Board of Directors Bios
Gretchen Palmer has been a top producer in real estate with Podley Properties for the past 13 years. She has appeared in over 20 films, 40 Television Shows & Commercials over the past 30 years with luminaries such as Sidney Portier, Ray Charles, Walter Hill, Aaron Spelling and Rob Reiner. Most recently, Gretchen had a recurring role on NCIS: Los Angeles. For the past 10 years she has committed herself to supporting Arts Education in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Gretchen has worked behind the scenes with many organizations including: Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Pasadena Waldorf School, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and Alkebulan Cultural Center. Her passions for the Arts is infinite and is rooted in the philosophy that “Anything is possible!" Gretchen holds a BFA in Dance from The Boston Conservatory at Berklee.
Stephanie Mack is the President and Chief Executive Officer for the Hotel Safety Academy, a division of Mack Venture, who works with unique industries requiring very specific and exceptional talent needs. Stephanie believes that, “If you are going to do something or be something, do or be the best or make room for those who are.” This foundational belief has directed Stephanie’s career from it’s roots in Sea Girt, New Jersey, scooping ice cream to leading a nationwide team of Hospitality and Ports & Terminals Staffing Professionals to $65m and $20m, respectfully, in revenue growth over recent years.
Along her 30+ year career path, Stephanie has positively influenced many of today’s Hospitality industry leaders and organizations through servant leadership, talent development and engagement to drive results. Along the way, Stephanie has shared her talents through on-site and corporate roles with Marriott International (18 years), the multi-brand organization, Lodgian, StepStone Hospitality, Hospitality Staffing Solutions and PeopleReady Hospitality before starting Mack Venture.
Stephanie is an award-winning leader with a focus on developing others, professionally and personally. She recently spearheaded and chaired a “Women in Leadership” initiative at PeopleReady Hospitality while maintaining her commitments as a Board of Directors member of the Abukutsa Arts Academy – giving children joy in their lives through the arts. Stephanie holds a Bachelors of Arts in Business Management from the University of Phoenix and has served on five industry boards and councils.
Founder & Executive Director
Anindo Marshall began her musical and dance career in her homeland of Kenya, as a vocalist, dancer and percussionist. She enjoyed a successful solo career in Europe, as a vocalist, signing a recording contract with EMI Spain, and becoming known as Kenya's singing sensation. Anindo has performed with Babatunde Olatunji, Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, among others.
While in Kenya as a young dance student in ballet, modern, jazz and African, she met Saundra Barnes, a Katherine Dunham dancer living in Kenya and teaching Dunham Technique. Anindo studied with Ms. Barnes, and in 1983 moved to the USA to continue her study of with Dunham, and Dunham Masters, including: Pearl Reynolds, Archie Savage, Lucille Ellis, Tommy Gomez, Tally Beatty, Vanove Aikens, Theo Jamison, Ronald Marshall and Keith Williams. Her studies included Haitian, Afro Cuban, Brazilian and African forms as taught in Dunham Technique.
Ms. Marshall is a Certified Dunham Technique Instructor, and serves as a board member on the Katherine Dunham Certification Board. She teaches worldwide, including Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Dance Dimensions, Lula Washington Dance Theater, Occidental College, LMU, UCI, Dallas Black Dance Theater, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Dance Excellence, USC, LACHSA and conducts Arts residencies in LAUSD, Hawthorne School District and Wiseburn School District schools as programs director with Dream a World Education, as well as conducting residencies in colleges all over the U.S.A. Besides Dunham Technique, Anindo teaches – Africa Jazz and Modern.
Anindo is also an accomplished musician, percussionist and a dance teacher of African dance from East, South, Central and West Africa.. She has studied with the world's finest percussionists, including Babatude Olatunji, Mamadi Keita, Mor Thiam, Lamin Dido Camara, Karamba Diabate to mention a few. Her study of African rhythms made her continue studying West African dance as well under the umbrella of such teachers as Kimoko Samo (formerly artistic director of Les Ballet Africains of Guinea W. Africa), Marie Basse and countless other great African dance teachers. Teaching music in Montrose, California, running the school choir band and flag team. She teaches percussion from Africa and Latin America.
Belinda D. Stith has been a practicing attorney for over 34 years in both the public and private sector. Ms. Stith has worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District, Office of General Counsel for 31 years. Ms. Stith has served the OGC as Assistant General Counsel, Assistant General Counsel II, and Associate General Counsel. Ms. Stith has expertise in the areas of Labor and Employment Law, Education Law and School Operations. Ms. Stith has served as a trainer in areas of Employment Law and Education Law including progressive discipline, sexual harassment, discrimination, confidentiality of student and employment records, school operations and prevention of workplace violence. Ms. Stith has served as an expert in the field of Threat Assessment and Threat Management. Ms. Stith previously worked for a national labor and employment law firm where her work focused on labor and employment litigation, advice and counsel. Prior to practicing law Ms. Stith was a teacher with Los Angeles Unified School District.
Ms. Stith received her undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, where she was recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial Scholarship. Ms. Stith received her Master of Science in Education also from the University of Southern California. Ms. Stith received her law degree from of Loyola Law School (J.D.) where she was awarded the Alumni Service Award for outstanding service and scholarship.
Active in community service, Ms. Stith is Past President and Life Member of the Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, Inc. and Past President and Life Member of the California Association of Black Lawyers. Ms. Stith is also Life Member of the National Bar Association where she has served as Vice President ( 2 terms), Region IX Director and Affiliate Representative. Ms. Stith is currently a Board member of the National Bar Institute (the philanthropic arm of the National Bar Association.) Ms. Stith is an active member of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Links, Incorporated, where she currently serves as a Board Member and, has served as Co-Chair of the Cotillion Leadership Institute for the past four years. Ms. Stith currently is a Board member of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, where she has hosted and sponsored numerous students.
Ms. Stith is excited and honored to be a Board Member of the Abukutsa Arts Academy.
Ms. Stith recently retired from LAUSD after nearly 40 years of service.
Anne Adair performed extensively throughout the world as a featured dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre. She also appeared as a guest artist with the London Festival Ballet, Polish National Ballet, Chicago Ballet, Tulsa Ballet Theatre, and the Colorado Ballet. In 1988 she toured in Italy with “Stars of the American Ballet.”
Anne has also been actively teaching ballet to students and professional dancers for more than twenty years. Ms. Adair was the founder and artistic director of a comprehensive ballet training school at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, known as the Summer Ballet Intensive. Her coaching credentials include ballet dancers, competitive gymnasts (Levels 5-Elite), figure skaters, and NFL and NHL players.
After retiring from the stage in 2001, Ms Adair became a certified Personal Trainer and Pilates Instructor. An interest in health and wellness, led to her licensure in massage therapy in 2001. She pursued her bachelor degree from Capital University and graduated in 2007 summa cum laude.
From 1981 to 1987, her leading roles with the Royal Danish Ballet included the title role in Bournonville’s La Sylphide, Irma in Abdallah, the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker, and many additional principle roles. As a member of the American Ballet Theatre from 1987-1989 some of her featured roles included Princess Florine in the Sleeping Beauty, Cupid in Don Quixote, Tudor’s The Leaves are Fading, and many other soloist parts including a role created for her by Twyla Tharp in Everlast. Her years in New York with ABT were under the direction of Mikhail Baryshnikov. Anne danced as a member of BalletMet from 1997-2001 performing leading roles in Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Serenade, Beauty and the Beast, Giselle, and countless other roles created for her by the artistic director, David Nixen. In 1986 she was a Silver Medalist at the International Ballet Competition in Paris, France. Anne is a graduate of the prestigious National Ballet School of Canada. During her career she had an opportunity to work with Willam Christiansen, Tony Lander, Eric Bruhn, Bruce Marks, Johnny Eliasen, Peter Schaufuss, Glen Tetley, Alvin Ailey, Choo San Gogh, Flemming Flindt, John Neumier, Benjamin Harkarvy, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Georgina Parkinson, Twyla Tharp, and many others.
In 2007, Ms. Adair opened her own fitness boutique in Bexley, Ohio. Her personal training and Pilates studio, Urban Moves, developed from a strong desire to create both an artistic and esthetically pleasing fitness center as a back drop for her cutting edge, state of the art equipment. Her philosophy is that one must nurture all the senses as well as the body.
Anne moved to Los Angeles in 2011 and continued a close connection to the dance world. While in Los Angeles Ms. Adair served on faculty for the Los Angeles High School for the Arts, Long Beach Ballet, and Cal State Long Beach. Her students have made the finals for Prix de Lausanne, The International Ballet Competition, Youth American Grande Prix, and The Music Center’s Spotlight Competition in Los Angeles.
Robert and Donna Cmelak
Robert and Donna Cmelak have been married since July 1990, and are life-long educators. Donna has been a public elementary school teacher since September 1989, and Robert has been working in education since August 1992. For the past fifteen years, Robert has been working as a site administrator and superintendent of schools.
Ms. Marshall entered their lives through the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. When their daughter Sabrina was a young girl, Ms. Marshall was her instructor in the Dunham technique. A gifted teacher, she inspired Sabrina and stirred a passion for the dance form. Sabrina is currently earning her BFA in dance from Fordham University and is a scholarship recipient of The Ailey School in New York City. Dunham technique remains a part of Sabrina's curriculum as well as her favorite style of dance.
The arts and child development are essential. The Cmelak's believe in Ms. Marshall and fully support the Abukutsa Arts Academy in Kenya. The family's passion is promoting education, and they understand the importance of developing the whole-child through academics while emphasising the arts. Every child deserves an opportunity for a bright future.
Beate Caso is the CEO of Bruder Toys America, a subsidiary of Bruder Spielwaren, the largest family owned toy truck manufacturer in the world. After being raised in a small town just outside of Nuremberg, the toy capitol of the world, Beate graduated with a Banking degree from Sparkasse Fuerth, Germany.
After working for a short time in her family’s factory, Beate had a dream to move to America. She first went to America in 1989 to work for a German Engineering company in Orange County, California. In 1992, she opened her own successful eyeglass distribution, which she ran until her first daughter Isabella was born. At that time, Bruder Spielwaren was in search of a distributor for North America. Beate along with her husband Mark opened Bruder Toys in 1999. Bruder was unknown in the United States, and it was very difficult to bring a new European product onto the US marketplace. Her strong business sense and keen understanding of the US marketplace was the perfect combination to launch Bruder as the most important toy truck line in the North American specialty toy market.
Her early reaction solving complex logistic issues in the US was key to the continuous growth. Bruder Toys now has warehouses in Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto, Canada. Bruder was awarded many key licenses from the most powerful Corporations in America, such as Caterpilla, John Deere, Jeep, Mack, and RAM trucks.
Kim Hale is an Agent in the Dance Education and Choreography Divisions at The Movement Talent Agency bringing with her a wealth of experience as a teacher, choreographer, performer and advocate for Arts Education.
Her performance credits include principal roles in Las Vegas shows, Industrials and in musicals including the AEA National Tour of “Applause” directed by Gene Saks with choreography by Ann Reinking. She also appeared in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy directed by Debbie Allen. Kim spent five years as Assistant Professor of Dance in the BFA Musical Theater program at Syracuse University where she taught all levels of jazz, theater dance and ballet.
Kim is currently on the faculty of Revel Dance Convention scouting dancers for the The Movement Talent Agency. She also a highly sought after speaker and consultant on Branding and Marketing for Dance Studios. Kim received a Bachelor's of Science from Wellesley College and Master's Degree from Syracuse University.