Our Staff

John Begeny, Ph.D.

Founder and Executive Director

Why I started Helps Education Fund:

Educational inequities are far too prevalent around the world. Such inequities hinder individual and community empowerment and opportunities, and they foster systems of oppression and poverty.

Read more about John Begeny, Ph.D.

Jennie Copeland, MSW

Advancement Manager

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I am inspired by the impact Helps Education Fund makes in connecting parents and educators with high-quality, evidence-based resources. Building foundational learning skills is an essential piece in creating equity in schools and our communities.  I am grateful to join Helps Education Fund’s team and look forward to creating meaningful change together.

Read more about Jennie Copeland, MSW

Joy Alcantara Chuquiruna

HELPS Implementation Coach

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work at Helps Education Fund because I am passionate about educational equity and social justice work. I believe education should be a right and not a privilege and I want to be part of an organization that gets us closer to that reality.

Read more about Joy Alcantara Chuquiruna

LaDarian Eaton

HELPS Implementation Coach

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

 I joined Helps Education Fund to help bridge gaps in learning and education.

Read more about LaDarian Eaton

Felicia Fields-Turner

Project Coordinator, NC Triangle Region

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work at Helps Education Fund because the organization strives to diminish educational inequity by providing evidence-based practices. I am excited to continue to watch this organization grow and positively impact our community.

Read more about Felicia Fields-Turner

Jasmine Fuentes

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I joined Helps Education Fund because of their sole purpose of bridging the educational equity gaps that are seen in most schools.

Read more about Jasmine Fuentes

Pamela Gilchrist, MAEd., Ph.D.

Director of K-12 Programs

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

Growing up in a rural working class family of nine siblings, access to quality educational resources and supplemental academic learning opportunities were critical to my preparation as a first generation college student. I joined Helps Education Fund because its core mission, values, and day-to-day work are committed to dismantling barriers to equitable education and anti-racism through applied research and synergistic collaborations. 

Read more about Pamela Gilchrist, MAEd., Ph.D.

Emily Hall, MDiv.

Tutor Operations Manager

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

As a first-generation college graduate, I know firsthand the importance of an education in breaking generational cycles of poverty. I am happy to be a part of Helps Education Fund as we work to bridge gaps of educational inequity and change the systemic structures that disproportionately impact marginalized communities. 

Read more about Emily Hall, MDiv.

Gwen Hinton

Lead Trainer
Adult, Family, and Community Empowerment programs

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work at Helps Education Fund because it gives me the opportunity to promote and pair literacy and parenting skills to adults. I believe when adults receive an equitable education, they gain confidence to promote the importance of education to their children.

Read more about Gwen Hinton

Olivia Huckel

MSW Intern/HELPS Implementation Coach

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I joined Helps Education Fund because I recognize the intersectionality our identities have with educational attainment and how that can determine future success. I am inspired to work at the intersection of social justice and educational equity to provide a solid foundation for traditionally marginalized student populations and move toward closing achievement gaps.

Read more about Olivia Huckel

Ben Iuliano

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

After studying abroad in Spain and volunteering to help elementary students with their literacy skills, I realized the necessity for bridging both the language and equity gaps around the world, particularly for children. Through the promotion of educational equity and societal equality, Helps Education Fund works to ensure that children are given true opportunity, means, and encouragement necessary to harness their skills and grow in a supportive community.

Read more about Ben Iuliano

Lauren Joyce, Ph.D.

Project Manager, Guilford County
Quality Assurance Manager for HELPS Programming

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I joined Helps Education Fund to support the organization’s mission of providing free/low-cost research-based literacy resources to students and educators. I want to be a part of an organization that creates positive, meaningful change and work collaboratively with educators and other organizations to create opportunities for students to become successful readers.

Read more about Lauren Joyce, Ph.D.

Katherine Kitchen, M.Ed.

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I believe that all students must have the opportunity to own the unique freedom that successful reading provides. Helps Education Fund provides this opportunity by delivering research-based programs connecting community leaders, volunteers, educators, and parents with students in need of academic skill development. Connecting students with effective reading practices (such as HELPS) and with the self-confidence successful reading experiences inspire,
originally drew me to volunteer with Helps Education Fund in 2018. I am grateful to support and coach volunteers as they implement the HELPS program.

Read more about Katherine Kitchen, M.Ed.

Jenny Kim

HELPS Implementation Coach

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I believe that an equitable education is one of the most important foundations that build and shape a person’s life and is needed for students to reach their full potential, especially those who come from marginalized groups. Therefore, I strongly advocate for Helps Education Fund’s mission and commitment to enhance educational equity and to improve the educational outcomes for students. As someone coming from a Korean immigrant and ESL background, I wish I knew about or had a program like HELPS when I was in grade school.

Read more about Jenny Kim

Natasha Newson

Project Manager and Level 1 Research Associate

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I care deeply about addressing systemic barriers to quality education and supporting the kids who need it most.  As such, I firmly support Helps Education Fund’s mission of working toward educational equity through identifying evidence-based practices and interventions that are low-cost and feasible for teachers and/or parents to use.

Read more about Natasha Newson

Shannon O’Neal

Project Manager and Level 1 Research Associate

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work with Helps Education Fund because educational equity is a priority we share. By striving to provide programs and services to communities that are too often underfunded and overlooked, my work aligns with my belief systems and I’m able to make a difference for the kids who need it most.

Read more about Shannon O’Neal

Gia Paige

Sr. Project Director for HELPS Programming, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work at Helps Education Fund because of its dedication to promote educational equity for a more just society. Working at Helps Education Fund affords me the unique opportunity to align my personal and professional desires to advocate for educational equity; particularly for students who look like my sons and daughters, and others, who are marginalized because of their skin tone or ethnicity. 

Read more about Gia Paige

Halo Paul

Lead HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work for Helps Education Fund because I believe every child deserves a high-quality education. This organization strives to close the inequity gaps and provide better learning and life outcomes for students. I love the relationships I get to build with tutors and students as the students progress.

Read more about Halo Paul

Kim Perkins

Program Director, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

My time spent helping women who were survivors of human trafficking, and learning about the circumstances that led them to their current situations, reinforced my belief that education is the key to escaping the cycle of poverty that many disadvantaged communities fall victim to. At that point I realized I wanted to be proactive, rather than reactive, in fighting the problems Charlotte faces. I am so proud to be part of a team that not only works towards educational equity but also shows results in improving childhood literacy and is helping to break the cycle of poverty.

Read more about Kim Perkins

Janice Pidgeon, M.S.

Training Coordinator

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work for Helps Education Fund because I have experienced, through teaching and coaching, the HELPS programs’ success with helping young readers. I believe in its mission of educational equity. I have spent my career helping students from rural impoverished areas succeed, and Helps Education Fund provides a means to do so that’s researched based, effective, and free/low cost.

Read more about Janice Pidgeon, M.S.

Reem Salah

Business Operations Assistant

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

Growing up, I always found education important. I spent many years volunteering at a weekend school and taught biology for a couple of years. I respect Helps Education Fund’s aim to address educational inequity and am honored to work with them.

Read more about Reem Salah

Jesslyn Smith

Project Manager and Level 1 Research Associate

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

Coming from a low-income family, I’ve experienced the power that a quality education can bring to individuals and their families. Having witnessed the immense educational inequities that exist in our systems, I am proud to work with an organization that strives to bridge those barriers by bringing free/ low-cost evidence-based interventions to students, their caregivers, and their communities.

Read more about Jesslyn Smith

Susan Soques, CPA

Chief Financial Officer

Why I joined Helps Education Fund:

I am very fortunate to join a team that is genuinely dedicated to improving lives by promoting educational equity. It is an honor to work for an organization that utilizes their financial resources exceptionally well; and leverages resources through volunteer opportunities to help expand outreach in our communities.

Read more about Susan Soques, CPA

Haruna Suzuki, Ph.D.

Director of Adult, Family, and Community Empowerment programs
Assistant Director of Development

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I wanted to work for an organization that cares deeply about educational equity, community, and social justice.

Read more about Haruna Suzuki, Ph.D.

Laura Tucker, M.Ed.

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I choose to work at Helps Education Fund because I want all students to gain confidence and success as a reader. This organization creates a positive environment for children to thrive, grow, and close gaps in reading; which allows them to become successful life-long learners. I love that a community is built around celebrating reading success by tutors, students, teachers, and parents.

Read more about Laura Tucker, M.Ed.

Melissa Walker

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I am a former elementary teacher and literacy facilitator. I have seen first-hand that when students come into the classroom behind in reading, they struggle and are frustrated with learning. I was very excited to begin working with Helps Education Fund because it brings a research-validated and evidence-based approach to reading fluency, which is a critical life skill. I am also proud and honored to work with an organization that puts equity in education at the forefront of decision making. Helps Ed Fund advances educational equity by providing high-quality programs that advance children’s academic skills at low or no cost.

Read more about Melissa Walker

Jiayi Wang, M.S.

Project Manager and Level 2 Research Associate

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I would like to be part of a team that strives to address educational inequity and to empower students and families who are marginalized in society.

Read more about Jiayi Wang, M.S.

Bryanna Washington

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:
I joined HELPS because I love children. Working with children has been a joy of mine, and once I started, I couldn’t stop. I love watching first-hand the difference Helps Education Fund’s programs make for the students and families we support. Reading is such an important skill to have, and I want to do my part to continue helping students improve their reading fluency.

Read more about Bryanna Washington

Dalia Wimberly, M.Ed., MPP

Director of Operations

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

My passion lies at the intersection of educational equity and social justice. I am proud of the work that Helps Education Fund is doing to move the needle forward in these areas for traditionally marginalized and underserved populations. I am also motivated by the organization’s commitment to leveraging research-supported and evidence-based strategies in order to make a difference for students, educators, parents, and the community. 

Read more about Dalia Wimberly, M.Ed., MPP