Board of Directors


Tiwana Adams - Secretary of the Student U Board; Real Estate Agent, Founder and Director of 3D Women
Tiwana L. Adams is a Realtor with Fonville Morisey Realty, A Long Foster Company. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Business Management from North Carolina State University. Her life has been dedicated to extending great service to others to ensure they are receiving all the information needed to receive the best options available to them. In addition, she is a Writer, a Minister and Founder of 3D Women. Empowering, encouraging and building confidence in others are the emphasis of each of these roles she serves in. She resides in Durham with her husband and two sons where they have been active in the community. Tiwana is on the board for Riverside High School Booster club and volunteers at the school when opportunities arise. Each day, she diligently sends out a prayer to positively start the day for people on her distribution list and has compiled her first daily prayer book to be released soon. After interacting with others on a day to day basis, she hopes to have a positive impact upon their lives.

“I chose to be a board member for Student U because I believe in the work they do in the lives of all of the families with children in the program.  Also for the great community service they offer and what the students learn from participating.  The source of knowledge given to the families to assist students with what is needed to advance to higher education is priceless.  Student U is a trailblazer for other organizations to gain insight, develop and grow.  I love the energy and enthusiasm that Student U gives.”   


Theus Armistead - Retired Business Leader, Former AT&T Executive
Theus Armistead spent almost 30 years working for AT&T, its subsidiaries and spin-offs. He began his career in engineering and moved on to positions in marketing, sales and product management. He has long believed that the single biggest problem facing our country is poverty and that education is the key to addressing this problem in the long run.

“I believe the biggest problem we face today is poverty and the long term solution to addressing it is education. That's where Student U comes in. Who wouldn't be excited about erasing poverty?”



Jerry Benson - Director of Business Services, Durham Academy
Jerry has a Bachelors of Science in Forestry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan then he received his Masters in Business Administration also from  the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Concentration in Finance and Operations. After greatly highering his education in administration and science he became the Increased plant margins by 2% by cutting excess overtime and negotiating lower raw material prices. Then in 1986 he was promoted from Manager, Secondary Fiber Sales to Administrative Manager in Covington, VA. While working in his new position  he had several responsibilities such as Production control, cost accounting, scheduling and shipping, Decreased raw material waste by 10% through better inventory control, Increased plant margins by 2% by cutting excess overtime and negotiating lower raw material prices. From August 1988 to May 1996 he was the Vice-President/General Manager of alastar corporation where he is responsible for finance and accounting, overall operations, and marketing for multi-unit Taco Bell restaurants.  Directly supervised restaurant managers and support staff, managed all cash and capital functions, and formulated local store marketing campaigns. Then in July 1996 to June 2000 he was the Director of Finance at the Webb School of Knoxville. While working in this position he Led the financial turnaround of the school by identifying operating cost inefficiencies that led to generation of $1.1 million in additional cash flow. Cash flow was used to restructure long-term debt and restore loan covenant compliance.  Responsible for business, auxiliary (cafeteria, bookstore), computer technology, and physical plant of independent school.  Developed and continue to use financial models relating operation cash flows to debt and expansion projects.  Lastly, from June 200 Mr. Benson has been the Director of Business Services at Durham Academy. In this position he is responsible for the daily operating activities of the school.  Areas include accounting/finance, human resources, facilities, student services and technology.  Successful in restructuring the school’s financial picture by implementing cost control measures and implementing an institution wide departmental accounting system.  The result is a $4.1 million turnaround of operating fund reserves. Have also led the school through four rounds of tax-exempt bond financing.

“Student U has matured over the last 10 years – going from a fledgling start-up to now being a viable part of the Durham community. I was there when Student U started, am pleased with its progress and yet excited about the continued growth of the organization. I feel Student U has demonstrated successes allowing students to succeed academically and succeed in going to college and maturing into community citizens. I am looking forward to serving on the board.”

Jennifer Crawford

Jennifer Crawford – Pediatrician, Teaching Assistant, Durham Academy
Jennifer practiced primary care pediatrics in Columbia MD and Pittsburgh PA before moving with her family to Durham in 2002. She has served on the board at Durham Academy and currently works there as a third grade Teaching Assistant.  She is a native of Washington DC and a graduate of University of Virginia (BA 1984) and Duke University (MD 1988).

“Jennifer believes all children deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential. She is committed to Student U and its vision of a Durham where all children can succeed.”

Stephen Farmer - Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions, UNC, Chapel Hill
Stephen is Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he has led the selection and recruitment of the undergraduate student body since September 2004. As vice provost, Mr. Farmer serves on the cabinets of the Chancellor and the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost. In addition to his work in enrollment and admissions, Farmer has founded two nationally recognized programs that foster opportunity and success for low-income and first-generation-college students. The C-STEP program helps students from community colleges transfer successfully to Carolina and thrive once enrolled. The Carolina College Advising Corps places recent Carolina graduates as full-time college advisers in 58 high schools statewide, with the aim of encouraging students to complete admissions and financial-aid applications and enroll in colleges that will serve them well. Born and raised in rural Virginia, Mr. Farmer holds degrees from the University of Virginia and Duke University.


Matthew Hickson - Principal Resident, Hillside High School
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. He is now part of the Durham Principal's Leadership Academy and is in principal residency at Hillside High School.

“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.”


Ricky Hurtado - Executive Director, NC Scholars’ Initiative
Ricky Hurtado is the Executive Director of N.C. Sli. In this capacity, he works towards expanding equitable access to higher education for Latino students across NC.  Throughout his personal and professional experiences, Ricky has worked to find the intersection of immigrant rights and racial justice issues in an effort to unite communities and mobilize support for programs and policies advancing equity. Before joining Sli, Ricky worked with PolicyLink, supporting their work with the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color and the Obama Administration’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. Prior to graduate school, he worked as a consultant at Frontline Solutions, helping non-profits and foundations enhance their impact. He has also worked with LearnFresh’s NBA Math Hoops education program and the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Policy Planning and Coordination. Ricky earned his B.S. with Honors in Business Administration at the University of North Carolina and a Master’s in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

“I decided to join Student U’s efforts because I am inspired everyday by how relentlessly the Student U community advocates for education for all and more importantly, racial equity, in Durham.  It’s one of the rare places where values and work align in a beautiful way to see a community thrive in their mission.  I believe in the future Student U believes in and want to do my part to get it a little closer to that reality.” 



Mark Kuhn - President, Kuhn & Associates, Inc.
As the firm’s founder, Mark plays an integral role in providing client service and directing the daily operations of the firm. He is deeply involved with crafting financial strategies to enable clients to meet their long-term objectives. Mark earned a Master in Business Administration and B.A. from Duke University. He is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant in North Carolina. Mark resides in Durham, North Carolina and serves on the boards of several community and philanthropic organizations.


Bishop Clarence Laney, Jr.- Pastor of Monument of Faith Church
Bishop Clarence Laney, Jr. is the pastor of the neighboring Monument of Faith Church since 1996. Under Bishop Laney’s leadership, education, both spiritually and academically has become the cornerstone of this ministry. Bishop Laney has preached and taught throughout the United States, Canada and Sierra Leone, West Africa. In addition to his pastoral responsibilities, Bishop Laney serves as Bishop of NC COGOP Region #3 providing oversight for nine districts and 40 denominational churches. Bishop Laney is also a member of the NC COGOP State Ministerial Review Board and State Convention Committee. He is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods Clergy Caucus and the Duke University Medical Ethics Committee.


Wynetta Lee

Wynetta Lee - Professor, Master of School Administration, North Carolina Central University
Dr. Lee currently serves as a professor in the Master of School Administration Program at North Carolina Central University. She previously served as Dean of the School of Education. Lee has also served as associate vice president for academic planning, research and graduate studies at California State University, Monterey Bay, and assistant provost for curriculum and director of undergraduate research at Dillard University. Dr. Lee also served at N.C. State University for 10 years from 1992 to 2002. Dr. Lee holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University. She earned a doctorate in policy development and program evaluation at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Dave Michelman

Dave Michelman - Head of School,  Duke School
Dave is a lifelong educator who made detour into practicing law for a number of years.  He is currently the Head of Duke School where he has served for 11 years.  He attended Hamilton College and George Washington University Law School.

The work of Student U is important to me because each individual has the right to reach his highest potential and society is not well served until each individual is reaching his highest potential. I trust these students will make Durham and the world a better place.”


Ruth Peebles - President and Founder, The INS Group
Ruth currently serves as President and Founder of The INS Group, a consulting firm dedicated to increasing the capacity of nonprofits, government agencies and faith-based institutions nationwide. She has over 25 years of hands‐on experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, organizational development and project management. Ms. Peebles served as the Executive Director for The Raleigh/Wake Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness, as the Director of Development for Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina and Associate Director and Development Officer for the North Carolina Caring Program for Children. Ms. Peebles received her bachelor's degree in Communications from Bowling Green State University in Ohio and holds a graduate degree in Public Administration from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in nonprofit management and policy analysis. Additionally, she earned a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University and a certificate in development from the Williamsburg Development Planning Institute. Ms. Peebles is an instructor for the Duke University Certificate Program in Nonprofit Management and served for 12 years as an adjunct instructor for the School of Public and International Affairs Master of Public Administration Program at North Carolina State University. Ms. Peebles currently serves on Wake County Affiliate Board of the North Carolina Community Foundation. She is a founding member of the Next Generation of African American Philanthropists giving circle.

I am most passionate about all young people having the educational and personal development opportunities to reach their highest potential. I am most excited about: 1) Student U’s innovative program methodology, 2) the documented impact the organization has already made in the community, and 3) the opportunity to help build on such successes to ensure that more young people in Durham community are served by the organization.”

Shruti Shah - Entrepreneur in Residence, Silicon Valley Bank; Co-founder, Move Loot
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.”


Mark Trustin - Attorney, Trustin Law
Mark is an attorney with more than thirty years’ experience in the practice of civil and criminal trial law. Mark has devoted himself to the representation of students in the public school system who are denied required services and whose constitutional rights are violated. He also conducts mediation and facilitation, privately through the NC Superior Court Mediated Settlement Conference Program. Mark is co-founder and Board Chair of The Durham P.R.O.U.D program. P.R.O.U.D, is a life-skills training and development program for at-risk youth and their families. He is also a co-founder and Board Chair of Youth Justice (YJNC). YJNC is an organization of law and policy experts, practitioners, and advocates committed to ensuring fair, supportive, and effective public education and Juvenile justice systems in North Carolina. Mark is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at NCCU since 2001. Mark currently serves on the Board of The Hill Center and The East Durham Children’s Initiative.

"I believe that education is critically important to the future of our society and culture. Therefore, I choose to devote time and resources to organizations that advance the quality of education delivered to our youth."


Carmen Valdez -Chair of Guardians for Student U, Parent Representative; Senior Office Assistant, Durham County Department of Public Health
Ms. Valdez, mother of two, was born in Mexico and raised in the United States. Her experience with the education system while growing up was not the one a parent would want for her child, which is why she understands the important work of Student U. Carmen is a true believer of equal and quality education for everyone. For this reason, she has been highly involved in her children’s education, advocating for curricular and structural changes to schools to better support all students. She understands that many parents do not have the privilege of time to be more involved in their children’s education, and for this reason she is deeply grateful to her employer Durham County Government, where she has been employed for the past 8 years serving the community. Her goals are to go back to school someday and to help her children accomplish all their goals. Ms. Valdez currently has two children at Student U, a 7th grader at Maureen Joy Charter School and a 10th grader at Jordan High School.

"I believe in equal opportunities for everybody no matter the of color of their skin or their legal status. Student U has the same values and focus on the kids in the program to pursue their dreams. I am thankful for the results of the program and the 11 year commitment to students and families."