-school youth programming, and volunteer and event management. Passionate about harnessing the power of young people to change our communities, Kelly loves working with the Ascend team members and watching them develop their confidence and leadership skills.
A Minnesota girl at-heart, she is currently based in Virginia Beach and volunteers full-time for Ascend, making regular trips to Kabul to manage the program there. When she's in the States she enjoys investing time in her local community, exploring the beautiful outdoor spaces Hampton Roads has to offer, and volunteering with the Junior League of Norfolk-Virginia Beach.
joined Ascend in July 2015 as Project Coordinator. Originally from Bamiyan province, she is now studying for her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at the American University of Afghanistan. In her spare time she volunteers for a youth organization. Freshta has played volleyball for over four years, and has always wanted to be a sportswoman. Mountaineering is new for her, and has already become her favorite sport. She loves to work with women on behalf of women – she joined Ascend to help women and support this mountaineering team. She strives to be a role model for other Afghan women by achieving success in her own unique way and inspiring others to do the same.
Faisal Naziry is Ascend Afghanistan’s operations director. A dedicated advocate for youth and women in Afghanistan, he is originally from Badakhshan province. He worked for local development organizations for several years before founding his own non-profit in 2012. Nawshaakh Development Cooperation Organization (NDCO) has already been recognized for its programs raising awareness about the prevention of violence against women.
Passionate about helping Afghanistan’s youth find their voices and become leaders in their
communities, Faisal developed a project focused on civic engagement and skill development for youth in Badakhshan, for which he won UNESCO’s highly competitive Youth Forum Global Competition.
Faisal attended the American University of Afghanistan, where he was an active student leader, starting the university’s debate club and winning the President’s High Honor Award. He received his BA in business administration in 2013.
Danika Gilbert has been guiding around the world for over twenty years. She has worked in many different environments and locations, and with women’s specific groups. From mountain biking and trekking to ice climbing and skiing, Danika can pretty much do it all. We are proud to have Danika as our expedition leader for Ascend Afghanistan’s first project. Not only does she bring solid climbing and guiding skills, her experience with wilderness therapy and leadership training adds to the overall project.
Danika lives in the San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado, working as a mountain guide and grant writer.