North Carolina 2015 Fellows

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L. Brady Bender, Education Policy Analyst, Office of the Governor of North Carolina

Brady Bender is an Education Policy Analyst in the Office of the Governor of North Carolina. In this role, she focuses on policy development around standards and assessment, school performance grading, early education, and charter schools, among other topics, as well as managing the Education and Workforce Innovation Program and supporting North Carolina's Education Cabinet. Brady was a 2010 Teach For America corps member at Vance High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she served as Civics and Economics team leader and Wake Up student advocacy group advisor. While in the corps, she also participated in New Leaders' Emerging Leaders Program, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' Aspiring Leaders Program, and as a Leadership for Educational Equity Policy and Advocacy Summer Fellow. Brady earned her bachelor's degree from Yale University. 


Cody Benoit

	Cody	Benoit	I am a Pre-Medical student who recently finished his graduate schooling at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. Before joining the Pre-Health Graduate program, I attended Elon University, where I studied Psychology and Leadership. During my time at Elon University, I was a Leadership Fellow, and dedicated a majority of my time to giving back to the Center For Leadership. I served as the First-Year Fellows Director during my Freshmen-Sophomore year, where I helped select and mentored the Leadership Fellows Class of 2014. My Junior-Senior year, I had the honor of serving as the Leadership Fellows Director for the entire program. Due to my previous success with mentoring a younger class, I was asked to assist with another group and became the only Leadership Fellow to ever mentor two classes. My love of medicine started the summer of my Sophomore year, when I had the opportunity to serve as a Research Assistant at Johns Hopkins Hospital. I worked two summers for them, and traveled to Ghana for four months between those summers to study their culture and medical structure. Since graduating from Elon, I have returned to Ghana with the Global Medical Brigade, and look forward to getting involved with them once I am a licensed medical professional. I am now volunteering with the local Cape Fear Clinic, while I study for the entrance exam to Medical Schools in the U.S.



Dakota Cary, Vice-President of Government Relations, University of North Carolina Association of Student Governments

	Dakota	Cary	I was born in College Station, Texas and have lived in North Carolina since 2000. I attended and graduated for Lucy Ragsdale High School in Jamestown, NC. In fall 2012, I began attending UNC-Wilmington and will be graduating a year early in May, 2015. I can speak conversation Mandarin Chinese and plan to pursue a JD/MPP program after the 2016 campaign cycle.





Michael Cooper, Attorney , McElwee Firm, PLLC

Michael Cooper Jr. works for the McElwee Firm, PLLC in North Wilkesboro, NC. He is also a contributing writer to Creative Loafing Charlotte and Charlotte Magazine. In 2009, he was a New Leaders Fellow at the Center for Progressive Leadership and, after interning for the Office of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) on Capitol Hill, he worked as a Communications Associate for Hip Hop Caucus and later as the Volunteer Coordinator for a U.S. Senate campaign in North Carolina.


Carly Jones, Festival Coordinator, and Communications & Development Assistant, African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh & Wake County, and Arts Together

Carly Jones is an arts administrator and stage performer from Raleigh, North Carolina. Currently, she works with two non-profit arts organizations. She is the festival coordinator for the African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County, and the communications and development assistant at Arts Together, a multi-arts school. Carly is a strong believer in arts education and strives to make the arts more accessible to all people. She is a native of Raleigh where she served as class president for the majority of her years at Leesville Road High School, and also served as youth director for The Martin Luther King Resource Center. Carly received a music scholarship to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. There she graduated with degrees in vocal performance, black music history, and arts management. During college, Carly was actively involved in Miami University College Democrats, served as political chair of The Black Student Action Association, and performed regularly with Miami University Opera and Miami University Theater.

Since graduation, Carly has balanced a dual career as a professional stage actress/singer and as an arts administrator. She has done freelance arts management work with the Justice Theater Project, a local theater group that educates and initiates community discussions surrounding the theme of justice. She has also worked with the North Carolina Music Educator's Association. Carly performs with professional theaters and musical groups throughout the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, which gives her a unique perspective when working with arts organizations. Carly believes that the arts can be effectively used as a platform to educate the public about current cultural and political issues. These platforms can initiate conversations that are sometimes difficult, yet necessary for positive change in our society. Outside of the arts, she has been an active volunteer and organizer in a number of local political campaigns, and is passionate about many progressive issues such as education, equal rights, and social justice.


Wilson Lester, Outreach Coordinator, Central Carolina Community College

	Wilson	Lester	Wilson Lester is a higher education professional, residing in Greensboro, NC. He earned his bachelors in Business Administration from Greensboro College and Six Sigma certification from North Carolina A&T State University. For the past 2-years he has served as the secretary for the North Carolina Council for Educational Opportunity Programs. His career is focused on advancing first-generation veterans with the attainment of post-secondary education as Outreach Coordinator for Veterans Upward Bound (a TRiO Program, Dept. of Education). His role oversees initiatives throughout Chatham, Lee, Harnett, Wake and Johnston counties. His primary aim is to find and develop relationships with community and corporate partners to support, and fund educational goals for the veteran population in these communities. Wilson is a member of the Governor's Working Group on Veterans, Services Members and their Families, working with colleagues around the state of North Carolina to solve issues in the areas of employment, homelessness, education, and medical service access. He is the lead on Green Zone Training at Central Carolina Community College and is assisting various institutions in North Carolina with developing and implementing their own Green Zone Training, striving to make campuses more veteran friendly.

His career began as an entrepreneur cultivating events, product placement, and brand identities. During the fatigue of the economy in 2009, Wilson decided to explore how his prowess could apply to creating sustainable economies through education. With an entrepreneurial outlook, his pursuit is one of strategy and influence to discover the greatest yield benefiting those needing opportunities and entities looking to offer them. He is also an active member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.


Keischa Lovelace , Deputy Commissioner , N.C. Industrial Commission

Keischa Lovelace is currently a Deputy Commissioner with the N.C. Industrial Commission. A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, Ms. Lovelace is a honor graduate of the UNC School of Law. She graduated from N.C. State University magna cum laude as a N.C. Teaching Fellow and was the recipient of the Highest Academic Achievement in History Award. Ms. Lovelace is a former school teacher, law clerk to the Honorable James A. Wynn, Jr. and Robert C. Hunter, and N.C. Assistant Appellate Defender.


Charlotte Stewart, Veterans Pro Bono Coordinator, North Carolina Bar Association Foundation and Equal Access to Justice Foundation

Charlotte R. Stewart is a 2014 graduate of the UNC School of Law, where she performed over 500 hours of pro bono work serving the unmet legal needs of low-income North Carolinians. In addition to participating in the First Amendment Law Review and the Environmental Appellate Advocacy Moot Court team, she also represented students caught in the school to prison pipeline through UNC Law's Youth Justice Clinic. In collaboration with others, she worked to found the Student Bar AssociationÕs Multicultural and Diversity Committee, in order to provide students a forum for engaging pragmatically and immediately with day-to-day issues related to identity. For her integrity, responsibility, depth of character, leadership and dedication, she was inducted into the 2014 Class of the James B. and Carolyn Davis Society. In 2012, Ms. Stewart helped to found the Orange County Outreach Court, North Carolina's first problem-solving court designed to meet the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness. She continues to serve on the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness Leadership Team, working with diverse stakeholders on issues related to homelessness, affordable housing and re-entry. Ms. Stewart also serves on the Steering Committee of Full Circles Foundation, a transformative non-profit working on the combined issues of women's empowerment, environmental justice and economic opportunity.

Her passion for community engagement was kindled during her time in the North Carolina LiteracyCorps, an AmeriCorps State & National program administered by the Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education. As the ESOL AmeriCorps member at the Durham Literacy Council, Charlotte designed and piloted a combined literacy and ESOL program for refugee immigrants in the Durham area. She continues to volunteer with the DLC twice a year training new tutors on how to engage beginning learners of English. She currently coordinates the North Carolina Veterans Pro Bono Network, a statewide coalition of legal services providers, private attorneys, VA social workers and others to facilitate public-private partnerships that expand access to justice for veterans. Since receiving her law license in August of 2014, she has already performed fifty hours of pro bono service on projects addressing the school to prison pipeline, access to healthcare and voter suppression. In her spare time, she frequents small music venues across North Carolina to support her friends' artistic endeavors. If it's Monday, she might be sitting on the back bench of the Dialectic Society chamber, where students debate weighty matters under the wistful gaze of Thomas Wolfe.


Jamal Tate, Senior Work-Study, Queens University of Charlotte

Jamal Tate was born in the sunshine state of San Jose, California. He grew up in a single parent house hold with only his mother to raise him. Growing up, he moved numerous times, living in Houston, Texas, Las Vegas, Nevada, and ending up in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has experienced many hardships in life and statistically speaking should have been dead or in jail years ago. In high school, he never had a junior year, completed his senior exit project, or took the SAT. He has been expelled from school 3 times. He has been arrested on multiple occasions and charged with numerous felonies. His highest bond has been upwards of $80,000. The most severe crime he has been charged with is armed robbery and second degree kidnapping. However, his life was spared and God has allowed him to use his experiences to impact a generation. He is no Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi. He does not seek recognition for the works that he is doing. He states that he is a servant who has been charged with a mission to serve his community, and intends to dedicate his life to serving that community as long as he is breathing. He states that he "cannot allow the spirit of fear our doubt to inhibit his psyche." No matter what endeavors he is directed to pursue his desires will always outweigh his fears. He believes that life is what you make it and that you are in control of your destiny. He chose years ago to stop living a life mediocrity and instead pursue a culture of excellence. "No one can make the change for you, but his hopes are that you will be inspired and learn from his experiences." Jamal is currently a senior at Queens University of Charlotte where he majors in Organizational Communication and has a minor in business leadership. In addition Jamal founded the Communities in Colleges student organization, is the former treasurer of the Go Global student organization at Central Piedmont Community College, is the current Training Coordinator for the Royal Ambassador Program at Queens University of Charlotte, and is the current President of the Collegiate 100 Chapter at Queens. Jamal is also a public speaker and one days aspires to become a politician and target education reform.


Rebekah Whilden

Rebekah is North Carolina native that grew up in the mountains of Asheville. She graduated from Appalachian State University in 2012 with a Bachelors degree in Political Science. Throughout college Rebekah was very active in her sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi. She has been politically active and has served in her county's Young Democrats Chapter board and now serves as the Executive Vice President of the Young Democrats of North Carolina. In the past 24 months she has run two successful campaigns: one for Asheville City Council and another for Buncombe County Commission. She participated in a fellowship with New Organizing Institute where she collected peoples stories of climate impacts in WNC. Her mother was the third generation in my family to serve in the State House when she was elected in 2008 for District 116 and hearing that she won was one of Rebekah's proudest moments. She doesn't know what the future holds for her but she does know that she believes in her generations power to impact change for this county for the better.