David Reese, MBA, President and Chief Executive Officer
David Reese, President and CEO of the East Durham Children’s Initiative, brings more than 20 years of nonprofit leadership experience to the organization. Throughout his career, David’s work has focused on creating opportunity for low-wealth families and developing chances for children to succeed. David previously served as chief operating officer for Food Recovery and Distribution at Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. He is past co-chair of Partnership for a Healthy Durham and past vice chair of Northeast Central Durham Leadership Council. He serves on the Boards of Directors of Downtown Durham Rotary Club, Durham’s Partnership for Children, East Durham Children’s Initiative, Kidznotes, and Leadership Triangle. He also serves on the Downtown Durham YMCA’s advisory board, the Mayor of Durham’s Poverty Reduction Task Force, and the United Way of the Greater Triangle’s Education Council. In 2006, he was recognized as one of Triangle Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40” business leaders. David holds a Master of Business Administration. He hails from the Bronx, NY, and lives in Durham with his wife, Iris, and their three children.
Nicky Charles, Chief Operating Officer
Nicky joined EDCI as Chief Operating Officer in October of 2016. In that role, manages operations procedures and assists in aligning the strategic vision of EDCI to implementable goals. A recent North Carolina transplant, Nicky served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Executive Director for the School District of Philadelphia’s governing body, the School Reform Commission. Prior to joining EDCI, Nicky was an independent consultant for Made in Durham and Philadelphia’s Lenfest Foundation. Since graduating from Howard University and the University of Pennsylvania, Nicky has fought to address the systemic issues preventing equitable outcomes for students. She has taught several grade levels and worked in various capacities at Independent schools. Nicky is an alumnus of LeadBoston and Philadelphia Leadership programs, serves as Board Secretary for the Community Partnership School in Philadelphia, and is a mentor in the Big Brother/Big Sister program and for women in transition. Her spare time is spent practicing Muay Thai, yoga, and interval training solely for the purpose of balancing her foodie passions. She works to keep her knees healthy enough to run the occasional half-marathon and loves museums, the outdoors, and traveling.
Mary Mathew, MSPH, Director of Programs & Partner Engagement
Mary joined EDCI as one of its first team members in 2010. Her current role includes overseeing EDCI’s program development and supporting the collective efforts of EDCI partners in the Zone. She also works closely with EDCI’s evaluation team at Duke University to assess the impact of EDCI’s services. Mary’s background includes several years of work and volunteer experience with youth-related initiatives ranging from an evaluation project with orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi to clinical work with low-income students as a school-based occupational therapist. She moved to North Carolina from Canada in 2002 to pursue her Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) with a focus on maternal and child health at UNC-Chapel Hill and is now proud to call Durham home. Mary is passionate about helping all children succeed and reach their full potential despite the odds stacked against so many of them. She is inspired by the commitment and strengths of East Durham families and residents as well as the dedicated partners and team members she has the privilege of working alongside.
Pamela Hines, Director of Family Engagement, MSW, LCSW
Pamela is passionate about enriching the lives of families through direct practice, advocacy, and education. She has extensive managerial and clinical experience along with more than 20 years of experience in victim advocacy, crisis intervention, education, and case management with women and children in the areas of sexual assault, abuse, domestic violence, and workforce re-entry. Pamela received a Master of Social Work degree from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Guilford College.
Kimberly Fisher, Director of Program Implementation & Community Engagement
Kimberly joined the EDCI family in 2016 as the Director of Program Implementation and Community Engagement. She has a passion for youth engagement, health education, community organizing, translational health research, and implementation science. Her primary role at EDCI is to expand community-based interventions that meet the diverse academic, psychosocial, health, and economic needs of families at EDCI. Prior to joining EDCI, Kimberly designed and implemented large community-based research and health promotion programs that sought to reduce the burden of HIV and other STIs in underserved communities. Kimberly holds a Bachelor’s of Art in Women’s Studies from UNC Chapel Hill and a Master’s in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago.
Amber Wade, Operations & Financial Services Manager
Amber joined the EDCI staff in February 2012. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a Bachelor of Arts in African American studies and a Master of Arts in teaching. As a member of EDCI’s management team, her primary role is to support EDCI’s program operations, business and financial operations, and human resource functions. Amber also manages EDCI’s Childhood Savings Account program in partnership with the City of Durham, Corporation for Enterprise Development, Durham Public Schools, and Self-Help Credit Union. A former elementary school teacher in Chapel Hill, Amber is passionate about seeing students succeed, reach their full potential, and be the best citizens they can. Amber lives in Durham with her miniature Dachshund, Diva, and enjoys exploring Durham’s many places to eat and thrift shops in the area.
Carla Fryling, Early Childhood Program Manager
Carla joined EDCI in April 2015. Her background is in behavioral services clinical practice and administration, nonprofit program management, and coaching. Carla has expertise in advocacy and prevention initiatives for children and youth, the homeless housing population, and has 25 years of experience working with women and children with a history of sexual abuse. She is passionate about creating effective, sustainable social change in communities. Carla received her master’s degree in clinical psychology from Edinboro University and a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University.
Esther Mateo-Orr, Elementary Advocate Program Manager
Esther manages the EDCI Parent Advocate program at the elementary school level, working with both English- and Spanish-speaking families. Originally from Lawrence, MA, Esther earned a Bachelor of Arts in American studies from Pine Manor College. Upon graduation, she earned an Master of Science degree in elementary education from Alfred University. Esther moved to Chapel Hill in 1995, where she taught elementary school for almost two decades. When the time came to move on, Esther searched for an organization that supported the benefits of focusing on all aspects of a child’s life to help them achieve greater overall academic success. In her work at EDCI, Esther has earned certification in HillRAP tutoring and currently uses those skills to help children become better readers. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband and four daughters and is looking forward to spending many years helping children and families in East Durham.
Tonya Post, MPA, EDCI Leap Academy Manager
As EDCI’s preschool manager, Tonya manages the EDCI LEAP Academy, ensuring three- and four-year-olds have an enriching preschool experience that fosters their love of learning through exploration and discovery and provides children with confidence and comfort in a classroom setting before they head to kindergarten. Tonya has Master of Public Administration from North Carolina State University. She has a background in early childhood (birth to kindergarten) and was the director of the Ellen Brewer Infant-Toddler Lab Home at Meredith College for six years. Tonya has experience working with communities around hunger and health issues across seven counties in central North Carolina. She served on the Partnership for a Healthy Durham’s Obesity and Chronic Illness subcommittee for four years.
DeDreana Freeman, Special Assistant to the President
DeDreana brings the community advocate perspective to EDCI’s Community Engagement team, working to identify parents and children to engage in EDCI programs. She uses her background in communication and community organizing to connect the organization to the people and the people to the organization. DeDreana's past experience in the fields of information technology and health care systems is a value-add in integrating community engagement and program development. She graduated from Rutgers University, Douglass College & the School of Information & Library Science with a Bachelors of Arts in communication with a concentration in public relations, and over the last 10 years has honed her skills in project management, gap analysis, client relationship management, and strategic planning. DeDreana is also an active resident of the Northeast Central Durham community, serves in a number of capacities on boards of directors for community organizations, and has several years of community organizing and outreach experience.
Lauren Stephenson, Development Manager
Lauren joined the EDCI family in July 2015. A Florida native, she received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Wofford College and an Master of Arts in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College. She has edited ESL textbooks in Boston, taught English in Argentina, run a summer arts program for children in the Dominican Republic, and managed communications work for a number of nonprofits. Lauren is proud to work closely with the children and families that EDCI serves and to call Durham home.
Brittany Cheatham, Communications Coordinator
Brittany joined EDCI in January of 2017. She comes to us with experience developing and executing communications and community engagement plans for several organizations, including: The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, The City of Raleigh, Hampton University, and WAVY-TV 10. Brittany holds a Bachelors Degree in Journalism and Communications from Hampton University with a concentration in Public Relations, and a Masters Degree in Communications from Johns Hopkins University with concentrations in Corporate, Nonprofit and Political Communications. A native of Durham NC, Brittany is a graduate of Hillside High School. Her passion for her community lead her back to Durham where she is proud to live and work to make a difference while giving back.
Clifton Daye, M.Div, Facilities Coordinator & Community Ambassador
Clifton Daye III comes to EDCI with local ties. Clifton is a Durham native and attended Holton Middle School (now known as Holton Career and Resource Center) in the EDCI Zone. Clifton graduated from North Carolina Central University (NCCU) with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, has taken some agency counseling courses at NCCU, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at Shaw University. Clifton’s experience includes running a group home, conducting case management, mentoring, and coaching, and he holds a wealth of experience and knowledge in networking. Clifton’s energetic manner embodies the boots-on-the-ground spirit of EDCI’s Community Engagement team.
Kaia Clarke, MPA, Partnership Engagement Coordinator
A Durham native, raised and educated from preschool to college, Kaia exemplifies the potential of youth in the Durham community. As a member of the EDCI Programs and Partner Engagement team, Kaia’s primary role is developing and maintaining organizational systems that support the coordination of EDCI collaborative-led grants. Kaia has great vision and determination to create engaging, culturally calibrated programs that cater to specific community needs. Before joining the EDCI family in November 2015, Kaia served as an AmeriCorps VISTA, consulted with Frontline Solutions, and designed initiatives that focused on leadership development. After the completion of her Master of Public Administration at North Carolina Central University, Kaia’s participation as a US Delegate provided her with the opportunity to convene with emerging leaders to strengthen collaboration, build capacity, and develop innovative projects. This profound experience shaped Kaia’s passion for inspiring, empowering, and connecting communities locally, nationally, and globally. She is excited to serve the East Durham community and share her myriad skills and experiences to impact change in the EDCI Zone.
Lorissa Williams, Youth Health Leadership Project Coordinator
Lorissa Williams joined EDCI in July of 2016 as youth health coordinator for the new Youth Health Leadership Council program for elementary students living in the EDCI Zone. Born in Summit, NJ, and raised across the RTP region of North Carolina, her passion is to educate children and families on nutrition, fitness, and wellness in underserved communities. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Bachelor of Science degree in public health and a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and dietetics from North Carolina Central University, where she researched interventions to combat food-related health disparities in low-income communities. She has a background in working with youth in summer and after-school programs, and is currently working on her masters in family and consumer science with a concentration in community nutrition. Lorissa is also a licensed Zumba fitness instructor, teaching children and adults of all ages throughout the RTP area. She is excited about working with the children and families of East Durham, and proud to be a part of the EDCI team.
LaDonna Brown, Bilingual Parent Advocate
LaDonna joined EDCI’s staff in August 2015 as a Bilingual Parent Advocate. Rooted in Jamaica, her parents immigrated to Michigan, where LaDonna grew up and served the homeless population alongside her parents. From there, LaDonna had a growing passion to advocate for those in need and work with revitalizing communities one family at a time. She has worked in Venezuela, China, and Jamaica doing interpretation and translation; teaching ESL, Spanish, and French; budgeting; and organic farming and nutrition. Her experience is rooted in her passion to help people thrive and reach their goals. Prior to moving to North Carolina, she worked with United Way, recruiting and training volunteers while creating effective ways to connect resources with families in need. LaDonna earned her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and French from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and her Master of Arts at Wayne State University.
Crystal Barnes, MSW, LCSW-A, Elementary Parent Advocate
Crystal joined EDCI in spring of 2016 as an EDCI Elementary Parent Advocate. Hailing from Greensboro, NC, Crystal earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Masters of Social Work from UNC-Chapel Hill. Prior to joining the EDCI team, Crystal spent several years working in mental health. She has worked extensively with autistic adults and served as an outpatient therapist for children and adolescents. Crystal believes in the importance of addressing students' behavioral and emotional challenges to help them build a stable foundation for academic success.
María Mejía, Early Childhood Parent Advocate
Maria joined EDCI in December 2015. Her background is in early childhood education. She has a Bachelor of Arts in education and holds nearly 18 years of experience working with children and families. Her main goal is to provide parents with support, guidance, and parenting skills by understanding the nature of their needs. Prior to moving to North Carolina, she served as a services coordinator for children with disabilities and empowered parents to be an active part of their children’s development.
Ashley Smith, BA, Early Childhood Parent Advocate
Ashley joined EDCI in February 2017. Born and raised in Zebulon, NC, she received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Studies from East Carolina University. She has over 10 years of experience in teaching, tutoring, and mentoring experience with various age groups and culturally diverse groups. She also has numerous years of experience in the field of mental health and early childhood education. Prior to joining EDCI, Ashley worked as an Early Intervention Service Coordinator, supporting families of eastern North Carolina. She also served as Program Assistant for ALMAS ESL Program in Pitt County, which provided free ESL courses and training workshops to Latino women in the area. She is committed to serving families and children of East Durham and working to increase parents’ capacities to advocate for themselves and their families.
Luisa Maxwell, Bilingual Intake Assistant
As the bilingual intake assistant at EDCI, Luisa is the first point of contact for EDCI families. Luisa is a native of Panama City, Panama, and was raised in Brooklyn. She has a certificate in Enhanced Office Skills and received her certification as a Spanish Community Facilitator from Durham Technical Community College. She is currently pursuing her degree in business administration at Durham Tech. Luisa is also an East Durham resident and has a passion for giving back to her community. In 2014, she founded a community-based volunteer group called SUSSTAS_DIVAS that currently has more than 120 members. Luisa looks forward to greeting your family here at EDCI.
Darryl Barnes, AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow
Darryl joins the EDCI team on assignment with the AmeriCorps Vista program. His primary role is outreach and community assessment coordination. He came to know EDCI through Durham Healthy Families, an EDCI partner. Having moved from New York City, Darryl has no extended family here, and EDCI provided a sense of community. His son attended many of EDCI’s Story Hour events and community programs. Darryl and his wife have also taken advantage of community wellness incentives, such as Zumba, and are currently active walkers on the Durham Healthy Mile Trail. He has 15 years of experience helping urban youth in middle and high school, mentoring young men, and coaching basketball. He is a longtime advocate for community outreach and urban revitalization.
Lateef Mitchell, Community Engagement Coordinator
Lateef comes to us as an AmeriCorps Public Ally for the City of Durham. He is a part of our Community Engagement Team and co-assistant to the Youth Leadership Council. Lateef graduated from Guilford College in 2013 with a Sociology/Anthropology degree, with a focus on inequalities in our society and their effects on different socioeconomic groups. Lateef is a Durham, NC native and has a passion for sports, helping others and empowering the youth.
Crystal Folmar, AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow
Crystal joined the EDCI team in July 2016 as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member. Prior to moving to North Carolina, Crystal received her Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and Master of Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh. During college, she discovered her passion for working with youth while serving with several non-profit organizations. At EDCI, she works closely with other members of the Community Engagement team and is excited to be working alongside the incredible youth of East Durham.
Rebecca Billings, AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow
Rebecca joined the EDCI family in August 2016 as an AmeriCorps VISTA. She works within the Community Engagement team on STEAM programming, fundraising, and development. Before moving to Raleigh two years ago, Rebecca studied Politics, Philosophy, and Women’s Studies at Ithaca College in upstate New York. She is passionate about sustaining intersectional movements surrounding feminism, racial equity, arts, and the power of youth.
Kenesha Bigelow, Johnson Service Corps Member
Kenesha is from Mebane, NC, and graduated from North Carolina State University in December 2015. She studied sociology and has a passion for helping others. She plans to pursue a career in social work. She is serving as a Johnson Service Corps member and is dedicated to service and social justice.
Elizabeth (Beth) Ross, AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow
Beth comes to the EDCI team through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Her assignment is focused on community engagement and program evaluation. She is excited to get to know the children in the community, and work with their parents to create high-quality programing for adults as a part of EDCI's two-generational approach. Beth graduated from the University of Louisville with an English degree and plans to enter graduate school to receive her MSW. She enjoys writing, yoga, and holistic nutrition.
Chelsea McGuire, AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow
Chelsea joined EDCI as an Americorps VISTA in 2017. Her role is community outreach coordinator, where she works to strengthen EDCI’s impact in the zone. She’s currently pursuing her undergraduate degree to become an English teacher. Chelsea has experience working with other nonprofit organizations and hopes to continue to make positive impacts in communities in the future. She enjoys serving in her community and getting to know the needs of families.
Tara McCurdy, EDCI Leap Academy Lead Teacher
Tara is the new lead teacher at the EDCI LEAP Academy. She has been working in Early Childhood Education for 8 years, and has a degree in Physical Education/Sports Medicine, with a secondary degree in Early Childhood Education. She is currently studying Complimentary Alternative Medicine (massage therapy). Tara has a passion for helping people, especially children, and she absolutely loves seeing them develop into beautiful butterflies—spreading their wings and flying high.
Jenny Elander , EDCI Leap Academy Lead Teacher
Jenny has a degree in Cultural Anthropology from UNC-CH. Her expertise is in leading and teaching children in outdoor learning settings. She strives to facilitate growth in young children's connection and exposure to nature. With a background in farming, she’s excited to work with the children in the garden and explore where our food comes from. She is passionate about Early Childhood Education, and looks forward to teaching and learning alongside the children this year through play-based exploration. When she’s not at school, you can find her rock climbing, cooking with her husband, and running with her dog, River.
Shazondra Alford, EDCI Leap Academy Teaching Assistant
Shazondra is a native of New Haven, Connecticut and has lived in Durham for 4 years. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Business, and has worked previously as a C.N.A. Shazondra is a proud mom of two, and her youngest child is also a student at the Academy. She is looking forward to getting to know the families and children of the Academy.
Estefani Soto, EDCI Leap Academy Teaching Assistant
Born and raised in Durham, Estefani is pursuing a career in Early Childhood Development. She has a passion for working with children because of their creativity, energy, and joy. Her two-year-old daughter loves to play, color, and explore the environment around her; and she is the reason Estefani decided to work with children. Estefani is excited about working with all of the families at the Academy.