MEET OUR STAFF
Glenda Bernhardt, Chief Executive Officer
Glenda Bernhardt joined the Freedom School Partners team as Chief Executive Officer in January of 2020. In her role, she leads the staff and works in partnership with a dedicated Board of Directors to create the vision and long term strategy for Freedom School Partners. Glenda strives to establish and build relationships with community stakeholders in order to develop support for Freedom School’s mission of promoting the long-term success of children by preventing summer learning loss through igniting a passion for reading and inspiring a love of learning. Glenda is passionate about delivering a high quality, equitable summer learning and enrichment experience that is accessible to children and families in our community.
Before joining Freedom School Partners, Glenda served as the Executive Director of Temple Israel in Charlotte, North Carolina for close to five years. Prior to becoming Executive Director at Temple Israel, Glenda was a non-profit development professional at Teen Health Connection and the Junior League of Charlotte, agencies dedicated to improving the health and lives of women, children and families in our community. Before this, she spent many years in Jewish communal service, working at multiple Jewish Federations and Hillels.
Glenda takes pride in being involved in the community and has served as a Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Levine Jewish Community Center and Chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte’s Community Relations Council. Glenda was selected as one of Charlotte’s 40 Under 40 (Class of 2016) by the Charlotte Business Journal in recognition of her professional and community leadership.
Glenda earned a Masters Degree in Social Work and Certificate in Jewish Communal Service and Judaic Studies from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Her undergraduate degree is a BA in Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology from Ohio Wesleyan University. Glenda is married to Brian Bernhardt and has three children: Jake, Jonah and Sophia. Her favorite childhood book is The Value of Believing in Yourself: The Story of Louis Pasteur by Dr. Spencer Johnson.
Jenna Harris, Marketing & Communications Manager
Jenna joined Freedom School Partners in July 2018.
In her role, she manages internal and external marketing and communication for Freedom School Partners. Some of her key responsibilities include digital marketing such as the website, email newsletters and social media; media relations and press releases; collateral marketing pieces such as the annual report and impact pieces; various duties managing and updating appeal letters and acknowledgement letters; and overall branding and messaging for Freedom School Partners.
Jenna graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Journalism, specializing in advertising and multimedia. She is a storyteller at heart and enjoys strategic communications through multiple mediums. She is also passionate about volunteering and earned a Congressional Gold Medal by completing over 400 hours in voluntary pubic service.
Jenna is pursing her MBA degree from East Carolina University’s College of Business and she serves as a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Action Committee at East Carolina University’s School of Business. In her free time, she enjoys yoga and exploring the food scene in Charlotte. Her favorite childhood book is Miss Mopp’s Lucky Day by Leslie McGuire.
Joshlyn Hill, Bookkeeper & Operations Manager
Joshlyn Hill joined Freedom School Partners as an intern in August 2015 and transitioned to the role as Bookkeeper in June 2017. She currently serves as Bookkeeper & Operations Manager, where she manages all financial accounts and administration.
Joshlyn is committed to her professional career in advocating financial literacy while actively pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with a concentration in Actuarial Science. As a Charlotte native, she has witnessed the promising upward mobility in the community and is proud to support the impact Freedom School Partners has on the youth.
Joshlyn is a proud mother to her son, Roman, and she loves spending time with him and her nieces and nephews. In her free time, she enjoys shopping and working out. Her favorite childhood book is the Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen.
Tommy Hudnall, Donor Systems & Volunteer Manager
Tommy Hudnall joined the Freedom School Partners team in January, 2018.
He has worked for not-for-profit organizations since 2006. Most recently, he was the Data Manager for Boston-based hunger-relief organization Project Bread – The Walk for Hunger, Inc. Prior to that, he held multiple positions at Aldersgate United Methodist Retirement Community in Charlotte, assisting with Marketing and Development initiatives (among other tasks!).
A native of Indian Land, SC, Tommy has a Bachelor of Science in Integrated Marketing Communication from Winthrop University and has a Master of Business Administration degree at Louisiana State University Shreveport. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, crafting (he knits, crochets, and quilts), playing the clarinet, cooking, and spending time with his husband, Jose, and two dogs. To really make his day, ask about Rocco the Wonder Pug! His favorite childhood book is Johnny Lion’s Rubber Boots by Edith Thacher Hurd.
Leah Jones, Scholars & Families Manager
Leah Jones joined Freedom School Partners in January 2019 and currently serves as the Scholars & Families Manager. In this role, she manages the functionality of Freedom School Partners’ scholar registration and strategy for family engagement. She is also responsible for supporting strategy development for high school students’ engagement, including, but not limited to the Freedom School Academy.
Leah is a servant leader passionate about promoting upward mobility and resource equity for our communities. She advocates for the youth, our future community leaders, and brings four years of experience in adolescence mentorship, academic coordinating, and educational nonprofit programming. She is proud to support the impact Freedom Schools are making on children.
Leah graduated with her bachelor degree in Psychology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and is now a candidate for master of Nonprofit Management and Leadership at Walden University. In her spare time, she enjoys bonding with family, cooking, reading and practicing art therapy. She is a proud mother to one daughter. Leah’s favorite childhood book is When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner.
Nikki Keith, Chief Strategy Officer
Nikki Keith joined the FSP team in 2016 and now serves as Chief Strategy Officer. With more than 20 years of fundraising and development experience, she began her career as a district executive with the Boys Scouts of America in Greenville, South Carolina. Scouting brought Nikki to Charlotte where she served for four years with the Mecklenburg County Council. Nikki has also held professional roles with the United Way of Central Carolinas, Elon Homes and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture.
Nikki is a member of the Rotary Club of Charlotte, the Charlotte Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and a former member of the Town of Matthews Cultural Diversity Committee. She is a graduate of Leadership Charlotte Class 38 and CBI’s LU 40 Class V.
Nikki received her undergraduate degree from Western Kentucky University (Go Tops!) and a Master of Business Administration from Wake Forest University.
Nikki lives in Matthews with her husband Shawn, son Collin and daughter Corrin. In her free time, Nikki enjoys reading and spending time with family. Her favorite childhood book is Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume.
Jonathan Russell, Director of Development
Jonathan Russell joined Freedom School Partners as the Director of Development in December 2020.
Jonathan was born and raised in Charlotte, NC. He graduated from Harding University High School and participated in the International Baccalaureate program. Jonathan received the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Scholarship, attended Appalachian State University and received a B.S. in History Secondary Education with a minor in Economics.
Prior to joining Freedom School Partners, Jonathan worked for various organizations in Charlotte. After college, he taught 10th grade Civics and Economics for one year at Bartlett-Yancey High School in Caswell County, and one year at West Mecklenburg High School in CMS.
Following teaching, Jonathan transitioned into development and worked for Mecklenburg County Council, Boy Scouts of America. During this time, he served as their Exploring Executive, facilitating their career education program, significantly growing their corporate partnerships, and making the Mecklenburg program the fastest growing program in the United States in 2012. Jonathan also served traditional Scouting programs, with responsibilities in volunteer management, fundraising, recruitment, and program. He also served as the Camp Director for the Boy Scouts, serving 1,600 youth and 400 adult volunteers, while managing a diverse staff of 60 seasonal employees.
Jonathan also served as the Relationship Manager for United Way of the Central Carolinas, managing the industry sectors of Accounting and Consulting, Manufacturing, and Utilities, where he served as the account manager for Duke Energy.
Jonathan and his wife Caitlin met in high school and have been married for eight years. His wife is an Academic Facilitator at Collinswood Language Academy and holds a master’s degree in Literacy Education from Queens University. They have twin five-year-old boys, Dylan and Parker, who are Kindergartners at Collinswood. In his free time, Jonathan enjoys spending time with his kids, reading history, and bowling.
Jonathan’s favorite childhood book is The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling.
Sally Sacco, Chief Administrative Officer
Sally Sacco joined Freedom School Partners in February 2013 and currently serves as the Chief Administrative Officer. In her role, she manages the financial, human resources and operations for Freedom School Partners.
Prior to joining Freedom School Partners, Sally worked for Carolinas Healthcare Systems (Atrium) as an accountant for five years before staying home with her children. During that time Sally served at her church as Chair of Vacation Bible School and Board Chair of the Weekday School. She also served as Chair of the Admissions committee for Providence Day School.
Sally graduated from Presbyterian College with a degree in Accounting and is a native of Charlotte. Sally is married to Brian and has two children, Carson and Connor, and a sweet dog, Hershey. In her free time she enjoys hiking and traveling with her family. Her favorite childhood book is Go Dog Go! By P.D. Eastman.
Necole Watts, Year Round Engagement & Outreach Coordinator
For over 23 years, Necole Watts has been shaping the lives of children. Through her work as a group home counselor and an advocate for children, there is no doubt that there are children who will become better adults as a result of their time spent with Ms. Watts.
As the third child of four, she is often described as a team player who loves being a part of the family whether at home or at work.
As school-year engagement coordinator, Necole continues to use her gifts to provide mentorship for children of all ages. She collaborates with community partners, supporting their involvement with scholars and their communities into the school year after Freedom School ends each summer.
Necole graduated from Pfeiffer University (formerly Pfeiffer College) with a degree in criminal justice and sociology. Her favorite childhood book is Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.
Tiffany Williams, Senior Program Director
Tiffany Williams began her work at Freedom School Partners in the summer of 2007 as a Servant Leader Intern. Since then she has served as an intern at both the Highland Renaissance and Avondale Freedom School sites, as well as worked in the Freedom School Afterschool program at Sedgefield Elementary. Tiffany was able to continue her work with Freedom School Partners in 2011 when she joined the Program Team as Program Assistant. She is now the Senior Program Director, responsible for the comprehensive leadership for multiple Freedom School sites around the city of Charlotte. She also sets the strategy for scholar registration and parent engagement. Her sincere passion for community building and working with families drives her work to help Freedom School Partners in its vision for a “Freedom School for every child who needs one.”
Tiffany graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a degree in Spanish with a concentration in Education. She also has extensive training in Human Development and Family Studies. She is fluent in Spanish and plays three musical instruments. Her favorite childhood book is Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.
Alexis Young, Enrichment & Technology Director
Alexis Young joined Freedom School Partners in February 2016. As the Enrichment & Technology Director, her main areas of focus are logistics and planning the afternoon activity portion of the day for scholars, managing and supporting the FSP Latrobe warehouse, and managing and supporting overall technology needs at Freedom School Partners.
Alexis also works closely with all teams internally at Freedom School Partners, seasonal staff, site partners and community members to ensure that the Freedom School Partners program is effective and fun for the scholars and accomplishes its mission.
Alexis graduated from Davidson College in spring 2015 with a Hispanic studies degree. In college, her best friend exposed her to Freedom School and Alexis would visit almost every day and build relationships with the kids. She was then inspired to tutor at the local community center, Ada Jenkins, where she kept up the relationships between the kids she met over the summer and during the school year.
Since June 2018, Alexis has been married to her husband who is also a native Carolinian. She is fluent in Spanish and English and loves to eat anything that is salty! Her favorite day of Freedom School is Jubilee and her favorite childhood book is a Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman.
Mary Nell McPherson, Founding Executive Director
From January 2000 – December 2019, Mary Nell McPherson served as the founding executive director of Freedom School Partners working toward their mission to engage, educate, and empower children to succeed in school and in life through quality, year-round educational enrichment programs.
McPherson has been a leader in Freedom School Partners’ growth from one site serving 100 children to seventeen sites serving 1,200 children.
McPherson has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 20 years. Her substantial history in nonprofit management includes serving as the director of operations for Habitat for Humanity in Charlotte and support specialist for Crisis Assistance Ministry.
McPherson also served on the Friendship Trays Board of Directors and has remained a Meals on Wheels driver for the past 20 years. McPherson also served on the Johnson YMCA Advisory Board for a short time in the early 1990’s. In October 2009, McPherson received Mecklenburg Ministries’ honorable Community Leader Award for ten years of service in the Charlotte community.
Due to the success of Freedom Schools in Charlotte, McPherson was appointed to the national Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Advisory Board in 2011. An ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), she believes that education and the knowledge of God’s love are the keys for children growing into their potential.
She graduated from Mary Baldwin College 1979 and moved to Charlotte, NC to work for then, Duke Power and made a move to the nonprofit sector in 1985 to work for Crisis Assistance Ministry. After 10 years she worked for Habitat for Humanity and was hired as the executive director of then, Seigle Avenue Partners in 1999.
Mary Nell is married to Kevin Strawn with whom she has two daughters, Mollie and Rosemarie. In her free time she enjoys practicing centering prayer and yoga. Her favorite childhood book is Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
MEET OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Frank Barnes, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Kate Flynn, The Lee Institute
Jim Gallagher, Community Volunteer
Sharon Goodwine, Wells Fargo
Jennifer Green, PNC Wealth Management
Andy Habenicht, TIAA
Tara Patterson Hammons, Community Volunteer
Mary-Margaret Kantor, Central Piedmont Community College
David Lamothe, Wells Fargo
Bill Lorenz, Bank of America
Anil Matai, Bank of America
Kimberly McMillan, Charlotte Regional Realtors Association
Geoffrey Mize (Chair), Ernst & Young
Laura Smith, Foundation For The Carolinas
Wendy Stockton, American Airlines, Retired
Derrick Thompson, Wells Fargo
Burnet Tucker, Community Volunteer
Juanita Wade, Community Volunteer
Denytra Whitner, Community Volunteer
Jim Williams, Williams Management Co., LLC
Kevin Wright (Vice- Chair), Wells Fargo
Angela Yochem, Novant Health