Mary Anna Noveck is a passionate educator who has over 24 years of experience working as a classroom teacher, mentor, and administrator in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. She traveled to Ethiopia as a participant with Imagine Ethiopia 2011 and 2013. We sat down with Mary Anna as she gears up for her third trip to Ethiopia with imagine1day to find out what inspires her to keep going back.

How did you raise the funds for your first trip?
At the time I had a really wonderful Parent-Teacher Association at my school and they generously wrote me a check for $2,500 right off the bat. So many people just donated cash. I was very fortunate the first time. The money came in almost magically and it was really unexpected.

What inspired you to be involved with the organization?
Imagine Ethiopia was such a life changing experience. Going on the actual trip and just experiencing the people and the country and the culture, I fell in love with it and signed up for now what I consider a life-long journey with imagine1day. I can’t ever imagine life without imagine1day. I feel close to everyone, whether they work for the organization on the ground in Ethiopia or in the offices in Vancouver or Santa Monica, I feel connected to everyone I’ve ever traveled with or met through imagine1day. The friendships I have made continue to grow and flourish and I feel like they’re going to be life-long because of this amazing bonding experience that we all shared.

You’ve joined the imagine Ethiopia trip two times now. What makes it unique?
You know it’s interesting because when I was on the second trip, one of the participants asked me, ‘I am really curious why you’re coming again because wouldn’t you want to go somewhere else?’ I said, ‘Actually, no. I need to re-do this trip since there is so much to take in!’ First of all some of the historical sites that you experience, like Lalibella and the monolithic churches, are repeats. Honestly I don’t think you could ever get tired of seeing such beautiful sites. However, all of the regions you visit each time are very different, whether it’s the landscape, the weather, language, or religious affiliation. Every school is unique and every team you travel with is unique.

What are you looking forward to about the igolu edition?
I’ve worked on the igolu certification process with Susanne Conrad. This trip will help me hone my skills and learn more about goal and vision setting and see how the work transfers across cultures. I feel that this time around on Imagine Ethiopia, I’ve got the whole enchilada. Susanne Conrad not only introduced me to imagine1day, but she also inspires me with her dynamic and unique take on being your best and most authentic self. My life improves dramatically every time I’m around her.

For the last trip to Ethiopia you launched the Love4Ethiopia tennis tournament at the Riviera Club in Pacific Palisades, now on March 8th you are doing it again, what can attendees expect?
The most important things guests can expect is a great day of tennis, connection and FUN! This is an event I expect to hold yearly and I know that it will continue to grow as word of mouth spreads and participants become eager to learn more about the positive impact imagine1day is having on education in Ethiopia. The Riviera Country Club is one of the most beautiful settings in Los Angeles. The courts and the club are just amazing and the club is very committed to the tournament and supporting imagine1day.

What is your goal for the event?
My goal for the event is to have 125 people in attendance with at least 50 of them being tennis players, and to raise a minimum of $10,000. I want to have people who attend this year to be early adopters of the event to help it grow in coming years. I also want people to become passionate about imagine1day’s work. Hopefully many attendees will become involved in the organization themselves. I also want to grow my silent auction. This year I’ve gotten some popular items such as tickets to Ellen, The Voice, and Dancing With the Stars. I hope everyone is just as excited as I am to bid on these amazing items.

What do you hope guests will take away?
I hope that guests will take away a new understanding about how important it is for us to not only support local education in their own communities but to support it on a global level. Some people think that if it’s not in their backyard, it’s not important. The event also falls on International Women’s Day this year, so I think it is a wonderful opportunity to highlight the importance of girls education. Giving people, especially girls, that opportunity to even go to school is so special. You wouldn’t believe the enthusiasm and the gratitude that you see in every smile; it is amazing. Students, principals and community members just light up because they are so excited to have access to a school and an opportunity to learn. I can’t think of anything more worthwhile than being a part of that.