Holly Becker, joined ALP as a Tutor at Winding Springs Elementary School in January 2019 and as a Site Coordinator in August 2021. A mom to a child with dyslexia and ADHD, she knows all too well how challenging school can be for struggling readers. She’s been an active CMS volunteer in her children’s schools, as well as serving as a North Star Reading Partner and on the North Carolina State Improvement Project Advisory Committee for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Holly earned Bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Psychology at Coker University and has spent the bulk of her career as a writer for local newspapers, magazines and businesses. In 2019, she self-published her first children’s book, Bed Head: A Hair-Raising Adventure. A South Carolina native, Holly has lived in the Lake Norman area for 20 years. She and her husband have three children and enjoy exploring America’s national parks whenever they have a chance.
Ellen Babb, Operations Director, joined ALP as a tutor in the winter class of 2015. After more than 25 years working in financial institutions she was ready for a change. She was interested in literacy tutoring because she knows how critical literacy is as a tool to escape poverty. The research-based approach to teaching tutors how to make the biggest impact made her an ALP cheerleader which led to her accepting the role of Site Coordinator in January 2017. In August 2018, Ellen took on the role of Business Operations Manager at ALP. Ellen graduated University of Phoenix with a BS in Accounting. She has lived in Charlotte for 13 years with her husband, daughter, two dogs and a cat.
Anne Bayliss joined ALP as a tutor in September 2016. After a career in public accounting and financial services, she was seeking volunteer opportunities when she heard about Augustine. Helping struggling readers master the essential life skill of Reading with the training, support, and people of Augustine, was the perfect fit. Helping instill a love of reading is added reward. “I have now experienced a struggling reader having the light come on as they sound or read a word for the first time. To see how excited they get and how good they feel about themselves is a wonderful thing.” Anne joined the ALP staff as a site coordinator in August 2018. She is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Kristal graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She spent several years as a Compliance Manager in the Corporate/Litigation and Compliance department in the legal arena. In 2014, Kristal moved to Charlotte and decided to apply her skills within the education sector. She earned her Master’s degree from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and, while pursuing her degree, became a researcher and fidelity specialist at UNCC. As Kristal witnessed the disparities many of our youth faced, she focused her commitment and passion on helping all students grow academically, ultimately giving them the chance to become successful in society. ALP’s belief in supporting all students while building them up from a foundational level was a true eye opener for Kristal and led to her desire to join the team. She lives in Charlotte with her husband and four sons.
Judy Degernes joined ALP as a tutor in 2017. Tutor friends recommended Augustine to her and she felt an immediate connection with the work that was being done by ALP. She has a love of reading, and hopes to instill that love in young struggling readers. Judy has been involved in education for many years, as a volunteer and as a staff member. She was a Teaching Assistant at Providence Day School and also worked in the PDS Admissions Office for 6 years. She has lived in seven different states and is happy to call Charlotte home.
Talayer Floyd, Virtual Tutoring Program Coordinator, comes to ALP with over ten years of teaching experience. As a reading teacher, she noticed the impact literacy achievement had on students’ overall success which led her to pursue an Education Specialist degree in Literacy to better serve struggling readers. Talayer also holds a BA in Mass Communication from Winthrop University and a Masters of Arts in Education from the University of Phoenix. ALP’s mission to improve students’ reading, writing, and spelling skills align with her passion for literacy education, and she is honored to join the team. She lives in Charlotte with her husband and daughter.
Steve is a thoughtful and action-oriented leader with strong ties to the Charlotte non-profit community. He served as Head of School for the Brookstone Schools where he partnered with ALP on tutoring services and became a strong advocate for our mission. He currently serves on the board of Thompson Child and Family Focus where he and his family have served as foster parents since 2010. Steve has also served on the ALP finance committee. Steve brings strong business experience in operations and an engineering background steeped in systems and process excellence.
His deep passion for service, commitment to helping children to succeed, and his broad experience, have positioned Steve to capitalize on an important moment in the early education of children. We are confident that he will galvanize the ALP family and our community to drive growth and serve more aspiring readers.
Steve and his wife, Wendy, have been in the Charlotte Metro area since 1998 along with their kids, Josiah and Haven who attend NC State.
Jess Heath, Communications Specialist, joined ALP in May 2012. She left her career with Coca-Cola to stay at home with her growing family. Jess is the glue that holds ALP together! She spends her time managing ALP’s office, marketing and preparing for special projects and events. Jess loves working for ALP; she says, “Everyone at ALP, the staff, board and tutors, are such an inspiration. It is amazing to see the amount of dedication they selflessly devote to the students they work with.” With two little readers at home, Jess knows the importance of reading and is honored to be a part of ALP’s mission to assist struggling readers that might otherwise not receive the help they need.
ALP welcomes Lauren Hood from Bank of America. Lauren joined ALP as part of the Bank of America Leader on Loan program to provide strategic guidance as we expand to meet the ever-growing need to improve the reading, writing, and spelling skills of young, aspiring readers in under-resourced communities. Lauren brings over 30 years of experience in global business management, organizational effectiveness and learning management. Throughout her career, she has driven the execution of broad-based initiatives by generating practical solutions to complex problems.
As a mother of two young boys, Lauren is keenly aware of the impact that education, and specifically reading skills, can have on the future success of our community’s children. She looks forward to pairing her passion for human development with her process management expertise to help maximize the ALP’s reach.
Lauren is- Six Sigma certified and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and English with cum laude honors at Duke University. She lives in Charlotte with her husband and two sons.
Andrea Howell, Tutor Recruitment Manager, comes to ALP with more than two decades of work in the non-profit sector. Most recently Andrea was the Local Serve Director for a church in the Charlotte Metro area. Prior to that she was the Executive Director of CASA for Children of Klamath County. During her tenure at CASA, the program advocated for a record number of children and youth in foster care. Through her work with vulnerable children, Andrea has developed a passion for equity in education and connecting people to their purpose. Andrea holds a BA in History from California State University, Sacramento. She and her husband Jeff and three children are transplants from the West Coast and enjoy making Charlotte home.
Elizabeth Johnston, Site Coordinator, joined ALP as a tutor in October of 2016 at Huntington Farms Elementary School. Since then she has had the pleasure and honor of sharing her love of reading with three exceptional children who patiently allowed her to explore this world of tutoring. Having detailed training and a structured curriculum provided by Augustine has helped her move her children steadily forward despite not having experience in education. Elizabeth graduated from the College of Charleston with a BS in Psychology and went on to work for the Carolina Panthers before starting her family. She is the mother of two college-aged boys who share her love of reading and continually teach her in much the same way as her students. Since their launch, she has served as a part-time bookkeeper before becoming a site coordinator for ALP in August of 2020. Her interests include hiking, travelling with her children and tennis.
Jessica Klasinski, Director of Development, comes to ALP with 15 years of nonprofit experience in a progression of leadership roles, most recently as the Operations Manager of Women’s Impact Fund (WIF) where she saw the meaningful impact of collective giving and gained a deep insight into the challenges that face our community. Prior to WIF, Jessica served as the Executive Director of Reading Enriches All Children (REACH) in Norfolk, Virginia, a literacy-based nonprofit focusing on at-risk and homeless children in the Hampton Roads region. Jessica holds a BA in Communication Studies from University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Amber Lynch, Development Coordinator, has been ALP tutor since 2019, Elder and Stephen Minister at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, Resident Reporter for Myers Park Life Magazine, and Advocate and Moderator for Blood-Cancer.com. She was formerly a City Editor for Charleston/Charlotte and Fashion Correspondent for Ask Miss A. Previously, she was the Director of Business Development for W by Worth for the North Carolina region. She is passionate about family, books and giving. She is a published poet and author of the children’s book, Where Did Grandlee Go. She grew up in Charleston, South Carolina cultivating a fondness for southern style and Lowcountry cuisine. After college, Amber began her career in New York City working for Tiffany & Co. in Community Affairs and later as the Publicity Director for Rizzoli Publications. She met her husband in NYC. Longing for southern roots they relocated to Charlotte, NC almost twenty years ago. She has settled into the southern paced yet culturally enriched city. Raising three sons keeps her busy, but grounded. She has adopted Charlotte as her home and is avidly involved in the community through church, school and charities.
Michelle Miller, Learning and Development Manager, joined Augustine Literacy Project as a tutor in 2018, primarily working at Montclaire Elementary. As the parent of a child with dyslexia, she researched programs to help her son and was impressed with the diagnostic and prescriptive Orton-Gillingham method. Michelle completed her Orton-Gillingham Associate Level training and applied her learnings to see gains in her son’s test scores and confidence. Michelle became an ALP tutor and continued to embrace the changes in her scholars! Michelle has been an active volunteer in the Charlotte community, including Scouting, YMCA, and CMS. Her prior professional experience includes corporate training and being a business entreprenuer. She is a graduate of Purdue University and is married with two kids and a large cat (who thinks he a dog).
Mary Ann O’Brien
Mary Ann O’Brien, Bookkeeper, joined the ALP team in June 2020. She is very grateful that this position was available and that she was chosen to become part of the ALP team. After more than 35 years working in a wide spectrum of industries, from banking to nonprofits to school district administration, she considers her knowledge a vocation meant to be shared. Mary Ann has an MBA from St. John’s University and a CAS from Hofstra University. Mary Ann has lived in North Carolina since 2016 with her husband and youngest son. Her two older children still reside in New York.
Allyssa Reitz, Executive Assistant, joined the Augustine Literacy Project in July of 2021. She comes to ALP with several years of experience working with nonprofit organizations and is excited to be part of the difference that is being made by tutors and staff alike. When asked why ALP’s mission was important to her, she said ” I moved often as a child and could always count on a library to bring me comfort in a new place. My hope is that we are able to provide that same sense of security with the children we are helping.” Allyssa is new to Charlotte and still enjoys reading, as well as gardening and spending time with her husband and rescued dogs, Tucker and Finnigan.
Lynn Schweitzer began tutoring through the Augustine Literacy Project in September of 2017 and joined the staff as a Site Coordinator in January of 2019. As the parent of a dyslexic child, Lynn experienced the miracle of the Orton-Gillingham reading approach first hand and credits her son’s OG tutor as one of the most impactful contributors to his overall academic success. “After experiencing the life-changing effect OG tutoring had on our family, it’s a joy to positively impact, not only struggling readers, but also their parents through the ALP program.” Lynn graduated from Clemson University with a BS in Business and spent her twenty-five year banking career in various lending and risk management roles. She and her husband have a daughter in graduate school and a son in college.
LaShonna Smith joined ALP in November 2022. She comes with over 16 years experience in education. With teaching experience at the elementary, middle and high school levels, she set out on a mission to impact more children educationally by joining the ALP team. She is excited to use her knowledge, passion, leadership skills to help meet the needs of aspiring readers in the Charlotte community and beyond.
LaShonna has a Masters degree from North Carolina Central University and a Bachelors degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She resides in the Charlotte Metro area with her husband and three boys.
Kristin Stinson began tutoring with ALP in 2016. She graduated from The University of the South in Sewanee, TN, and then earned a master’s degree in Elementary Education from Samford University. After teaching third grade for 3 years, Kristin chose to transition into the library to combine her passion for education and her love of literature. She attended The University of Alabama and received an MS in Library and Information Studies. She served as the head librarian at K-8 schools in Hoover, AL and San Mateo, CA for 8 years until her husband’s career moved them to Chicago and finally to Charlotte where she has resided since 2014. Kristin joined the ALP staff as a site coordinator in August of 2021 and is enthused by the opportunity to work with her heroes as they equip students with the confidence and skills needed to experience the joy in reading.
Drea Tomlinson joined Augustine Literacy Project in February 2022 and serves as our Learning Management System Specialist in addition to being a Site Coordinator. She comes to ALP with over five years of experience in education. With her BA in English Education from California State University: Fullerton, she worked as a Training Facilitator and Mentor Tutor for a large tutoring program at Fullerton College. Additionally, she worked in an after-school program dedicated to supporting students after learning loss due to COVID-19. Drea is thrilled to be part of an organization that is providing crucial support to students in the Charlotte community. She moved to Charlotte in January 2022 from Southern California and enjoys reading, watching movies, and spending time with her partner and cat, Junie.
Caroline Walsh, Learning and Development Facilitator, comes to ALP with eleven years of elementary education experience. Most recently, Caroline taught at Trinity Episcopal School in Charlotte as well as in other schools in Pennsylvania, New York, Arizona and North Carolina. She holds her Masters in Teaching and is Orton-Gillingham certified. Caroline attended both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University but is a loyal Tar Heel fan. Caroline is a native Charlottean and enjoys traveling, working out, and spending time outside with her fiance and Golden Retriever, Archie.
ALP Board of Directors
Michael E. Blair
Mike joined the ALP Board in September 2020 and has served on the boards of numerous community organizations including serving as Chairman of Leadership Charlotte and Hospice and Palliative Care- Charlotte. He has a keen personal interest in literacy and education and spent two terms on the Board of the Fletcher School. Currently he serves on the Board of Novant Presbyterian Foundation. Mike is a Managing Principal at Captrust Financial Advisors and has a BS and MBA from UNCChapel Hill. An eighth generation Charlottean, Mike and wife Betsy have two grown children and three grandchildren so far. They are members of New City Church.
Betty relocated to Charlotte from Ohio after 37 years of service in education. She served in various capacities at the local, state and national levels. Her dedication to supporting struggling readers stem from her personal struggles as a child. She has served on numerous boards and continues to be involved with organizations that support women and children. She believes that given the right resources, equal access and support, every child can reach their full potential. Her experiences as Director of Early Childhood Education and Head Start, Coordinator of both Reading Recovery training site and Office of School Improvement for Title I have equipped her with an outstanding insight into what it takes to improve educational opportunities for children. She currently severs as an Executive Board Member of Carolina Women’s Club, a Directorate of Sterling Math and Science Foundation and Life-Member of Leadership Akron. She is married to Roosevelt and has two sons and three grandchildren.
Jim joined the ALP Board in July 2018 and became Chair of the Governance Committee in January 2019 and served as Board Chair from 2021-2022. He helps to drive the mission of ALP through his work as an ALP tutor at Billingsville Elementary. He retired in 2017 from MetLife, Inc. after a 37-year career in Human Resources and Law. At the time of his retirement, he was the Chief Human Resources Officer for Brighthouse Financial. Jim also serves on the Board of Advisors for the UNC Charlotte Belk College of Business and the Board of Directors for the Charlotte 49er Athletic Foundation.
Koren S. Cranford
Koren is the owner of Koren S. Cranford, CPA, specializing in the taxation of small businesses, family groups and high net worth individuals. Previously employed at local public accounting firms and Grant Thornton, LLP, Koren manages relationships with clients to assist them with financial planning, accounting, tax audits, rentals, healthcare, and payroll, in addition to tax compliance. Prior to accounting, Koren was an actuary for the global consulting firm Mercer, specializing in the administration and compliance of defined benefit retirement plans. Koren is a coordinator for the winter shelter program for homeless citizens of Charlotte at the Urban Ministry Center and is a Deacon at Myers Park Baptist Church. She has had previous involvement with various non-profit and educational organizations in Charlotte as a board treasurer.
Rebecca has joined the ALP board after completing her 5th year as an ALP Tutor! In addition to raising her three children, Rebecca has spent the past 20 years in Charlotte as a volunteer and advocate for children. She serves on the board of Myers Park High School Foundation; she is the Co-President Elect for the Myers Park High School PTSO and was actively involved in both the Dilworth Elementary and Alexander Graham Middle School PTAs when her children were in attendance. Rebecca also serves as a Custody Advocate for the Council for Children’s Rights. Prior to moving to Charlotte, Rebecca worked for the Chicago Public Schools as an Accountability Coordinator, creating a platform to measure student success in charter schools and other innovative school models. At the end of the day, you will find her curled up with a good book!
Rebeca Fernández has been a literacy educator for nearly thirty years. During her time in Charlotte, she has advised adult and childhood literacy organizations, directed an after-school tutoring program for emergent bilingual children, and taught writing and educational linguistics courses at Davidson College. She began her teaching career as an elementary school bilingual teacher, after which she pursued a graduate degree in second language acquisition, eventually earning a doctorate in language and literacy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Anthony T. Jones
Anthony joined ALP Board July 2020. Through his vast work with children and families, he understands literacy is a key component to rewriting the narrative for many children in our community. Anthony Jones is the Chief operations Officer for Thompson Child & Family Focus where he assists in establishing strategic direction, growth, and transformation for the organization. Anthony also serves as the agency’s Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer. Prior to working at Thompson, Anthony brought about innovative solutions for the juvenile justice, child welfare, and behavioral health ALP Board Member Biographies, updated 8/2022 3 populations with over 26 years in the private sector, state government, and nonprofit human services. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Mars Hill University and his Master’s degree in Business Management & Leadership from Liberty University. Anthony’s passion and “why” comes from living out his leadership purpose to “motivate others through transformational leadership, to be a change agent, and inspire hope.”
Des joined the ALP board in January 2017 as a representative of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. He has also served as a member of the church’s governing body, the Vestry, as well as the Outreach and Social Justice Grant Committee, and the Grant Committee of the St. Peter’s Capital Campaign. He served for more than a decade as a board member-volunteer for Charlotte Ultimate, another non-profit dedicated to creating playing opportunities in ultimate frisbee for adults and youth. He and his wife, Susan Dosier, operate DK Communications Group, providing public relations, marketing strategy and written and visual content for clients since 2011. Des and Susan have two adult daughters.
Kristin joined the ALP Board in July 2018. She first became interested in literacy through her participation in adult literacy tutoring that began 20 years ago. After seeing firsthand the challenges adults face, both in their lives and with their efforts to learn to read later in life, she realized the power and importance of helping children learn to read. Kristin has been with Wells Fargo for 25 years, currently leading the Emerging Affluent segment strategy for the Consumer Bank. Education is a household passion as her wife, Barbara Lom, is a Professor at Davidson College.
Maria joined the ALP Board in July 2022. She comes to us with significant experience in board leadership from her service as Board Chair of Habitat for Humanity of Gaston County and has a great passion for working with children and youth through various organizations in Charlotte. In addition to her active role in the community, Maria is an Adjunct Faculty Instructor at Wingate’s Porter B. Byrum School of Business.
Bert J. Miano
Bert has been an active member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church since 2012, having recently completed a three-year term on the Vestry, with the last two as Senior Warden. He is the coordinator for the Room in the Inn program at St. Peter’s, and has served on the Youth Advisory Committee, two Associate Rector search committees, the Finance Committee, and two discernment committees. He currently serves on the Strategic Planning Committee. Bert is an attorney with more than 21 years of experience. Previously, he was a newspaper journalist in his home state of Mississippi where he ALP Board Member Biographies, updated 8/2022 4 wrote about business and politics. Bert is married to an architect, Ann, and they have three children.
Michele is a Tax Director at Grant Thornton, LLP where she leads the firm’s Southeast Not-for-Profit tax practice. Michele previously served as a board member and Governance Chair of Theatre Charlotte.
Don E. Olmstead
Don is the Managing Director and founder of Novare Capital. He is currently on the board of Charlotte Family Housing and has served as President of this Board. Don has also served as President of the Board of Habitat for Humanity Charlotte and as a member of the Board of Sharon Towers, a senior living community in Charlotte. He is a trustee of the University of the South, his alma mater. Don and his wife Jill are members of First Presbyterian Church, where he is leading the Investment Committee on the Capital Campaign Cabinet. Both Don and Jill have a passion for the education of children and family housing.
Patricia C. “Trish” Sexton, who was named associate superintendent for elementary school programs in March 2018, has more than two decades of teaching and leadership experience in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. “I believe that every student has great potential and it’s our job as educators to help children realize that potential fully,” Sexton said. “Being an educator is a privilege and I’m honored to serve our students in this new role.” She began her career with the district in 1995 at Piedmont Open Middle School, where she taught fourth and sixth grades. In 2001, she became a principal fellow at the University of North Carolina Charlotte and completed her principal internship at Shiloh Elementary in Monroe. She served as an assistant principal there until 2006, when she returned to CMS as an assistant principal at Providence Spring Elementary for two years. She moved to Pinewood Elementary as principal in 2008, leading the school to three years of high growth (2011, 2012 and 2014). During her tenure, Pinewood was also named a Title I Reward School by the state. The school also moved from a designation of proficiency in its school quality review to a designation of well-developed. In addition, Pinewood was awarded multiple grants under her leadership, including ones from the NFL, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and US Airways. In 2014, Sexton was named executive director of the West Learning Community and became the interim learning community superintendent in 2017. A native of Virginia Beach, Va., Sexton is the daughter of a Navy pilot and spent part of her childhood in Japan. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College of William and Mary, and a master’s degree in school administration from the University of North Carolina Charlotte. She is also certified in curriculum instructional support. Sexton is married and has three daughters.
Tom has a particular passion for aiding and empowering children to realize their potential. His wife Ann has been an Augustine tutor for ten years and previously served on Augustine’s Board. Tom has advised senior management teams and boards of directors on mergers & acquisitions and strategic options for more than 30 years. He is a Managing Director with Fidus Partners and has served on several boards of directors. Tom and Ann have 3 grown sons.