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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

David Reese, President and CEO of 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 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

Director of Programs & Partner Engagement, MSPH

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 services. Mary’s background includes several years of work and volunteer experience on 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 MSPH in 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.



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, CFED, 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 be. Amber lives in Durham with her miniature Dachshund, Diva, and enjoys exploring Durham’s many places to eat, and thrift shops in the area.


Cate Elander

Community Engagement Manager, MAPP

Formerly an EDCI bilingual parent advocate, Cate is currently EDCI’s community engagement manager. 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.


Tonya Post

Preschool Manager, MPA

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 them with confidence and comfort in a classroom setting as they head to kindergarten. Tonya has a master’s 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 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.

Pamela Hines

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 six 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.


Carla Fryling

Early Childhood Program Manager, MA

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 homelessness 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.

Avilamar Bastidas Castillo

Early Childhood Parent Advocate

Avilamar joined EDCI in January 2013 as Spanish-speaking early childhood parent advocate. Originally from Venezuela, Avilamar moved to North Carolina in 2000. She graduated from the University Santa María in 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) and English as a Second Language (ESL).


Denice M. Johnson

Parent Advocate

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.

Esther Mateo-Orr

Esther Mateo-Orr

Elementary Advocate Program, Manager

Esther manages the parent advocate program at the elementary school level, working with both English and Spanish-speaking families. Originally from Lawrence, MA, Esther earned a B.A. in American studies from Pine Manor College. Upon graduation, she earned an 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 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.


DeDreana Freeman

Community Outreach Coordinator

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.


Clifton Daye

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 NCCU with a bachelor’s 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 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 ambassador program.


Kristina Morris Heredia

Communications Coordinator

Kristina believes in the strength of communities to define their needs and bring about meaningful change. She seeks out opportunities to help tell the stories of the organizations, families, and individuals that make this transformation possible. From her time working in publishing, editing, and translation in Veracruz, Mexico, to her position as web editor at a natural family living magazine, to her years working to improve livelihoods for coffee-farming families in Latin America, she has witnessed all that a dedicated community can do to make our world just a little better. She is proud to be a part of the EDCI family.



Lauren Stephenson

Communications Coordinator

Lauren joined the EDCI family in July 2015. A Florida native, she received a B.A. in English from Wofford College and an M.A. in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College. She has edited ESL textbooks in Boston, taught English in Argentina, run a summer arts program for teens in the Dominican Republic, and done communications work for a number of nonprofits. Lauren is proud to work closely with children and families in East Durham and to call Durham her new home.


Levia Rodriguez Shepherd

GlaxoSmithKline Pulse Volunteer

Levia is currently a Service Excellence Consultant for the Human Resources organization at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). In that role, she has led change initiatives for the HR function focused on process improvement and standardization, implementation of key initiatives and improving the organization’s effectiveness. Levia’s 20+ years in HR have spanned across several disciplines including organizational development, recruitment, employee relations, and HR service delivery. She has a Bachelor of Science in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering from Cornell University and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is also a certified project manager (PMP-C) and certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. Levia has served on a variety of Durham-based nonprofit boards and committees for Durham Public School, including T.R.O.S. A. and most recently the Jordan High School PTSA. She was born and raised in New York City and is bilingual. While at EDCI, she will be in the role of organizational development consultant, and is tasked with helping the organization prepare itself for scalability and growth by reviewing and analyzing its strategic plan, program model, organizational structure, and internal operations. Levia is married to her college sweetheart and has an extended family, which includes her two children, niece, grandniece and dog and cat. In her spare time, she enjoys working out, dancing, attending her son’s baseball games, and arts and crafts.


Kendra Madding

Bilingual Parent Advocate

Kendra joined EDCI as a bilingual parent advocate in August 2015. She is originally from Lake Tahoe, CA, and attended UCLA for her bachelor’s in international development. After graduating from UCLA, she served as a Teach for America corps member in San Antonio, TX, where she taught second and third grade bilingual elementary school. She taught for three years before returning to school for a master’s in public health at UNC, Chapel Hill. Upon graduation, she searched for a position that combined her passions of public health, education, and community engagement. She is proud to work with the children and families of East Durham and be a part of the EDCI family.


LaDonna Brown

Bilingual Parent Advocate

LaDonna joined EDCI staff in August 2015 as a bilingual parent advocate, working with families at Y.E. Smith Elementary. Rooted in Jamaica, her parents immigrated to Michigan, where she grew up and served the homeless population alongside her parents, and from there 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. She looks forward to providing direct service through advocacy for families in East Durham.


Brie Dorsey

Parent Advocate Intern

Brie is originally from New Jersey but has lived in the Raleigh/Knightdale area for the last 16 years. She completed her undergraduate degree at Peace College in Raleigh, NC, with a BA in liberal arts and a minor in Spanish. As an undergraduate she participated in an alternative spring break trip to Louisiana to assist in the cleanup efforts after hurricane Katrina. She also participated in a study abroad program in 2011 to Granada, Spain. She completed an internship in 2014 with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle as an enrollment specialist. She is currently in the MSW program at North Carolina Central University with a focus on children and family. She hopes to become a school social worker when she graduates. She has a dog named Sophia Grace who she rescued from the Wake County Shelter five years ago. Her favorite thing to do when she has down time is visit local coffee shops.


Lauren Small

Parent Advocate Intern

Lauren joined EDCI as an elementary parent advocate intern in August 2015. She is originally from Brooklyn, New York, but has lived in Durham most of her life. She attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for her bachelor’s in psychology with a minor in sociology. While at UNC Charlotte she interned as a teaching assistant at James Martin Middle School working with intellectually challenged children. She is currently attending North Carolina Central University to get her master’s in social work with a focus on children and families.


Darryl Barnes

AmeriCorps VISTA Member

Darryl joins the EDCI team on assignment from the AmeriCorps Vista program. His primary role is outreach and community assessment coordinator. 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 has attended many of the story hour events and community outreach programs. Darryl and his wife have taken advantage of community wellness incentives, such as Zumba, and are currently active walkers on the Durham Healthy Mile Trail. He has around 15 years of experience helping urban youth from middle school to high school, mentoring young men, and coaching basketball. He is a long-time advocate for community outreach and urban revitalization.


Natalie Pickett

AmeriCorps VISTA Member

Natalie joined EDCI as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in August 2015. As VISTAs, she and Darryl are seeking to build the capacity of EDCI and to further strengthen the East Durham community by developing a new Saturday enrichment program. She is originally from Birmingham, AL, and recently graduated from Louisiana State University with a B.S. in child and family studies. She spent several summers in college doing outreach and advocacy in the homeless community in Nashville, and just finished a summer working with at-risk youth at the Outdoor Education Center in West Virginia. She loves hiking, live music, and college football, and is excited to call North Carolina her new home.



Ricky Leathers

Middle School Youth Advocate

Ricky joined EDCI as a middle school youth advocate in August 2015. He is originally from Roxboro, NC, and attended North Carolina A&T State University for his B.A. in journalism and mass communication, and the University of Phoenix for a master’s in business administration. After graduating from NC A&T he served as a recreation assistant supervisor with Durham Parks and Recreation where he worked within the Neighborhood Centers Division. After working with Durham Parks and Recreation, Ricky worked as a college access student coordinator for Person County Schools. Ricky has a passion for college access and student success and is proud to work with the children and families of East Durham and be a part of the EDCI family.



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.