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 the Partnership for a Healthy Durham, past vice chair of the Northeast Central Durham Leadership Council, and a past member of the Board of Directors for the Downtown Durham Rotary Club. David currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Health and Leadership and Innovation, Durham’s Partnership for Children, East Durham Children’s Initiative, BB&T Bank’s Durham Advisory Board, United Way of the Greater Triangle and Leadership Triangle. He also has served on the Durham YMCA’s advisory board, and the Mayor of Durham’s Poverty Reduction Task Force. In 2006, he was recognized as one of the 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, she 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.
DeDreana Freeman, Special Assistant to the President
DeDreana uses her background in communication and community organizing to connect the organization to the people and the people to the organization. She brings the community benefit perspective to EDCI’s Leadership team, working primarily on special projects in strategic planning, and organizational development to engage children and families in EDCI programs. DeDreana also facilitates community based conversations and internal trainings with for-profit, public and nonprofit partners and students to create systems that support academic success for children. DeDreana's past experience in the fields of information technology and health care systems is a value-add in integrating project management and program development. She graduated from Rutgers University, and over the last 15 years has honed her skills in project management, gap analysis, client relationship management, partnership development and strategic planning. DeDreana serves on the Durham City Council and is also an active resident of the Durham community. She serves in a number of capacities on a number of boards on the federal, state and local level and with community organizations. She also has over a decade of community organizing and outreach experience.
Eboni Garvin, Administrative & Business Coordinator
Eboni Garvin is a native of Miami, Florida, but has called the Triangle area home since 2005. She joined the EDCI team in 2017, but her passion for nonprofits began when she was 18 years old. Eboni holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business administration and management from South Carolina State University, and a Master’s degree in public administration from North Carolina Central University.
Suhuey Castillo-Lopez, Bilingual Intake Coordinator, ESOL/ Story Hour Coordinator
After growing up in Durham and interpreting for EDCI, Suhuey Castillo-Lopez joins us as a Bilingual Community Intake Coordinator. Certified in Spanish interpretation, Suhuey will also be trained in the Medical Facilitator program at Durham Technical Community College – and she plans to complete her biology degree at North Carolina Central University. At EDCI, Suhuey wears a number of meaningful hats: as an interpreter, logistics coordinator for ESOL courses, and coordinator for EDCI’s weekly Story Hour. She is inspired to help the community – particularly motivated by watching both her mother’s resilience in the face of discrimination and the impacts of kind advocates along the way. Suhuey sits on the National Board for Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy and interprets for Fusion Multicultural Communication & Marketing. In her free time, Suhuey enjoys hiking with her three beautiful dogs and playing recreational soccer.
Collin McColskey-Leary, Director of Partner Engagement & Pipeline Evaluation
Collin joins EDCI as Director of Partner Engagement & Pipeline Evaluation. In that role, he works to support the engagement of and collaboration between partners serving youth and families in the EDCI Zone and to design and conduct evaluations of the EDCI pipeline of support. Born and raised in North Carolina, Collin has worked to build the implementation capacity of community-based organizations and to better use research, evaluation, and data to reduce disparities in educational and justice outcomes. Collin is passionate about working alongside community members, leaders, and partners to ensure that all youth have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Prior to joining EDCI, Collin was the Director of Research and Implementation at Communities In Schools of North Carolina and is in the final stages of obtaining a PhD in Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis from North Carolina State University (go Pack!).
Kevin Kay, Director of Academic Success
A longtime educator and school administrator, Kevin Kay joins the EDCI community as Director for Academic Success. Kevin analyzes and guides programming for EDCI students – and he believes our role, as educators, is to help foster each student’s growth, successes, and discovery. Kevin earned a Bachelor’s in English from Siena College, a Master’s in Education from Eastern Nazarene College, and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS) in School Administration. After teaching Language Arts in New York and Massachusetts, Kevin had a 7-year tenure as an Assistant Principal in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School system. He most recently served as Principal at Eno River Academy, a public charter school in Hillsborough, NC. When he’s not at EDCI, Kevin is catching air as a snowboarder or out for a run. But Kevin’s favorite activity is hanging out with his family and watching his little girl learn and grow.
Carla Fryling, Director of Family Engagement
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.
Denise Blanco-Duran, Early Childhood Family Advocate—Bilingual
Denise joined the EDCI team in August 2018. She is passionate about empowering families to find the support they need to thrive in life. Her work in the U.S. has been mostly with immigrants and/or ethnically, racially and culturally diverse populations, including refugees. Denise has been committed to social justice efforts since very young through activism, volunteering and advocacy roles. She has a Master's of Social Work degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a BA in Philosophy from the University of Cartagena (Colombia). When not at work, Denise enjoys going on hikes in the forest with her family, watching independent films and dancing to live music.
Darryl Barnes, Middle School Family Advocate
Darryl Barnes is a Middle School Family Advocate for EDCI, and his primary role includes outreach and family assessment coordination. Darryl has 17 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. Darryl came to know EDCI through Healthy Families Durham, an EDCI partner. Having moved to Durham from New York City, Darryl had no extended family here, and EDCI provided a sense of community. His son attended many of EDCI’s events and programs, including Story Hour and the EDCI Leap Academy. Darryl and his wife have also participated in EDCI community wellness incentives like Zumba, and they are both active walkers on the Durham Healthy Mile Trail. Darryl completed a two-year tenure as an AmeriCorps VISTA with EDCI, and is dedicated to continuing to work side-by-side with the families that he has garnered relationships with. The knowledge and experience that he has gained over the last two years equip him to empower and advise students based at Neal Middle School.
Katherin Castillo, Youth Program Advocate—Bilingual
Katherin Castillo is a Mount Airy, North Carolina, native who graduated from Appalachian State in 2017 with a degree in Criminal Justice. Her undergraduate research focused on working with youth and learning more about prevention strategies, early intervention, and the effects of the school-to-prison pipeline. Before joining EDCI, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA Community Engagement Specialist for the America Reads America Counts program at Duke University. She currently is also working with another non-profit, Book Harvest, as a Pre-K/ K Parent Navigator. Katherin loves to build relationships and is very passionate about working with parents and students!
Judy Alston, Middle Years Program Advocate—Bilingual
A longtime supporter of families in the Triangle area, Judy Alston joins EDCI as a bilingual Middle Years Program Advocate. For nearly eight years, Judy connected families to community resources and facilitated program events and enrollment as a Family Services Liaison for the Chapel Hill- Carrboro City School District. She strives to be part of a future with wide-reaching educational access and success, regardless of socioeconomic status and race. At the Child Care Services Association, Judy worked as a Bilingual Scholarship Counselor, screening applications and matching families with quality childcare opportunities. Judy earned a BA in Liberal Studies from UNC Greensboro with a concentration in humanities. When Judy’s not brightening the office with her sun-shiny smile, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two year-old, goes to the movies, and likes arts and crafts. Judy loves to travel and learn about different cultures and religions, and she’s an annual volunteer with Christmas House in Chapel Hill.
Julian Aaron, Middle Years Program Advocate—Bilingual
A native of Portland, Julian Aaron joins EDCI as a bilingual Middle Years Program Advocate. Julian earned his Bachelor’s in English and Spanish from the University of Oregon, where he tutored and taught English as a Second Language classes for the American English Institute. Pursuing his passion for language abroad, Julian was an ESL teacher for the Spanish Ministry of Education at a high school in the tiny village of Jabugo, Spain. Back in the U.S., Julian was a coach and advocate at GoodWill Industries in New York – as well as a case planner for at-risk youth at Safe Space. He also holds a Master’s in Creative Writing from UNC Greensboro. Most recently, he has spent his time writing and tutoring student athletes at UNC Chapel Hill’s Loudermilk Center for Academic Excellence. Julian channels his Oregon roots in his enduring love of water (even rain!) at the Eno River, where he fishes, hikes, floats, and watches his dog splash around. Beyond the Eno, Julian is an avid basketball fan (NBA) and loves hanging out with his partner.
Rebecca Billings, Program Implementation and Community Engagement (PICE) Manager
A graduate of Ithaca College in New York, Rebecca Billings has brought joy and meaningful programming to EDCI since fall of 2016. After earning her Bachelor’s in Politics and studying Philosophy and Women’s Studies, Rebecca joined EDCI first as an AmeriCorps VISTA. She has experience in program management and event planning, as well as marketing for local businesses. Since returning to EDCI as a full-time employee, Rebecca has planned and implemented out-of-school programs – which include STEAM Saturdays, Summer Lunch, and our STEAM Summer Camp. Rebecca dons her pink princess dress for Halloween at STEAM each year, and in her free time she knits, embroiders, and hangs out with her fiancée and cats. When she’s not at an EDCI program, Rebecca is coordinating volunteer strategy and activities back at our office on Angier.
Tierra M. Bethel, Communications & Volunteer Manager
Tierra Bethel, MBA, brings years of strategic marketing experience and digital storytelling expertise to her role as EDCI Communications & Volunteer Manager. Born in Halifax, Virginia, Tierra earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing management from Virginia Tech and her MBA at Liberty University. She has led communications and volunteer efforts in both the public and private sectors. In Raleigh, Tierra developed comprehensive marketing efforts at Charter Communications and The News & Observer. At the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, she shared stories of citizens affected by hurricanes. Tierra also volunteers her expertise in her faith community, a sorority, and as a committee member of the WakeMed Helton Endowment Scholarship. In 2018, she was nominated an Emerging Leader by Spectacular Magazine. All of this, plus a delight in and commitment to storytelling, social justice, and the technical aspects of communications, led Tierra to EDCI and made it an appealing place to work: “A few trials in my past experience led me to EDCI and gave me the best of both worlds – my passion and what I studied in school. I hope to continue to grow and establish even more partnerships here and make a difference doing it." In her spare time, Tierra enjoys anything that is competitive, including board games and bowling.
Daniel Okoniewski, Youth Health Project Coordinator
A Buffalo native and educator, Daniel Okoniewski joins EDCI as Youth Health Project Coordinator. Daniel graduated with a Bachelor’s in Health Promotion and Education from University of Massachusetts- Amherst, and he will complete his graduate coursework to earn an MS from North Carolina State University in Parks, Recreation and Tourism. Moving to North Carolina originally to work with the Olympic Sports program at UNC Chapel Hill, Daniel found himself consistently in the classroom. He worked within the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School System for 4 years in elementary schools, while spending his summers as a program instructor at Carolina Friends School in Durham. Most recently, Daniel served as an RTI International research project facilitator, conducting research seminars with middle grade students throughout the state. He applies this experience – and his numerous certifications relating to the promotion of children’s well-being and behavioral interventions in schools — to his direction of EDCI’s Youth Leadership Council. He is excited to work with and learn from youth and their families in the EDCI Zone. Outside of the office, Daniel can be found doing any number of sports and exercise activities outdoors. And he is a self-proclaimed foody, eager to explore Durham.
Isabel Watkins, Program Implementation & Community Engagement (PICE) Assistant
Isabel Watkins is a PICE Assistant, now at EDCI as part of a 1-year Johnson Service Corps assignment. In this role, she helps plan and implement programs for youth, including STEAM Saturdays and Youth Leadership Council. A native of Louisville, Isabel attended the University of Kentucky, where her studies in International Comparative Politics and French fostered a passion for human rights and social justice. She also worked with youth outside school, including three summers at a teen summer camp in upstate New York. All of these interests and experiences led her to Johnson Service Corps, which placed her at EDCI for a year of growth and learning alongside individuals with similar passions for youth empowerment and nonprofit work. Isabel says EDCI is a good fit for her future goals: “I hope to one-day work in an international NGO focused on human rights, and my experience at EDCI will, no doubt, enhance my knowledge of how nonprofit organizations function and influence their communities locally.” When she isn’t at work, Isabel loves to play tennis, listen to new music, go for walks with her roommates, and read!
Daniela Rangel, Program Implementation & Community Engagement (PICE) Assistant
Daniela Rangel, PICE Assistant, is working at EDCI as part of a 1-year Johnson Service Corps assignment. In this role, she helps plan and implement programs for youth, including STEAM Saturdays and Youth Leadership Council. Born in Havana, Cuba, Daniela grew up in Miami and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Daniela hopes to work in a nonprofit organization in the future and says this experience at EDCI is invaluable. It’s helping her test assumptions about working in nonprofit settings, and particularly in one related to her great passion—education. The assignment also provides access to people who have attended graduate schools throughout the United States and are wonderful sources of wisdom in her career planning. "I love children and I am extremely passionate about education and education policy,” she explains. “I am also Hispanic and a fluent Spanish speaker. I recognize the immense need for professionals who speak both languages in this community, as well as I have my own personal desire to give back to my Latinx community." In her off hours, Daniela enjoys cooking, dancing, and spending time with friends
Megan Pender, EDCI/LEAP Academy Preschool Manager
As Preschool Manager at EDCI LEAP Academy, Megan Pender helps her team of teachers prepare 3- and 4-year-olds for kindergarten readiness. In keeping with the school pedagogy, Reggio Emilia, the children learn through play and their interests. Megan grew up in Greensboro, NC, and moved to Durham in 2008 to attend college at North Carolina Central University. There, she majored in English literature with an education background. She has worked in Early Childhood Education for 6 years and was a lead teacher for 3 years. “I have always had a passion for working with children and watching them grow,” she says. “When I found out about EDCI LEAP Academy Preschool, I knew it was an opportunity for me to help children who have never been in a preschool setting to grow and become kindergarten ready.” Megan plans to go back to school to earn her masters in Early Childhood Education: “Working with children will always be in my profession for years to come!” In her spare time, Megan enjoys spending time with her son, watching movies, reading books, and traveling.
Tara McCurdy, EDCI Leap Academy Lead Teacher
Tara is a lead teacher at the EDCI LEAP Academy. She has been working in Early Childhood Education for more than 10 years and has a degree in Physical Education/Sports Medicine, with a secondary degree in Early Childhood Education. She is currently studying Complementary 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.
Estefani Soto, EDCI Leap Academy Lead Teacher
Estefani Soto is the Spanish lead teacher for EDCI LEAP Academy, where she has worked since August 2015. Born and raised in Durham, she is happy to be working in the same area where she grew up. Estefani is a creative, energetic teacher who loves working with children and watching them develop: "I love to encourage children to express themselves, reveal their creativity, and connecting with them by tapping into their interests and likes."
Aisa Abraham, EDCI LEAP Academy Teacher Assistant
A native of Washington, DC, Aisa Abraham is devoted to working with young children and excited to be joining LEAP Academy. She has been teaching for 7 years, but she has been working with children since she was just 16 years old. Aisa is currently completing her associate's degree in Early Childhood Education at Durham Technical Community College. She most enjoys "assisting children as they explore, grow, and develop." Aisa has two children of her own, ages 8 and 3, and in her spare time, she loves to dance.
Siama Wicks, EDCI LEAP Academy Teacher Assistant
Siama Wicks, originally from the Ivory Coast, West Africa, is now a US citizen who has made "the beautiful community of Durham" her home for the past 8 years. A passionate advocate for the equality of all children, Siama holds an associate's degree in Early Childhood Education from Durham Technical Community College. She's excited to start another school year on staff at EDCI LEAP Academy: "I cannot wait to meet my wonderful students. I am excited about teaching them and learning from them at the same time. I believe that all children are unique and cannot wait to get to know them individually. Let's have a great school year!" In her time off, Siama spends time with her daughter and son, ages 13 and 10, who are her pride and joy. Her favorite place is the beach.