Programs and Campaigns

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National and Regional Staff

Ms. Ruby W. Bridges
Senior Administrative Assistant

Ms. Ruby W. Bridges is the Senior Administrative Assistant at the CDF Marlboro County office in Bennettsville, South Carolina. She began working with the Children’s Defense Fund in May 2010. Ruby has a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education from Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa and is currently pursuing a Masters of Education in Reading Literacy. From a young age Ruby began working with children and realized children would be the focus of her life. She is overjoyed to have the opportunity to advocate for children through the Children’s Defense Fund. She currently resides in Bennettsville, South Carolina.

Ms. Janet Canada
Constituent Relations and Database Assistant

Ms. Janet Canada is the Constituent Relations and Database Assistant for the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program. She brings 20 years of experience working as a database and quality assurance specialist tracking and monitoring information to the CDF Freedom Schools department. Before coming to CDF, Janet worked for companies such as Fannie Mae, Home Funds Direct and Mortgage Dynamics. She is very active in her church and community and is currently a Trustee and Audio Visual Assistant at New Birth Christian Church. Janet has been with CDF since 2006 and has worked in various roles with responsibilities to assist in the vision and mission of CDF.

Ms. Leslie Carpenter
Senior Outreach and Development Coordinator

Ms. Leslie Carpenter is the Senior Outreach and Development Coordinator of the CDF Freedom Schools® program. She is a graduate of Davenport University in Kalamazoo, Michigan with a degree in business administration. Leslie brings 20 years plus experience in working with youth training and development, management, development/fundraising, and program development to the CDF Freedom Schools department. She has established non-profit organizations globally; planned and coordinated events and fundraisers worldwide; and has been instrumental in creating key partnerships and strategic alliances. Leslie has extensive experience working with various foundations, board of directors, presidents, NGO’s, diplomats and Noble Peace Prize Laureates. Always the change agent, Leslie’s success in working with conventional mindsets and cutting edge organizations has served to further the personal development of our youth; and laid a path for our future leaders. She is also known internationally for creating healthy working environments and infusing collaboration across program areas/departments, ethnicities and cultures for which she has produced notable results. Leslie’s greatest accomplishment is bringing together 11 Noble Peace Prize Laureates and 4,000 youth from around the world to participate in a week long youth symposium in Denver, Colorado. She is very honored and proud to be a member of the CDF Freedom Schools team.

Ms. Mary Fennell
Senior Program Operations Associate

Ms. Mary Fennell is the Senior Program Operations Associate at the CDF Marlboro County office in Bennettsville, South Carolina. She is a native of Marlboro County. Mary has a degree in business with a major in accounting from Florence-Darlington Technical College. She joined the Children’s Defense Fund in 1995 as an Office Assistant and assumed her current position in 1996.

Ms. Lilinoi Grace
Project Director

Ms. Lilinoi Grace is the Project Director for the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools Hawaii KOA program in Kona, Hawaii. Ms. Grace is a 2003 graduate of Chaminade University of Honolulu where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry with dual minors in Mathematics and Physics. Prior to joining CDF, Lilinoi served as an Educational Specialist for the University of Hawaii West Hawaii Center, the University of Hawaii College of Education, and the La‘i ‘Ōpua 2020 Kau i ka Mālie Multi-Media Cultural Center, where she developed and implemented college and career readiness, academic, and cultural enrichment programs for students of all ages on the island of Hawaii. In 2003, Ms. Grace represented the state of Hawaii as Miss Kona Coffee and in 2004 she was named Miss Kaua‘i. Lilinoi continues to fulfill her dream of helping others realize their dreams through her work with CDF and in the greater Native Hawaiian community.

Ms. Deyon Johnson
Curriculum Development Coordinator

Ms. Deyon Johnson is the Curriculum Development Coordinator of the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program. She is a 2008 graduate of Howard University with a Masters of Arts Degree in Teaching and Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Williams College. Deyon is a certified teacher and has taught English Language Arts in the District of Columbia Public Schools for the past four years, working with both youth and adults. She has been a part of the CDF Freedom Schools movement for the last three years, serving as a Servant Leader Intern and Site Coordinator in Miami, Florida.

Dr. Thomas G. Maridada, II
National Director of Education Policy, Practice and Strategic Initiatives

Dr. Thomas G. Maridada, II is the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Director of Education Policy, Practice and Strategic Initiatives. Prior to joining CDF, Tom served as superintendent of several urban school districts in Michigan, where he was named “Michigan Superintendent of the Year” by the National Association of School Administrators. He has acted as a “school turn-around specialist” for some of the most challenging schools and districts in the country.

Ms. Allison Merfeld
Senior Research and Program Operations Manager

Ms. Allison Merfeld is the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® Senior Research and Program Operations Manager. Ali was born and raised in Lawrenceville, New Jersey and graduated from The College of Wooster in 2002 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. While there, Ali completed her senior thesis, The Effects of Cancer on the Social Relationships of Adolescent Patients, a comprehensive exploration of the unique experiences of adolescent cancer patients, specifically focused on familial, peer, and school relations. Upon graduation, Ali worked in the western United States with the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps program, where she completed over 1,700 hours of service working with various non-profit organizations and agencies in different communities. In 2004, Ali relocated to Washington, DC to intern at RESULTS, a grassroots organization dealing with hunger and poverty issues. She joined the CDF Freedom Schools team in 2005.

Dr. Yoonjung Park
Director of Education Research and Analysis

Dr. Yoonjung Park joined the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools ® program as a Research Statistician for Assessment and Evaluation in February 2012. Dr. Park earned her doctorate degree in Human Development and Quantitative Methodology from University of Maryland and conducted research about children’s social and moral development at National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH. Her research areas include children’s development of concepts about stereotypes and fairness in areas of gender and ethnicity. One of Dr. Park’s most recent consulting projects with Dr. Melanie Killen, University of Maryland, investigated children’s perception of different races and was featured on CNN in a special edition of Anderson Cooper 360 entitled, “Kids on Race”. Currently, Dr. Park serves as the Director of Education Research and Analysis for the CDF Freedom Schools program.

Dr. Cameron Van Patterson
Interim National Director

Dr. Cameron Van Patterson serves as the Interim National Director of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools program, a nationally recognized summer and after-school enrichment program focused on encouraging, equipping, and empowering children through literacy. In this capacity, Dr. Patterson is responsible for the general management, supervision, and evaluation of CDF Freedom Schools program staff. He ensures the overall quality, productivity, and efficiency of internal program operations at CDF’s national headquarters in Washington D.C. Dr. Patterson also oversees development and national implementation of educational technologies that enable centralized tracking of vital student attendance, demographic, assessment, and academic information for CDF Freedom Schools program participants, staff, and parents across the country. In balancing internal management with external impact and visibility, Dr. Patterson works closely with colleagues throughout the organization to engage constituents in advocacy, fundraising, and child policy at the local, state, and national levels. He provides leadership in developing and sustaining partnerships with other organizations, actively pursues new revenue sources and program sponsors, maintains effective marketing materials and online presence, and represents the Children's Defense Fund at public forums as needed.

Ms. Shaquite Lynee Pegues
Director of Ella Baker Leadership Development

Ms. Shaquite Lynee Pegues is the Director of Ella Baker Leadership Development for the CDF Freedom Schools® program. Shaquite is 28 yrs old and lives in her hometown of Bennettsville, South Carolina. She has been a part of the Children’s Defense Fund’s staff for four years and looks forward to continuing her work in the years to come Shaquite is a certified teacher and taught for two years as a third grade teacher at Sweetwater Elementary School, in Lithia Springs, GA. She is also certified to teach English Speakers of Other Languages students. Shaquite is a 2002 Honor Graduate of Marlboro County High School and a 2006 Honor Graduate of the historically black Spelman College, where she majored in Child Development. She also participated in the distinguished Spelman College Glee Club and held several other leadership positions during her collegiate tenure. Shaquite is continuing her education at Nova Southeastern University, where she will obtain her Masters Degree in Management and Administration of Educational Programs. Shaquite has been a part of the CDF Freedom Schools movement for many years. She was a CDF Freedom Schools scholar in her younger days and has continued her service through the program as a Leadership Student, Servant Leader Intern, Ella Baker Trainer, Site Coordinator, and Project Director for the Marlboro County Partners CDF Freedom Schools sites South Carolina. She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, NAACP, Spelman College Pee Dee Region Alumnae Chapter, Young Professionals of Marlboro County, and Leadership Bennettsville.

Dr. Carolyn A. Prince
Executive Director of Outreach and Expansion for CDF—The Carolinas

Dr. Carolyn A. Prince is the Executive Director of Outreach and Expansion for CDF—The Carolinas. Based in South Carolina, Dr. Prince works in partnership with Marlboro County Schools to implement the CDF School Transformation Model; expand CDF Freedom Schools in the Carolinas, the extended day and summer programs; and cultivate an agrarian economic base for communities through the creation of urban gardens. Dr. Prince has more than 30 years of experience and service as an educator, community leader and horticulturist. She studied at North Carolina State University, Tuskegee University, and Bennett College for Women.

Ms. Kim Robinson
Program Manager

Ms. Kim Robinson is the Program Associate for Youth Programs for the CDF Southern Regional Office. She is a graduate of Louisiana State University and began her career in corporate America working with several of the country’s leading Information Technology staffing agencies as a recruiter, project manager and marketing specialist in Louisiana and Mississippi. In 2003, she left a lucrative position in New Orleans, Louisiana and returned to her roots in finance when she accepted a position as Grants Manager with the Southern Regional Children's Defense Fund office. Although proficient in finance, she gladly accepted the challenge to work with CDF’s Healthy Child Campaign and all CDF national initiatives. Her tough corporate sales approach was easily transferred to the aggressive world of policy and lobbying for the rights of all children. Through her work with CDF’s Healthy Child Campaign she has urged a large number of community partners and citizens to join CDF’s Healthy Child Campaign and endorse H.R. 1688, the All Healthy Children Act, legislation introduced by the organization in 2007.