Board of Directors

Student U’s Board of Directors oversees our financials, provides expertise and strategy to ensure Student U is financially sound and focused on our mission. With staggered terms, each year several Board Members roll off and new Board Members join. Student U intentionally attracts new ideas and expertise to the Board each year.

Rep. Vernetta Alston

Vernetta Alston - Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives
Vernetta was born in Durham, NC and has spent her entire life in the Triangle. As a member of the North Carolina House, Vernetta has been fighting for workers, renters, and small businesses hit hardest by the pandemic. She has built bipartisan support for statewide affordable housing research, transportation planning, gun violence intervention, and for the those who are incarcerated.  She continues to work toward long-term policy changes that will support our local governments, provide greater health care access, ensure housing stability in urban and rural communities, and create a justice system that reflects our values.


Dan Baum - Director of Operations, Emerson Collective

Kristin Miller Clauson

Kristin Miller Clauson - Director of Corporate Partnership Development for Share Our Strength and the No Kid Hungry campaign

Kristin Miller Clauson is proud to be a Durham native and Durham Public Schools graduate, back again as she raises her own family. In her professional life, she is the Director of Corporate Partnership Development for Share Our Strength and the No Kid Hungry campaign, a national nonprofit ending childhood hunger in America. In this role, she's responsible for building innovative partnerships with corporations to raise funds and awareness to move the No Kid Hungry mission forward. At home in Durham, she enjoys being active outdoors, cooking and eating, and is devoted to her family and friends.

"From its founding, Student U has been an unwavering source of hope and inspiration in my life. Student U, its leaders, and its students prove that it is possible to be both ambitious and expansive in our dreams for the future, while also homing a clear-eyed focus on a single individual, a single accomplishment, a single change today… all with the power to ensure our community flourishes tomorrow."

Francis De La Cruz

Francis Dela Cruz - Student U Alumnus and Registered Nurse at Duke's Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit

Francis currently works as a Registered Nurse at Duke’s Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. As a nurse, he takes care of babies who are born with congenital heart defects. He also precepts nursing students in order to prepare them to be real nurses. He has played numerous roles in Student U. He was part of the first class of Student U and graduated the program through college. He served as a College Promise Advisor for rising 9th and 10th graders. He tutored in Year Round Program for 7th graders. 

"I invest in Student U because every one in Student U truly believes that our students are brilliant and have the capacity to be leaders and change agents. My two core values are in my positivity and enthusiasm. Wherever I go, whoever I am with, whatever I am doing, I bring lots of positivity and enthusiasm. Student U is the essence of what all schools should aim for in order to make sure all students are supported."

Pablo Friedmann

Pablo Friedmann - Director of the Durham Public Schools Multilingual Resource Center
He joined DPS in August 2012 as a Bilingual Dropout Prevention Specialist while also working with Student U through 2014. He is a member of the NCCU Latino Advisory Committee and the Durham Tech Center for the Global Learner Advisory Committee. He is a former Student U Summer Teacher.



Matthew Hickson - Director of Partner Transformation, Modern Classrooms Project
Matt is the 2016 Durham Public Schools Beginning Teacher of the Year and the founder/director of Bull City Schools United. He started his path to working toward education equity as a teenager volunteering to register voters on the west side of Charlotte, North Carolina. After years of witnessing the deep social and economic inequities of our state and nation as an activist, he went to work as a teacher and advocate with Student U Durham. He has served in seven different part-time positions with Student U while serving as an Assistant Principal at Neal Middle School in East Durham.

“As a teacher and administrator in Durham Public Schools, I believe that the future of our city is our students. If we are to have a prosperous and loving Durham community, Durham's current students must be its future leaders. In a world full of complexities, flawed policies, and challenging differences, our students are the true north for the path ahead. Student U believes this and it is why I believe in Student U. Over the last four years, I have worked in seven different part time capacities at Student U. I keep coming back to this place because it guides the way for us to discover our best selves and discover our best Durham.”

D’atra Jackson

D’atra Jackson - National Director of Black Youth Project 100

Born and raised in Southwest Philly, she moved to Durham from Miami. While attending FIU, she became active at the height of the murder of Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman verdict with an organization called Dream Defenders, founding the FIU chapter. She is the Co-Founder of the Durham Chapter of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100). Dee Dee has had her hand in efforts and actions such as bringing Participatory Budgeting to Durham and #DurhamBeyondPolicing. She is an aspiring movement DJ, named DJ MerQueen Gangsta for the Revolution. 


Nicole Kendall - Student U Parent and Early Childhood Educator and Caretaker

Alyzia McAlmon

Alyzia McAlmon - Student U Alumna and Senior Program Coordinator, Integrated Care for Kids (InCK)

Alyzia is a former Student U Student from the first graduating class of 2014. She has a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Political Science from East Carolina University. After graduating from ECU, she returned to Durham where she served as the A.J Fletcher Community Engagement Fellow with Duke’s Office of Durham Affairs from March 2017-2018. Alyzia is currently serving as the Equity and Youth Empowerment Manager, Americorps VISTA with the Durham Public Schools Foundation. In this role, she is supporting the creation of the organization’s Youth Advisory Council, developing training materials and helping launch the equity mapping process for Durham Public Schools. In her spare time, she travels the world to experience life from a different perspective. 

She has now settled in North Durham and aspires to go back to school to receive a Masters of Social Work. She plans to further advocate for disadvantaged students of color in Durham as a Social Worker.


Donnell Rini-Swyers - Tax Director, White & Case LLP

Shruti Shah

Shruti Shah - Venture Partner, Impressionism Capital

Shruti is an Entrepreneur in Residence at Silicon Valley Bank where she is currently working with the early stage practice team strategic partnerships. She was previously the co-founder and COO of Y Combinator backed Move Loot, an online full-service marketplace for buying and selling used furniture, where she led national expansion and general business operations. Over the course of three years, she and her co-founding team raised $22 million dollars to scale the business across the United States. Move Loot was featured in numerous publications including Forbes, TechCrunch, Bloomberg Businessweek, CNN, TIME, Fortune and more. Shruti was honored by Forbes as a 2016 30 Under 30 recipient in Retail and E-Commerce and the Aspen Institute as an Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar in reimagining capitalism. Prior to co-founding Move Loot, Shruti worked for the New Schools Venture Seed Fund, a seed fund that invests in early-stage education technology companies, and she was also a public school teacher in Baltimore, through Teach for America, where she taught 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade at Graceland Park O'Donnell Heights Elementary Middle School. Shruti earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a minor in Entrepreneurship from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and she earned her Master of Science in Education with a focus on Urban Education from Johns Hopkins University.

“I think Student U's approach represents a unique and important approach to putting students on a path toward college, and I'm excited to be part of helping support students in the Durham community.”



Chantal Stevens - , Chantal serves as the Executive Director of the ACLU of NC, after working in education for 20 years prior, first at the university level at CUNY and the City College of New York, and then moving to nonprofits where she first served as the National Director of Programs at A Better Chance. She left A Better Chance after a decade to become the Executive Director of The GO Project and in 2017, she joined Oliver Scholars as the Interim CEO.

Chantal tried out being an entrepreneur, running a small, one-woman consultancy, through which she worked with education focused nonprofit organizations on strategy, systems and process creation for finance, fundraising, Board development and programs before moving to Raleigh to work for the ACLU of NC.

An active member of her community, Chantal has served as a Board Member of St. Mark the Evangelist School for five years. For 13 years, she served as a volunteer fundraiser and Parent Chair for the Annual Fund of the Spence School. For 12 years, Chantal served as an Advisory Board Member of the National Partnership for Educational Access.