Building Pathways of Opportunity for All.
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 joined Leading on Opportunity as its new 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.
Davidson Impact Fellow
Richmond Brautigan is Leading on Opportunity’s Davidson Impact Fellow, specializing in data analysis and policy research. Prior to joining us, Richmond worked with a variety of Charlotte-based nonprofits including The Lee Institute, Refugee Support Services, and Self-Help Credit Union. He’s long been passionate about empowering and amplifying diverse perspectives in the social sector. He hopes that by listening to underrepresented communities, we can work to create data-driven outcomes that foster equity and generate change. Richmond holds a B.A. in economics from Davidson College. In his spare time, Richmond enjoys birdwatching, playing the French horn, and competing in video game tournaments.
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.
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.
Director, of 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.
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.
Consultant, Strategy + Operations
Alexandra Wendt is the Chief Executive Officer of Launch Communications, a marketing, branding and logistics agency. With over 20 years of working in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors, Alex brings passion and experience to each of her clients. Her expertise with brand development, marketing campaigns, integrative branding, logistics and strategic consulting helps her client achieve long term success. Alexandra received her Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies as well as her Graduate Communications degree from Northwestern University. She has had the privilege of consulting for many amazing non-profits including the American Red Cross of Chicago, The United Service Organization and the Mayo Clinic as well as for private sector organizations like Abbvie, MGM and Blue Cross Blue Shield.