Growing up in the forested Willamette Valley of Oregon, Elena Gartner spent her spare time on mountain trails. Her passion in issues facing diverse communities around the world was ignited by living and traveling abroad during her childhood. Later, she attended Grinnell College in Iowa, where she graduated with honors in Anthropology and Spanish. There, she managed the student body’s coffee shop, served as captain of the Cross Country team, and spent a semester in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest working at a community-based social enterprise of indigenous organic cacao farmers and chocolate producers. Upon graduation, she plunged into a new adventure in a remote village in the mountains of Laos, taking a post as a Princeton in Asia fellow. There, she gained on-the-ground development experience in an immersive cultural setting. She worked to build the capacity of staff, villagers, government and NGO partners to deliver programs around improving the rights, livelihoods, and education of children and youth in indigenous communities.