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About EDCI


The staff at EDCI is a group of dedicated people, working hard to help the local community.

David Reese

David Reese

President and Chief Executive Officer, MBA
(919) 908-8709 ext. 101

David Reese, President and CEO of East Durham Children’s Initiative, brings more than 20 years of non-profit 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 co-chair of Partnership for a Healthy Durham, vice chair of Northeast Central Durham Leadership Council, and 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 advisory board, the Mayor of Durham’s Crime and Poverty Reduction Task Forces, and on 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’s degree in Business Administration.  He hails from the Bronx, NY and lives in Durham with his wife Iris and their three children.

Mary Mathew

Mary Mathew

Program Director, MSPH
(919) 908-8709 ext. 105

Mary manages EDCI’s program development and implementation with input from EDCI’s leadership team and key stakeholders.  Mary has ten years of experience in project management and coordination including case management, program evaluation and research both locally and internationally (Canada and Malawi).  She has her Masters of Science in Public Health from UNC-Chapel Hill in Maternal and Child Health, as well as clinical experience working with low income children and families as a school-based Occupational Therapist.  Mary is a Leadership Triangle Goodmon Fellow with a heart for helping all kids reach their full potential.


Cate Elander

Manager of Community Engagement, MAPP
(919) 699-6873

Formerly an EDCI Bilingual Parent Advocate, Cate is currently EDCI’s Manager of Community Engagement. She facilitates program recruitment, events and communication with stakeholders, including partners, community leaders and East Durham residents. With a Master’s degree in Urban Affairs and Public Policy, she has over five years of community development and outreach experience at grassroots organizations in Durham, Delaware and New York City.  Cate  is a member of Old East Durham Communities in Partnership and the Angier Avenue Neighborhood Farm CSA.

Denice Johnson

Denice M. Johnson

Parent Advocate
(919) 491-7136

Denice is an EDCI Parent Advocate working with parents with children at Y.E. Smith Elementary School.  Denice has a Bachelor of Arts in Education from NCCU.  She holds nearly 20 years of experience working with various Durham programs serving children and youth, including positions with Fast Track, Cooperative Extension Service, Durham Technical Community College and Head Start.  In addition to being a Parent Advocate, Denice continues to work as the Liaison Coordinator of six afterschool programs with the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership.


Amber Wade

Project Administrator
(919) 908-8709 ext. 102

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’s of Arts in Teaching. Her primary role is to support the administrative needs of EDCI. A former elementary school teacher, Amber is passionate about seeing students succeed and be the best citizens that they can be.

Esther Mateo-Orr

Esther Mateo-Orr

Parent Advocate

Esther is an EDCI Parent Advocate who works with both Latino and English-speaking families who have children at Y.E. Smith Elementary School. Originally from Lawrence, MA, Esther earned a B.A. in American Studies from Pine Manor College. Upon graduation, she earned a M.S. in Elementary Education from Alfred University. Ms. Mateo-Orr 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 in order to help them achieve greater overall academic success. In her work at EDCI, Esther has earned certification in HillRAP tutoring instruction and currently uses those skills to help children at Y.E. Smith Elementary to become better readers. She currently 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.


Carlyn Wright-Eakes

Parent Advocate Program Coordinator

Carlyn Wright-Eakes is a bilingual Parent Advocate at EDCI working with Spanish speaking families at Y.E. Smith Elementary. Carlyn was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Wesleyan University. Carlyn spent 3 and a half years working in a NGO in Guatemala City developing and coordinating a Creative Expression Program for at risk youth and families to strengthen self-esteem, leadership, confidence and responsibility. In addition, she taught workshops to students from kindergarten through high-school using art as a positive motivation for students to stay engaged in their education. Carlyn has also worked various summers as a counselor and coordinator at a camp and retreat center in Highlands, NC connecting youth with nature and a nurturing community. She is excited to be back in Durham and to be working with the families at Y.E. Smith.


Avilamar Bastidas Castillo

Community Ambassador

Avilamar joined EDCI in January 2013 as Spanish-speaking Community Ambassador. Originally from Venezuela, Avilamar moved to North Carolina in 2000. She graduated from University Santa Maria Caracas-Venezuela with a specialization in Labor Law from the School of Law. She began her career as Ad-Litem Judicial Consultant in labor disputes and also coordinated student engagement in the Venezuelan school system. Her background includes Latino outreach and General Education Development (GED)/English As a Second Languages(ESL).


Clifton Daye

Community Ambassador

Clifton Daye III comes to EDCI with local ties. Clifton is Durham native, and attended Holton Middle School (now know as Holton Career and Resource Center) in the EDCI Zone! Clifton graduated from NCCU with a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice, has taken some agency counseling courses in NCCU’s Agency Counseling Program and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree at Shaw University.  Clifton’s experience includes running a group home, conducting case management, mentoring, coaching and holds a wealth of experience and knowledge in networking. Clifton’s energetic manner embodies the “boots on the ground” spirit of EDCI’s Community Ambassador program.


DeDreana Freeman

Community Ambassador

DeDreana brings the community advocate perspective to the Community Ambassador position, seeking to identify parents and children to engage in EDCI. She uses her background in communication and community organizing to connect the organization to the people and the people to the organization. She has a background in information technology and training and Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) training. She graduated from Rutgers University, Douglass College with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications and Public Relations with an expertise in project management, gap analysis, client relationship management, and strategic planning. DeDreana is also a member of the East Durham community, and has several years of community organizing and outreach experience in Golden Belt’s Historic District.


Samantha Cole

Communications Coordinator
(804) 314-3109

Samantha creates sustainable messaging for the mission, goals and programming of East Durham Children’s Initiative. She is passionate about developing voices for causes and non-profit organizations. In her work, Samantha uses digital communication strategy to build and strengthen communities. Before joining the EDCI team, Samantha worked with organizations including the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and Arts & Health at Duke. Samantha completed graduate studies in art history at the University of Georgia and undergraduate studies at Hollins University. She is a proud resident of Durham, NC.

Ebonyse Mead

Ebonyse Mead

Early Childhood Parent Advocate, MA
(919) 841-7055

Ebonyse Mead works as EDCI’s Early Childhood Parent Advocate. Ebonyse is originally from Chicago, and has 12 years of experience working with families and young children ages birth to five in early childhood home visiting programs, including Healthy Families, Early Head Start and Parents as Teachers. Ebonyse has an extensive background working with young children and families in Chicago, IL, Charlotte, NC, and Dallas, TX. Ebonyse graduated with a BA in Political Science from the University of Illinois-Chicago. She completed a Master of Arts in Inner City Studies Education from Northeastern Illinois University and graduate with a Master of Arts in Human Service Counseling from Concordia University. She recently completed a graduate certificate in Infant Mental Health. Ebonyse is a Certified Family Life Educator through the National Council on Family Relations. She is currently pursuing the North Carolina Parent Educator credential. Ebonyse plans to incorporate her training in Infant Mental Heath in her role as Early Childhood Parent Advocate.

Pamela Hines

Pamela Hines

Parent Advocate Program Manager, MSW, LCSW

Pamela is passionate about enriching the lives of families through direct practice, advocacy, and education. She has 6 years of managerial and clinical experience along with 19 years of experience in victim advocacy, crisis intervention, education, and case management experience 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.

Mawiyah Patten

Mawiyah Patten

Parent Advocate, MSW

Born and raised in southern California, Mawiyah studied human biology and African studies at University of California – San Diego. She served on the staff of a San Diego church for 3 years, overseeing their local and international community partnerships and service initiatives. Mawiyah came to North Carolina to earn her master’s degree in social work from UNC Chapel Hill. She loves to talk with youth about gender, communication, and healthy relationships and is passionate about pushing back against systemic inequalities in health and education. Her desire is for youth and adults to see themselves as advocates and community leaders, actively shaping their positive futures.

Tonya Post

Program Coordinator, MPA

As EDCI’s Program Coordinator, Tonya assists the Program Director with evaluation of partner relationships and research on best practices. Tonya has a masters in 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 6 years. Tonya has experience working with low-income communities around hunger and health issues across 7 counties in central North Carolina. She served on the Partnership for a Healthy Durham’s Obesity and Chronic Illness subcommittee for 4 years.