NC Child Board of Directors

Carl RistRistC-0413

Board Chair

Prosperity Now
Senior Director for Children’s Savings and a Senior Advisor for Asset Building

Mr. Rist has spent over 20 years at Prosperity Now (formerly the Corporation for Enterprise Development) working on a variety of strategies to expand economic opportunity and help lower-income households build wealth. Presently, Mr. Rist is the Senior Director for Children’s Savings and a Senior Advisor for Asset Building. In this capacity, Mr. Rist directs Prosperity Now efforts—including field building, public policy advocacy and consulting services—to ensure that more than a million low-income children have access to Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs). Previously, Mr. Rist launched and directed the 1:1 Fund, an online fundraising and marketing tool that makes it easy for CSA programs to raise matching funds from individual donors, large and small, thereby enabling these donors to match the contributions of young savers in CSAs.  He is a graduate of Davidson College and received a master’s degree in public policy at the Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University.


Ricky Hurtado

ricky hurtado

NC Scholars Latino Initiative of UNC
Executive Director

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.


Deborah Clarke D Clarke

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Consultant to the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Chapel Hill

Dr. Deborah Clarke works at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a 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 has spent the last 2 decades speaking on the issues of screen time and its impact (both negative and positive) on children and families, all guided by policy statements issued from the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is currently involved in a number of child advocacy efforts on the state level through the NCPS and NC Child including immigration and paid family leave.  Dr. Clarke-Pearson serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Federal Government Affairs which works closely with AAP federal lobbyists to advance children’s policies on Capitol Hill.  She is on the Advisory Board of the newly formed Children’s Screen Time Action Network, a branch of the Center for Commercial Free Childhood.  She and her husband of 45 years have 3 grown children and 3 grandchildren.


Jill Cox

Immediate Past Board Chair

Communities In Schools of North Carolina
Chief Operating Officerjill-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.


Leslie Gregory English


Cisco Systems
Operations Managerleslie-gregory-english-head-shot

Ms. English is an Operations Manager at Cisco Systems, supporting the Talent Acquisition senior leadership team with budget management, policy governance, data analysis and strategy implementation. 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.



Coastal Horizons Center, Inc.
Treatment Operations Director

Ryan Estes, LCSW, LCAS, CCS is the Treatment Operations Director for Coastal Horizons Center, Inc. Coastal Horizons Center is a comprehensive mental health provider headquartered in Wilmington with an annual operating budget nearing 35 million. Ryan received his BA in Psychology and Philosophy from Wake Forest University and his MSW from University of North Carolina at Chapel. Ryan has been in the field for over fifteen years as a clinician and director.  Ryan holds licenses in North Carolina as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist. Additionally, he is a Certified Clinical Supervisor with the NC Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board.  He is part of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers, a rostered Trauma Focused CBT clinician, and a national Protective Factors trainer. Ryan has written over 5 million in successful federal and state grants, and transitioned these programs to diversified sustainable funding creating a more comprehensive array of child mental health services in the greater Wilmington area. His current work is focused on program development, fiscal and policy oversight, as well as clinical and administrative consultation. Ryan serves on the National Family Preservation Network board and is the former state president for the National Association of Social Workers – North Carolina. Ryan is a part-time adjunct faculty member for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in the College of Health and Human Services.


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 $1,000.00 in scholarships. The final funds will be awarded in 2021. The Fund was recently recognized for their work by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.


Sara P. Huddleston Sara Huddleston headshot

Johnson Lambert LLP
Director of Human Resources

Ms. Huddleston is the Director of Human Resources at Johnson Lambert LLP, a CPA and consulting firm serving a nationwide client base.  She is responsible for all aspects of the firm’s HR, with a particular focus on the development and implementation of the firm’s HR vision and strategy.  She holds a Master’s of Education with a concentration in human resource development, and a Bachelors of Arts in communication studies and German, both from Vanderbilt University. Ms. Huddleston is currently pursuing her Professional Coaching Certification at North Carolina State University.  She is a volunteer with SAFEChild and the Junior League of Raleigh, and teaches Sunday School at White Memorial Presbyterian Church.  In her spare time Ms. Huddleston enjoys traveling to remote places, most recently for a camping expedition in Iceland with her husband and two young children.


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 Carolina Ballet, chair of education committee.


Allison Jordan Allison Jordan

Communities In Schools of North Carolina
Director of Network Relations and Reaccreditation

Ms. Jordan has served the Asheville community both professionally and personally since 1997. Ms. Jordan is currently an Executive Coach with Communities In Schools of North Carolina. Prior to this, she spent eleven years as the Executive Director of Children First/Communities In Schools of Buncombe County. 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, the Asheville City Schools Board of Education, NC School Boards Association, the Bele Chere Festival, the Junior League of Asheville,  and the Asheville Day Nursery.

She is a graduate of Leadership Asheville 20 and the recipient of 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 and the Woman Nonprofit Leader of the Year award in 2017.

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

When not advocating for children or supporting Executive Directors, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking and yoga.


Chris Kukla

State Innovation Exchange (SiX)chris-kukla-head-shot
North Carolina State Director

Mr. Kukla is North Carolina State Director for State Innovation Exchange (SiX), a non-profit national resource and strategy center that supports state legislators in advancing and defending progressive policies across the country. He received his law degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School and his BA with honors from Alma College. Prior to joining SiX, he served as Executive Vice President at the Center for Responsible Lending and as an aide in the US House of Representatives.


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.


Elaine Mejia


Senior Communications Specialist
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

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.


Sarah Preston

Lilian’s List
Executive Directorsaraspreston-head-shot

Sarah Preston joined Lillian’s List after almost a decade as the Policy Director at the American Civil Liberties Union of NC, where she acted as the primary lobbyist and policy expert for the organization.  She has experience advocating and working with policy-makers at the state and local level on a variety of social justice and legal issues.  Sarah is barred to practice law in both Iowa and North Carolina.


Anna Boyle Roberts anna roberts

Anna Roberts has more than 15 years experience in the Public Relations, government relations and public affairs sector – primary in North Carolina – including as the communications director for the NC House in 2014 and most recently as the communications director for the successful Marsy’s Law for NC victims’ rights amendment campaign – that earned 62 percent of the statewide vote on November 6.

Anna has served as a communications consultant for dozens of nonprofit and private sector clients in recent years including the Golden LEAF Foundation as well as clients that have policy-related issues in a range of sectors including law enforcement, education, economic development, healthcare and agriculture among many others.  She lives in Raleigh with her husband and three children who attend Wake County schools.


Kimberly Suarez Kim Suarez Headshot

Durham Nativity School
Director of Development
Wake Forest

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.


Jesse Thomas 

CEO of Healthy Blue
Vice President of Medicaid Segment at Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC

Jesse leads BCBS of NC’s Medicaid plan, providing overall strategic leadership to operationalize the new health plan in 2019.  He serves as executive liaison between state regulators, legislators, community-based agencies and other stakeholders.  Jesse has extensive leadership experience in Medicaid MCOs. Prior to joining Blue Cross North Carolina, he served as CEO of Trusted Health Plans Inc. in Michigan and CEO of Coordinated Health Mutual in Ohio.  He has also had Executive leadership roles with Molina, Wellcare, and United Healthcare. Jesse served as the Health Policy Advisor for Rick Snyder for Governor in 2010.  The first of his family to finish college, Jesse was born in Mississippi and lives in Cary with his family.  


Brandon Coleman

More information to come.


Meg Wiehe

More information to come.