Our Staff

Kristal Badgett-Valcin, M.Ed.

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

Unfortunately, so many of our youth are not afforded the same academic opportunities, thus leaving them lacking the necessary skills needed to be successful in the world.  Helps Education Fund is an organization that believes in educational equity and encourages the support of the community while strengthening our youth academically. I get to be a part of dismantling some of the disparities while witnessing the growth of our youth. 

Read more about Kristal Badgett-Valcin, M.Ed.

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.

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

Erica Hobbs, M.A.

Project Manager and Level 2 Research Associate

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

Growing up, I was actively engaged in serving the children and youth in my Atlanta community both academically and socially. My early exposure to serving communities in need led to my strong passion for educational equity and systems-level service delivery, which Helps Education Fund aims to enhance in various school communities. As a former teacher, I saw how critical school-community partnerships can be in enhancing the outcomes of our children and youth and Helps Ed Fund allows me to continue working in expanding those partnerships.

Read more about Erica Hobbs, M.A.

Shelleah Jackson, M.S.Ed.

Tutor Manager, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

Helps Education Fund is an organization genuinely working towards closing the inequity gaps in education while sticking true to its values—day in and day out.

Read more about Shelleah Jackson, M.S.Ed.

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.

Natasha Kalra

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 Kalra

Finn Katz

Accountant/HR Specialist

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work at Helps Education Fund to facilitate/manifest a community that values equity of opportunity, driven by an understanding that the viability and fertility of our future is based on a present day investment in the capacities of the minds of tomorrow.

Read more about Finn Katz

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.

Maggie Kruger, M.A.

Assistant Project Manager, Guilford County

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

My experience as an educator made it clear that reading is an essential tool in learning and growing. Helps Education Fund provides an essential supplemental support to the students who need it most. I know that by being a part of the Helps Education Fund team, I am contributing to increasing achievement for all students. 

Read more about Maggie Kruger, M.A.

Niiya McKenzie-Walker

Project Manager and Level 1 Research Associate

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work with HELPS Education Fund because I truly believe that children are the future. I want to assist in creating more educational equity amongst students. As a teenager, my mother started an after-school and summer camp program. I tutored and supported children from all walks of life. Reading assistance was an important part of our mission and Helps Ed Fund allows me to continue beyond that mission.

Read more about Niiya McKenzie-Walker

Helen Oluokun

Project Manager and Level 1 Research Associate

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

Working with Helps Education Fund gives me the opportunity to interact with families that share the same background and identities as me. In doing that, I am able to watch students thrive and receive the additional support that they deserve. It is a privilege to be part of an organization that actively strives for educational equity.

Read more about Helen Oluokun

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

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. I’m excited to be a part of this dynamic organization.

Read more about Janice Pidgeon, M.S.

Renaé Powell

Director of Communications

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

Both my parents are teachers, so the value and importance of education has been instilled in me from an early age. Unfortunately, there is inequity in education. I know from personal experience that access to resources, or the lack thereof, has a huge impact on options available to you. I want to ensure that students have access to the resources and opportunities that will allow them to improve their lives.

Read more about Renaé Powell

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

Haruna Suzuki, M.A.

Program Director, Motheread & PASTEL
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, M.A.

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.

Stephanie White

Tutor Manager, Chatham County

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I can improve communities through volunteer engagement and helping kids be better readers.

Read more about Stephanie White