David Reese, MBA, President and Chief Executive Officer
David Reese, MBA, is the President and CEO of the Durham Children’s Initiative (DCI). David has over 25 years of experience in non-profit operations and leadership development, with particular expertise in community development and aligning systems and partners to improve outcomes for families and children and youth. Throughout his career, David has been passionate about creating opportunities for low-wealth families and developing ecosystems in which families, children, and youth can thrive. He believes that complex issues such as poverty, health, social mobility, and food security require holistic, collective, and community-based solutions. David has led the Durham Children’s Initiative (DCI) through incredible growth since he joined the organization as its first (and only) President and CEO in 2010. Under his leadership, the Durham Children’s Initiative has raised nearly $15 million dollars in support of families and children in Durham, expanded from a team of 2 to 25 (with over 50 staff seasonally), and has served over 2,000 young people.
Nicky Charles, Chief Operating Officer
Nicky joined EDCI as Chief Operating Officer in October of 2016. In that role, she manages operations and human resource 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.
Suquey Castillo-Lopez, Bilingual Intake Coordinator, ESOL/ Story Hour Coordinator
Suhuey Castillo-Lopez joins us as a Bilingual Community Intake Coordinator. Certified in Spanish interpretation and translation, she has her Associate in Sciences and is currently enrolled at North Carolina Central University as a psychology major. 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.
DeDreana Freeman, Special Assistant to the President
DeDreana leads on special projects within the organization. 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 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.
Eboni Garvin, Administrative & Business Coordinator
Eboni Garvin joined the EDCI team in 2017 as the Administrative and Business Coordinator. She is responsible for organizing and handling the daily office operations of EDCI. 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.
Julie Wells, VP of Strategy
Julie comes to DCI after serving as the Executive Director of Partners for Youth Opportunity for 10 years. As a 26 year veteran in the non-profit field, Julie has worked as a consultant with the Durham Hosing Authority, public and charter schools and created Boomerang in Chapel Hill, NC- an alternative to suspension program that continues to serve youth and has been replicated. She is also the founder of UNITY Fellows-a non-profit leadership and sustainability effort to ensure equity and access to resources to smaller non-profits throughout Durham.
Collin McColskey-Leary, VP of Partnership, Evaluation and Development
Collin works to support the engagement and collaboration between partners serving youth and families in the EDCI Zone. 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.
Bonnie Delaune, Early Childhood Action Plan (ECAP) Program Manager
Bonnie manages the development of Durham’s Early Childhood Action Plan (ECAP) in collaboration with a broad range of multi-sector partners. She was formerly a public service strategy consultant leading projects with non-profit, state and local government, and education organizations. Bonnie holds a Master’s in Public Administration in Urban Policy from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Policy from Duke University. She cares deeply about community engagement and addressing racial and social disparities through participatory urban planning.
Tierra 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.
Aaron Johnson, Manager of Partner Engagement and Data
Aaron Johnson has called Durham home since 2016, and believes that Durham's future should belong to its young people. As DCI's Partner Engagement and Data Manager, Aaron is a research nerd who loves sorting through mountains of data in search of ways DCI's programs can be made more cutting edge. He's also a storyteller who is passionate about telling our young peoples' stories in ways that ensure they have all the assets they need to make Durham their own. Aaron holds a Masters in Theological Studies with Certificate in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies from Duke Divinity School.
Kevin Kay, Director of Academic Success
After serving 19 years in public education as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal - Kevin first joined the EDCI family in October 2018. Kevin analyzes and guides programming for EDCI scholars and he believes our role, as educators, is to help foster each student’s growth through personal discovery and new experiences. Kevin earned a Bachelor’s in English from Siena College, a Master’s in Education and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS) in School Administration from Eastern Nazarene College.
Rebecca Billings, Program Implementation and Community Engagement (PICE) Manager
When Rebecca first served at EDCI as an AmeriCorps VISTA. She now manages EDCI's programming team, planning and implementing out-of-school interventions like STEAM Saturdays, Summer Lunch, and the Youth Leadership Council (YLC). Through her work on programs, events, and community engagement initiatives at EDCI, Rebecca shows her passion for empowering youth to discover and achieve their own versions of success.
Carlton Koonce, Workforce Development Manager
Carlton Koonce is a North Carolina native, NCCU graduate and former journalist that has been working with Durham adolescents teaching workforce and financial skills since 2011. In addition to coaching soft skills needed for successful employment, his work revolves around helping youth figure out career paths by developing robust resumes, experiencing internships, professional networking, opening savings and checking accounts as well as visiting businesses and job sites across the Triangle.
Carla Fryling, Director of Family Engagement
Carla joined EDCI in April 2015. Carla has expertise in advocacy and prevention initiatives for children and youth, and extensive 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 MA in Clinical psychology from Edinboro University and a Bachelors degree from Pennsylvania State University, with post grad certifications in Marriage and Family Therapy and Coaching.
Ashley Keaton, Senior Advocate of Student Engagement
Ashley has a lot of love for the Durham community and a passion to facilitate change. She values connections, education and community engagement, all of which are an essential part of DCI. She is truly grateful to work for an organization that values collaborative efforts in order to best serve the needs of youth in Durham alongside a staff that is not afraid to lead.
Yuridiana (Judy) Alston, Senior Parent Advocate— Bilingual
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. She received her undergrad from UNC-Greensboro and currently working towards her MSW at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Lician Hernandez, Early Childhood bilingual family advocate
Lician is a Durham native with a decade of experience working in the early childhood field, working in different institutions and with several educational philosophies such as the Reggio Emilia approach and the Montessori method.
Darryl Barnes, Middle School Family Advocate
Darryl has 17 years of experience helping urban youth in middle and high school, mentoring young men, and coaching Basketball. Darryl is currently enrolled at Durham Tech and will be attending North Carolina Central university to achieve his bachelors degree in Behavioral Science. Darryl is dedicated to continue to work side-by-side with the students at Neal Middle School and is excited to continue to advocate for the families that he has garnered relationships with.
Julian Aaron, Middle Years Program Advocate—Bilingual
A native of Portland, Oregon, Julian Aaron joins EDCI as a bilingual Middle Years Program Advocate. Julian earned his Bachelor’s in English Literature and Spanish from the University of Oregon, and his Master's in Fine Arts at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Julian loves to live and travel abroad and he has been to over 40 countries.
Joshua Crump, Middle Years Advocate
Joshua Crump has been working in education for over 8s years, times spent at the college, high school, and elementary levels. Has spent the last few years being an education advocate to make sure all the student he comes in contact with have a bright and successful future. Joshua Crump believes that education is an universal key that fits all locks.
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. Katherin loves to build relationships and is very passionate about working with youth and their families!
Arssante Malone, Youth Program Advocate
Coming to EDCI at the start of 2020, Arssante joins us with over a decade of experience in education, mentoring, and community engagement. In addition to working as a teacher, Arssante has had the pleasure of traveling the world lecturing, serving as a principal, and establishing a non-profit organization for the academic, socio-emotional and professional well-being and development of Durham youth.
Daniel Okoniewski, Youth Health Project Coordinator
A Buffalo native, educator, and new father, Daniel Okoniewski joined EDCI as the Youth Health Project Coordinator in October 2018. A graduate from University of Massachusetts - Amherst, and later, North Carolina State University, Daniel has consistently found himself working with students in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham for the past 8 years.
Isabel Watkins, Program Implementation & Community Engagement (PICE) Assistant
Isabel Watkins helps plan and implement programs for youth, including STEAM Saturdays and Youth Leadership Council. Originally from Louisville, Isabel attended the University of Kentucky, where her studies fostered a passion for youth empowerment and social justice.
Daniela Rangel, Program Implementation & Community Engagement (PICE) Assistant
Daniela Rangel helps plan and implement programs for youth, including STEAM Saturdays and Youth Leadership Council. She is a recent graduate from UNC Chapel Hill and hopes her experience at EDCI will provide her with the right tools and professional insight to continue to further her career in the nonprofit sector.
Megan Pender, EDCI/LEAP Academy Preschool Manager
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.
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).
Perla Sanchez Soto, Lead Teacher - Bilingual
Perla was born and raised here in Durham. She graduated from Southern High School, and comes to us with three years’ experience in Early Childhood while working with three and four year olds.
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.
Siama (Miss SiSi) 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.