NC Child Board of Directors

Carl Rist

Board Chair

Prosperity Now
Executive Director????????????????????????????????????

Mr. Rist serves as executive director of the 1:1 fund for the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). In that capacity, he has been instrumental in the organization’s work to develop, test, support, and expand creative approaches to creating economic opportunity for Americans everywhere. A graduate of Davidson, Mr. Rist has also served for the past six years as the director of CFED’s Saving for Education, Entrepreneurship, and Downpayment initiative, bringing innovative matched-savings programs to children and youth in low-income families. He received a master’s degree in public policy at Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University.

Elaine Mejia

Vice Chair


Public Works: The Center for the Public Sector
Senior Program Associate

Ms. Mejia serves as the senior program associate with Public Works: The Center for the Public Sector, an organization whose mission is to build public will for the common good. Ms. Mejia collaborates with a wide variety of nonprofit organizations and public leaders around the country, helping them to communicate the role of government in society effectively.

Prior to joining the team at Public Works in 2010, she served as the director of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center, a state-level policy research and advocacy organization. During her time with the NC Budget and Tax Center, she contributed to several successful policy campaigns including initiatives to raise state taxes to address budget shortfalls, enact a state Earned Income Tax Credit, and raise the state minimum wage. She holds a master’s of public administration from UNC-Chapel Hill and a bachelor’s of science in political science from Texas A&M University.

Ms. Mejia lives in the town of Faison, NC, where she and her husband have restored two historic homes and are raising their two young sons.

Deborah Clarke

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Consultant to the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provostd. clarke
Chapel Hill

Dr. Deborah Clarke works at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a special consultant to the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost. She has extensive experience in student affairs, academic administration and project management. Most recently she has been engaged with University initiatives related to undergraduate advising and student retention, and the intersection of college athletics and academics. She helped launch the inaugural MBA@UNC cohort and is the former Director of the full-time Masters of Business Administration Program at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. She also served as Director of Student Services at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing and was a House Dean and Fellow in UPenn’s College Houses and Academic Services. She worked in Bank of America’s (formerly NationsBank) Management Associate Program, a rotational management training program. Clarke is passionate about issues related to children and families in North Carolina. She holds a BA in History from Wake Forest University, a Masters of Education in Higher Education Administration from Vanderbilt University, and earned her Doctorate in Higher  Education Administration from the University of Pennsylvania. She enjoys reading, hiking, yoga and spending time with her family. She lives in Raleigh with her husband, Walt, and their two middle school children, Emma Kate and Redding.

Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, MD

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hillkathleen-clarke-pearson-head-shot

Dr. Clarke-Pearson is a pediatrician at University Pediatrics at Chapel Hill North and at Sandhills Pediatrics in Southern Pines, NC. Dr. Clarke-Pearson received her medical degree from UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine and did her residency in pediatrics at Duke University Hospital in Durham. She volunteers as the NC Pediatric Society’s legislative liaison and has won awards from the NC Pediatrics Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics for her work to educate parents and pediatricians on the importance of limiting TV watching by children.

Jill Cox

Immediate Past Board Chair

Communities In Schools of North Carolina
Vice President, Communicationsjill-cox-head-shot

Ms. Cox is the vice president of communications for Communities In Schools of North Carolina. In her 20 years of experience as a public relations and government relations professional, she has managed a wide array of programs and projects in both nonprofit and government organizations to improve the consistency of message delivery and influence policy in both the NC General Assembly and the U.S. Congress.

During her professional career, Ms. Cox has worked for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, the NC State Government, the United Way, and Communities In Schools. She continues to lead statewide marketing collaboratives, develop public policy, and create community outreach and grassroots advocacy programs.

Brandy Bynum Dawson

Rural Forward NC
Associate Director

Ms. Bynum joined Rural Forward NC as Associate Director in September 2014. In her role, she works with the Director and program staff to manage, plan, organize, and direct daily capacity building services. Specifically, Ms. Bynum provides technical assistance, coaching, facilitation, resource management and support of community initiatives in rural central and eastern North Carolina. Her skills include program evaluation, organizational development, project and change management support, and other relevant expertise to communities.

Previously, Ms. Bynum served as the Director of Policy and Outreach at NC Child for over twelve years. She has been active in the nonprofit community for more than ten years as a professional, volunteer, and board member to improve outcomes for children and families. Ms. Bynum has experience providing community development services to agencies, communities, and coalitions in the areas of civic engagement, action planning, results-based facilitation, program implementation and organizational collaboration.

Leslie Gregory English


Cisco Systems
Business Analyst Talent Acquisitionsleslie-gregory-english-head-shot

Ms. English is a Business Analyst at Cisco Systems, supporting the Talent Acquisition group by providing current hiring and operational data to leadership. Before that, she was the Financial Analyst for the North Carolina Partnership for Children (NCPC), providing county-level data on the unmet needs of NC’s young children, calculating funding allocations of state funds, and managing annual budgets. Ms. English has also provided operational support for NC Early Childhood Foundation.

Ms. English received a bachelor’s degree in analytical finance and accounting from Wake Forest University.

Diane Evia-Lanevi


The Tomorrow Fund for Hispanic Students

Diane’s interests include Latino education after she began volunteering at an independent school for middle-school boys from under-served backgrounds. She and her family moved to Durham, North Carolina, more than a decade ago. She serves on several nonprofit boards, and she has been recognized as a national HipGiver 2015 by Hispanics In Philanthropy as well as a “Leader in Diversity” by the Triangle Business Journal.

In 2009, Diane created, and fundraises for, The Tomorrow Fund for Hispanic Students. The mission of the scholarship fund is to provide gap funding for lower-income, first-generation Latino college students in North Carolina. The Fund has awarded more than $670,000. The Fund was recently recognized for their work by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Sara P. Huddleston

Johnson Lambert LLP
Director of Human Resources

Ms. Huddleston, director of human resources at Johnson Lambert LLP in Raleigh, NC, has joined the Board of Directors of NC Child for the 2013–14 term. In her work role, she provides human resources leadership and support for the firm’s eight offices, oversees firmwide recruitment and talent management, and researches industry trends for benchmarking and policy development.

A graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, Ms. Huddleston earned both a master’s of education degree with a concentration in human resource development and a bachelor’s of art in communication studies and German. She serves on the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors and is also a member of the Junior League of Raleigh.

Ricky Hurtadoricky hurtado

Executive Director
NC Scholars Latino Initiative of UNC

Ricky Hurtado is the executive director of the Scholars’ Latino Initiative In this capacity, he works toward expanding equitable access to higher education for Latino students across North Carolina. Hurtado’s work focuses on advancing social and economic equity by applying a critical understanding of race, place, class and gender. Throughout his personal and professional experiences, Ricky has worked to find the intersection of immigrant rights and racial justice issues in an effort to unite communities and mobilize support for programs and policies advancing equity. Before joining SLI, Ricky worked with PolicyLink, supporting their work with the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color and the Obama administration’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. Prior to graduate school, he worked as a consultant at Frontline Solutions, helping nonprofits and foundations enhance their impact. He has also worked with LearnFresh’s NBA Math Hoops education program and the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Policy Planning and Coordination. Ricky earned his Bachelor of Science with honors in business administration at the University of North Carolina and a master’s in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

Becky Johnson

Lisbon Ventures

Becky’s lifelong education career began with a first job as a teacher’s assistant in a Head Start program in Sampson County. Subsequent positions have included work in public schools in Virginia and North Carolina, the NC community college system, the Department of Public Instruction, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Division of Child Development– primarily with programs for young children at risk, literacy and teacher support, providing direct services as well as policy work. Ms. Johnson holds degrees from Duke University and the University of Virginia. Current board affiliations include Kids Voting NC, interim chairperson; Carolina Ballet, chair of education committee; and NC State Board of Opticians, public member.

Allison Jordan

Children First/Communities In Schools of Buncombe County
Executive Director

Ms. Jordan has served the Asheville community both professionally and personally since 1997. Professionally, she has been committed to improving the lives of children and their families via both advocacy and direct service work through her leadership positions at Children First/Communities In Schools where she has served as the executive director for the past eight years. Children First/Communities In Schools is a not-for-profit organization advocating for Buncombe County’s children while providing innovative programs for vulnerable children and engaging the community in creating a better future for all children.

Ms. Jordan is also active in the community, having served on the Board of Directors of the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, the Buncombe County Smart Start Board of Directors, the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, and the Gang Violence Prevention Project. Previously, she served with the Asheville City Schools Board of Education, NC School Boards Association, the Bele Chere Festival, the Junior League of Asheville, the Asheville Day Nursery, and the Red Cross Disaster Action Team and volunteered with the Mediation Center. She also completed Leadership Asheville 20 and won UNC-Asheville’s Francine Delaney Service to the Community Alumni Award in 2012,  the Kennon Roberson Award for Nonprofit Management Excellence in 2012, and the Leadership Asheville Community Trustee Award in 2013.

She holds a master’s of science in community leadership from Duquesne University and a bachelor’s of art in psychology from UNC-Asheville.

Chris Kukla

Center for Responsible Lendingchris-kukla-head-shot
Senior Counsel for Government Affairs

Mr. Kukla has been with the Center for Responsible Lending since 2002 and is the senior counsel for government affairs. Mr. Kukla also works with lawmakers and advocates in other states on consumer lending legislation. He received his law degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School and his BA with honors from Alma College in Alma, MI. Prior to joining the Center for Responsible Lending, Chris worked for five years on Capitol Hill, most recently as the appropriations associate and counsel to U.S. Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York.

Shannon Leskin

Organizational Development Consultant

More information to come.


Deborah Dicks-Maxwell

Brunswick County Health Department
Social Work Supervisordeborah-dicks-maxwell-head-shot

Ms. Dicks Maxwell is the current President of the New Hanover County NAACP and District Director for the Walter B. White District of North Carolina NAACP. The District covers Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, Onslow and Pender County. The North Carolina NAACP recognized her as District Director of the Year in 2015.

Ms. Dicks Maxwell is employed as a Public Health Social Worker at Brunswick County Health Services. Public health has been her passion and career for the past twenty years. The North Carolina Public Health Association named her Public Health Social Worker of the Year in 2009. She was awarded a health Disparities Fellowship for 2010-2012 from the NC Wellness Trust Fund and Duke University Global Institute. She is also an Army veteran having served in Operation Desert Storm and past commander of the Wilmington National Association of Black Veterans.

Peter Morris, MDpeter-morris-head-shot

Urban Ministries of Wake County
Executive Director

Dr. Morris serves as the executive director of Urban Ministries of Wake County. He is the past president of the NC Pediatric Society and is currently the president of the NC Pediatric Society Foundation. Dr. Morris received his bachelor’s degree cum laude from Georgetown University and a master’s of public health and medical degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. He also holds a master’s of divinity degree from Duke University. Dr. Morris serves as chairman of the Board of Directors of El Pueblo and has served as chair of the NC Farmworker Health Alliance.

Sarah Preston

Lilian’s List
Executive Directorsaraspreston-head-shot

Ms. Preston has been with the ACLU-NC since 2006, directing that organization’s statewide legislative and policy program.After receiving her bachelor’s degree cum laude from St. Catherine University in Minnesota, she attended Drake University Law School in Des Moines, IA, receiving her law degree with certificates in constitutional law and civil rights and legislative practice.

Ms. Preston has been admitted to both the Iowa and North Carolina Bars and sits on a number of state boards, including ones for North Carolina Citizens for Justice and the North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Kimberly Suarez Kim Suarez Headshot

Teach for America
Managing Director of Development

Kim was born and raised in Eastern North Carolina until she left to go to the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1999 and lived in seven states around the country before returning to make Eastern North Carolina her permanent home. Kim brings with her a wealth of knowledge in the field of Fundraising and Business Development. She joined Teach For America in December 2016 where she aids in the work of providing opportunities for the children of the communities that helped to mold her. Prior to her current role, she has worked in Fundraising for Durham Nativity School and the American Heart Association. She also worked in the pharmaceutical sector for Pfizer Inc. as a territory manager in Atlanta, GA. Kim now resides in Wake Forest, NC with her family where she enjoys cooking and reading.