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 and past vice chair of the Northeast Central Durham Leadership Council. David currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Downtown Durham Rotary Club, 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 serves 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 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.
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!).
Kathleen Guerra, Director of External Engagement
Kathleen Guerra joined EDCI in June 2018 as the Director of External Engagement and oversees development, marketing and volunteer engagement. While relatively new to the nonprofit sector, Kathleen has 20 years of marketing and sales leadership. Prior to joining EDCI, she served as the Director of Commercial Services in the Education Division at SAS. In this role, she had responsibility for defining and launching new training products and services for global audiences and managed a department of 20 people that included product marketing, sales and business development. Kathleen’s business development mindset has been integral to numerous product launches, successful partnerships, and revenue growth. Some of Kathleen’s accomplishments include the creation of the SAS Learning Subscription, SAS Live Web business, and the global SAS Certification program. Kathleen is a Michigan native, earned her Bachelor’s from Miami University of Ohio in English Literature and Political Science, and has lived in Durham with her family since 1998. When she’s not growing EDCI’s marketing strategy, Kathleen is gardening, racing off to a tennis match, or otherwise enjoying the outdoors.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Darryl Barnes, Middle School Family Advocate
Darryl joins the EDCI team as a new Middle School Family Advocate. 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. In May 2019, Judy will graduate with a BA in Liberal Studies from UNC Greensboro, where she has a concentration in humanities. When Judy’s not brightening the office with her sunshiny 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.
Natalie Pickett, Middle Years Family Advocate
Natalie first joined EDCI as an AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow in 2015 and spent a year helping to develop out-of-school time pilot programs. She left to obtain her Master of Social Work degree and rejoined EDCI in August 2018 as a Middle Years Program Advocate. Natalie's background and interests are in youth development, family engagement, non-profit program design, and affordable housing. She is also passionate about social justice issues and civic engagement. Natalie has a B.S. in Child and Family Studies from Louisiana State University. Outside of work, she enjoys baking, all things true crime, and being a lifelong LSU football and baseball fan.
Corey Risinger, Development & Communications Writer
A Chapel Hill transplant and Tar Heel, Corey Risinger joins EDCI as the Development & Communications Writer. Corey earned a Bachelor’s in English and Hispanic Literature and Cultures from UNC Chapel Hill in 2018, where she was an avid basketball fan and editor for The Daily Tar Heel. Part of the Morehead-Cain community at UNC, Corey taught sixth grade writing with Breakthrough San Francisco and interned with LearnZillion, a Washington D.C.-based education start-up. Corey was also an active member of the Carolina International Relations Association and directed Model United Nations at Chapel Hill, a 400-student Model United Nations Conference hosted annually on UNC’s campus. At EDCI, Corey is eager to draw on her journalistic roots and years of writing and storytelling in English and Spanish. She hopes to pursue a PhD in English Literature and continue to engage with education nonprofits like EDCI. In her free time, Corey reads, throws on the potter’s wheel, and drinks copious amounts of coffee.
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.
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.
Amy Stopford, Program Implementation and Community Engagement (PICE) team member
After honing her event planning and evaluation skills in the field – and excelling on the field as an All-American field hockey player at Duke— Amy Stopford joins EDCI as a PICE team member. She stays active by teaching yoga and fitness classes with Bull City Fit and supporting the Youth Leadership Council, Story Hour, and practically all of our other programs. Amy is a world traveler with experience as a consultant, an academic instructor, a field hockey coach, and a Mental Health and Telemedicine Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education. Following a Bachelor’s in Earth and Ocean Sciences and a Masters in Global Health from Duke University, Amy hopped over the pond to earn a Masters in Business Management from another Durham — Durham University in England. Amy served as a product consultant at Agent of Change – whose clients include the African Yoga Project and His Holiness The Dalai Lama — and later founded her own smoothie business, Nectar Juice and Smoothies. When she’s out of the office, Amy teaches cycling and strength courses with SYNCStudio, enjoys time with her dogs Tasha and Skyler, and watches sports (Go, Duke!).
Abigail Rackley, AmeriCorps VISTA, Co-coordinator of Middle School Youth Leadership Council
Abigail Rackley joined EDCI in fall 2018 as an AmeriCorps VISTA fellow. She is excited to co-direct our middle school Youth Leadership Council (Empower) and to consider the ways EDCI engages with its volunteers. A 2018 graduate from UNC Chapel Hill, Abigail studied History and Political Science with a minor in Philosophy. She was an active member of her UNC community, artfully balancing a position at UNC Campus Recreation with her leadership of the UNC Club Gymnastics team. Abigail is passionate about promoting discussion of mental and social-emotional health, and she hopes to pursue a Masters in Social Work. In her free time, Abigail daydreams of adopting rescue dogs.
Emily Jarrett , Johnson Service Corps Intern, Coordinator for Bull City Fit
Emily Jarrett is a Johnson Service Corps Intern and new to the EDCI community. On the Program Implementation and Community Engagement (PICE) team, Emily serves as Project Coordinator for Bull City Fit at W.D. Hill. An enthusiastic Carolina Basketball fan, she graduated with a degree in Global Studies and Anthropology with a minor in Creative Writing from UNC Chapel Hill in 2018. Emily is passionate about social and racial equity – and the role of education in attaining it. And she’s no stranger to summer programming, having planned and directed outdoor education summer camps at The Carolina Raptor Center prior to her time at EDCI. Outside of the office, Emily reads, writes, and travels – and she sings the praises of the Choral Society of Durham, as a new member.
Jamiece Hargrove, AmeriCorps VISTA, Co-coordinator of Middle School Youth Leadership Council
Jamiece Hargrove joins the EDCI community as co-director of our middle school Youth Leadership Council (Empower) and an AmeriCorps VISTA fellow. Having graduated with a Bachelor’s in Biology from North Carolina Central University, Jamiece is passionate about expanding access to preventative medicine and public health-related knowledge. Calling both Maryland and North Carolina home, Jamiece served as the president of the service-oriented DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia) organization at N.C. Central – in addition to being elected Miss Transfer Student, serving as treasurer of the Transfer Student Association, and being a member of the biology society. At EDCI, Jamiece is most excited about seeing students’ growth throughout the year. In her free time, Jamiece is a Marvel movie buff and loves watching baking TV shows and challenges.
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.
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.