President and CEO Brenda is the President & CEO of BEST NC (Business for Educational Success and Transformation in North Carolina), a nonpartisan organization of over 125 business leaders with a focus on making education in North Carolina the best in the nation. She has over twenty years of experience as a business owner, public policy professional and education advocate. She founded Scandinavian Child in 2002, a baby products manufacturing and importing business. Prior to founding her business, she had almost ten years of public policy experience in both education and transportation policy and programs. Brenda’s passion for education stems from her own experience as a first-generation college graduate. With two children in North Carolina public schools, she is driven by the belief that every child should have access to a great education. She serves on various boards and education organizations, including Habitat for Humanity of Wake County. Brenda has a B.A. in Economics and a Master’s degree in Public Policy, both from Georgetown University.
Vice President of Policy and Research Julie joined BEST NC as Vice President of Policy and Research in July of 2014. Julie is a nationally-recognized education policy expert on a wide range of public education issues, including teacher and leader effectiveness, school innovations and dramatic school improvement. She comes to BEST NC from the North Carolina Campaign for Achievement Now (CarolinaCAN), an education policy and advocacy nonprofit, where she served as Executive Director. Prior to founding CarolinaCAN, Julie was a member of the leadership team at education policy and management consulting firm Public Impact, where she led project teams on many of the most promising education transformation efforts in the nation. An alumna of AmeriCorps NCCC and Public Allies DC, Julie earned her bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and her law degree with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She serves on the board of Mission 100 Percent, a collection of teachers, educators, and students who use the power of video to share and build best practices in public schools; and Word Class Schools, a local effort to launch more innovative school models in North Carolina.
Excellence Director As an accomplished relationship professional, Keith has nearly 20 years of experience in relationship management, diversity and inclusion, public affairs, and government and community relations. His career includes serving as a nonprofit executive for the North Carolina NAACP and the Triangle Urban League, political strategist for former Congresswoman Eva Clayton and former Governor Beverly Perdue, and various management positions at the United States Census Bureau and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. Keith has served on the Wake County Board of Education since 2009. Keith is a 1992 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Relations. He is also a William C. Friday Human Relations Fellow. He is a native of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and is the proud father of two beautiful girls, Alexia and Makayla.
NATASHA CUPELES FORD
Communications & Membership Coordinator As the Communications and Membership Coordinator, Natasha is dedicated to continuing the growth of BEST NC’s business membership and communicating a powerful voice in support of positive education transformation across the North Carolina community. This voice will capture the mission and expand on the transformational vision that drives all of BEST NC’s work. Natasha earned her B.A. in Mass Communications from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is an Alumni of Public Allies NC, an AmeriCorps program that teaches intense leadership skills through a full-time apprenticeship in a nonprofit. Her apprenticeship was at Passage Home, where she gained non-profit marketing experience. Natasha is a native of Cary, NC and now lives in Raleigh.
Policy Analyst Alex joined BEST NC as a Policy Analyst in March 2016. In this role, Alex leverages the power of data, research and analysis to inform and engage the business community in their advocacy for educational success and transformation. Alex brings a wealth of experience in data gathering and analysis to BEST NC from his years working as a business analyst in private industry. He holds a bachelor\’s degree in mathematics and physics and a master\’s degree in teaching from Duke University. As a former Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Fellow, Alex\’s commitment to improving educational outcomes for all students is rooted in his experience teaching for two years in Durham Public Schools.
Administrative Assistant Ashleigh joined the BEST NC team as the Administrative Assistant in February 2016. Prior to that, she graduated from Wake Technical Community College where she earned her Associate in Arts degree. After working various jobs to support herself through college, she is thrilled to be pursuing her professional goals at BEST NC. Ashleigh is enthusiastic and proud to be a part of an organization where she can contribute to improving education for all of North Carolina’s students.
Communications Specialist Zachary Hodges first joined the BEST NC team as an animations contractor in January 2016 and was officially welcomed as a full team member in April 2017. An alum of Appalachian State University, Zachary graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing and Film Studies and moved to Raleigh, where he began a career in communications with another education non-profit. His commitment to improving educational outcomes in North Carolina stems from his experience as a public school student, and his mother’s nearly two decades of work as a teacher.