Building Pathways of Opportunity for All.

Our Team

Our team works to advance lasting, transformational change for all. We plan to take bold action in the years ahead so, together, we earn a new reputation as a community that is “Leading on Opportunity.”

Sherri Chisholm

Executive Director

Sherri Chisholm joined Leading on Opportunity as its director in September 2020, bringing nearly a decade of experience as an educational and nonprofit strategist to the role. She has worked in senior leadership at national nonprofits and major school districts across the country, where she drove transformation through strategic planning, organizational effectiveness, and leadership development. Prior to joining Leading on Opportunity, Sherri served as the founding Executive Director of Urban Alliance Detroit, a national youth workforce development nonprofit that aims to expand access to economic opportunity for youth from under-resourced neighborhoods through paid internships, job skills training, and mentoring. She is also the founder and CEO of FreeSpace Consulting Group where she has worked to guide and support districts and nonprofit organizations across the country seeking to effect positive change in public education

Josie Hovis

Davidson Impact Fellow

Josie Hovis serves as the Davidson Impact Fellow at Leading on Opportunity, largely working with the data and policy initiatives. She received her B.A. in Latin American Studies from Davidson College. Prior to joining the team, Josie worked with other organizations striving to create positive social change, including the Housatonic Valley Association and the Latin American News Digest. Investing in community remains a central value for Josie. In her free time, Josie enjoys spending time outdoors and trying out new recipes. 

AJ Calhoun

Director, Research + Impact

AJ Calhoun blends expertise in economics, design, and theology to address complex community challenges. Prior to joining LOO, AJ led a collaboration between United Way, Knight Foundation, FFTC and Bank of America to develop a strategic plan for disrupting displacement across Mecklenburg County. He currently sits on the board of directors for DreamKey Partners, chairs the North Star Data Committee within Charlotte Executive Leadership Council’s Healthy Communities Working Team, and serves on Novant Health’s Community Engagement Advisory Council. AJ is also an Associate Fellow of the Kirby Liang Centre for Public Theology in Cambridge (UK) where he is a member of the Economics Research Hub. He holds a master’s in public policy from the University of Chicago, Bachelors’ in urban studies and political science from Furman University, and spent two years in Malaysia as a Fulbright scholar.

Dr. Virginia Covill

Deputy Director, Strategy + Operations

Dr. Virginia Covill is a community psychologist focused on improving outcomes for children and families in Charlotte through systems change and strategic problem solving. Dr. Covill earned her PhD in Community Health Psychology and M.A. in Clinical & Community Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Prior to joining Leading on Opportunity, Virginia was Vice President of Research, Evaluation and Impact for Communities In Schools (CIS) of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, an organization dedicated to keeping kids in school and helping them succeed in life.

Maria Diaz

College + Career Initiatives

Maria Diaz serves as the Director of Persistence and Evaluation at Carolina Youth Coalition. She earned her MPH in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and B.A. from Berea College. She began her career at Teach for America teaching science in Charlotte, NC. She developed and directs the Carolina Youth Coalition Research Practice-Partnership with UNCC which aims to address problems of practice and advance educational outcomes for students. She has played a lead role in program development and evaluation for numerous organizations. As a Mexican immigrant and first-generation college student, Maria’s passion and moral responsibility has been educational and health equity.

Tonya Jameson

Director, Civic Engagement

Tonya Jameson is a consigliere providing consultation and campaign management services to elected officials, community leaders and rising political stars seeking to make Charlotte a better place to live, work and raise a family. She managed winning campaigns for Mayor Vi Lyles, District Attorney Spencer Merriweather, State representatives Brandon Lofton and Becky Carney as well City Council members Larken Egleston and Julie Eiselt. She began her career in Charlotte as a reporter and columnist for the Charlotte Observer, and later worked as online editor for Radio One Charlotte. Tonya earned her Master’s in Communications from the University of Maryland and her Bachelor’s in Communications from the University of Alabama.

Robert Pinka

Consultant, Data + Evaluation

Robert Pinka is a Ph.D. student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte studying Public Policy. Robert’s academic background is in ethics and applied philosophy, and his professional background is in operations management and marketing (primarily with late-stage startups and small businesses). His research primarily focuses on the impacts of technology and institutions on social stratification and inequality of outcomes. Currently, he is working as a research assistant in political science and is a Managing Editor for the academic journal, Social Science Research. In his free time, Robert enjoys hikes, taking on new house projects, and teaching studio cycling.

Faith Mejia

Strategy + Operations

Faith Anthony Mejia serves as Leading on Opportunity’s Operations and Strategy Coordinator, supporting the implementation of internal and external projects that advance the social and economic wellbeing of her native Charlotte community. Faith earned her M.A. in Latin American Studies from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and B.A in Spanish from Queens University of Charlotte. Her background in adult education and systems changing nonprofit work has culminated in a passion for moving the mission of equity in Charlotte forward. Prior to joining Leading on Opportunity, Faith has served with Road to Hire, Charlotte Country Day School and as a Latin Americanist professional development guest lecturer for North Carolina educators.

Will Darden

College + Career Initiatives

A Charlotte native, Will Darden attended Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. He is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied Communications and Entrepreneurship. After two years of teaching at Harding University High School through Teach For America and being awarded New Teacher of the Year by The Beacon Initiative, Will joined UrbanPromise Charlotte in 2017. He has served in a variety of entrepreneurial leadership roles there, most recently launching the organization’s Pathway Completion program, where he provides career coaching and networking support to young adults with an emphasis on social capital development. In his free time, Will serves as president of the Commonwealth-Morningside Neighborhood Association, where he advocates for thoughtful urban planning and placemaking efforts across the city. Through his extensive nonprofit and community leadership, Will is committed to working to help make Charlotte a place where children from every neighborhood have the support and resources they need to thrive in our city.