GKS Board

Our Approach

Mission

To promote Albanian education within our Albanian Community and provide academic scholarships to Albanian students seeking a higher education.

Our Story

Overview 

The Gjergj Kastrioti Scholarship (GKS) Fund was founded in 1999 as an extension of the Albanian American Student Organization. Our goal is to provide scholarships to Albanian students that demonstrate a need and/or have maintained a history of a superior academic achievement. Since its inception, the GKS has awarded over $330,000 and hopes to continue awarding even more in the years to come.

After filing all the proper documents, on September 21, 2001, the Internal Revenue Service determined that our organization is exempt from federal income tax. Therefore, all donations to the Gjergj Kastrioti Scholarship Fund are tax deductible.

Every year we receive highly qualified applicants and the need and competition is greater than ever. Albanian students need your help in their pursuit of a higher education. We ask you to reach in your hearts and help Albanian students reach their academic goals.

We believe that our fund creates a foundation that offers more than just a financial support. It demonstrates that our community is willing and able to support all those that pursue a higher education. This ideal helps and motivates our youth and creates a great moral among our community. It epitomizes the bond between education and community advancement. You can feel confident that anything you do for this fund will be recognized. Our mission is to create a world-class scholarship fund with your help and support. We welcome your opinions and are grateful for you continued support.

Meet the GKS Board

Valbona Vulaj

Valbona Vulaj

Chair

Val works at Polaris Inc, where she is a Senior Systems Engineer working on feature development. She received her Bachelors in Electrical Engineering at Michigan State University and received her Masters in Electrical Engineering at Oakland University. Val is a former recipient of the Gjergj Kastrioti Scholarship Fund and was itching for a place to give back and found no better place than to the fund that gave to her. Val has always been close to the Albanian Community through her involvement as a dancer in Grupi Gjergj Kastrioti, where she spent 6 years traditional dancing throughout the country. In her free time Val enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family and friends.

Professional Headshot by: Robb McCormick Photography - https://www.robbmccormick.com

Franko Sallaku

Vice Chair

Franko is the Managing Partner at Continental Contracting Co. He received his Bachelors in Political Science at Oakland University, where he was involved in various student organizations including the Albanian American Student Organization and Albanian Roots. Franko went on to receive a Juris Doctor degree from The Ohio State University – Moritz College of Law. He recognizes the importance of a strong, united community and enjoys giving back to increase opportunities for the next generation of students to come. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family and friends and travel to new cities and countries.

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Steven Ljucovic

Treasurer

Steven is a graduate from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering. He currently works at DTE Energy in their electric utility, where he started as a student Co-op during his undergrad. He is now a Planner in their Distribution Operations organization, where he strategically coordinates substation construction and maintenance work for the City of Detroit. Growing up working in his family's restaurant business, he always appreciated learning the Albanian culture, language, and its values. It is with these values he looks to share and give back to Michigan’s positive and highly engaged Albanian community, while serving on the GKSF Board. During his off time he likes to mountain bike, spend time with family, and cruise Woodward Avenue on a beautiful Michigan summer day.

Eliada Ziraj

Eliada Ziraj

Secretary

Eliada is a graduate of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, and also holds a degree in Computer Engineering from Eastern Michigan University. She is currently a Senior Product Manager at Ford Motor Company, leading a team of Software Engineers in the Connected Vehicles space to create unique products and experiences. She previously held roles leading projects in Google Cloud Migration and IT Operations. Eliada is a two-time scholarship recipient. She moved to USA as an international student and remembers the tremendous impact that receiving the Gjergj Kastrioti Scholarship had on her. The scholarship not only helped her financially but also served as a motivator, knowing she had the support of the Albanian community. Being part of the GKSF board is her way of giving back and supporting the next generation of exceptional  Albanian students pursuing higher education.

Kristina Ivezaj

Kristina Ivezaj

Scholarship Committee

Kristina is a medical student at Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine, currently rotating at Ascension Providence Hospital in Southfield. She received her Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from the University of Michigan. While at the University, she served as the vice-president of the school's chapter of the Albanian American Student Organization. It was during that time that she helped organize Education Unlocked, an annual program geared at introducing Albanian high-schoolers to the variety of options for pursuing a secondary education. Kristina is passionate about education and mentorship, and hopes that being part of the GKSF Board will allow her to further help students in the community achieve their academic and professional goals. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, getting together with friends and family, and being active with her dog.

DR. SARA PLLUMBAJ

DR. Sara Pllumbaj

Marketing Director

Dr. Sara Pllumbaj is a Clinical Pharmacist at Henry Ford Hospital. She received her undergraduate degree from Wayne State University and her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Ferris State University. She worked closely with the GKS fund while she was president of the Albanian American Student Organization at Wayne State and was a recipient of the GKSF scholarship prior to entering pharmacy school. Dr. Pllumbaj recognizes the impact the scholarship had on her life as a student and now wants to give back to the community as a board member. She believes the scholarships set up Albanian-American students for success in their future endeavors. In her free time she enjoys working out, spending time with friends and family, and traveling.

Endrit Topalli

Endrit Topalli

Endowment Director

Endriti graduated from Oakland University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and obtained his Juris Doctorate Degree from Western Michigan Law School. He is currently an Assistant Prosecutor Attorney with the Oakland County Prosecutor office, where he represents the People of the State of Michigan on all criminal matters. He says, “I have been involved in the Albanian community for the past 10 years and I love to give back. The GKSF is a great opportunity to give back to the younger generation and I’m looking forward to it.” Endriti will be focusing on the governance of our endowment fund and help build its foundation alongside the current board members!
Donald D

Donald Demiri

Development Director

Donald is an Engineer at DTE Energy, where he started as a student. Donald received his Bachelors in Electrical Engineering at Wayne State University and EMBA at Michigan State University. As a student, he was involved in multiple leadership roles including in the Albanian American Student Organization. Donald's focus has been giving back to the community that provides opportunities for others to succeed. He helped create Mother Teresa Service Day where hundreds of students have volunteered throughout metro Detroit with various organizations. In his free time he enjoys spending time with family, outdoor activities and of course volunteering.

Rio Capollari

Rio Capollari

Webmaster

Rio graduated from Oakland University in 2022 with a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Information degree at the University of Michigan. He currently works at General Motors as a Data Analyst. In undergrad, Rio was president of the Albanian American Student Organization at Oakland and is a former GKSF scholarship recipient. Now that he has graduated he is excited to join the GKSF and help keep the website current and accessible for all applicants and donors.