Our Staff

Our Staff

Erica Palmer Smith

Executive Director

When Erica Palmer Smith was eight years old, her dream was to be an author. She later decided that she would rather help write a better future by influencing policy to support children and families. As Executive Director of NC Child, she leads a team that does just that.

Before joining NC Child, Erica was the Executive Director of Care4Carolina, a statewide coalition of more than 150 organizations dedicated to closing the state’s health insurance coverage gap. Prior to that role, Erica served as Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Kentucky.

A native of rural North Carolina, Erica grew up in Sampson and Alexander Counties. She received her B.S. and M.A in political science from Appalachian State University. Erica resides in Fuquay-Varina with her husband, Ryan, and daughter, Alice.

Joined NC Child Staff: 2022

Tiffany Gladney

Senior Director of Policy and Government Relations
(919) 551-8140

Tiffany Gladney is a communications and advocacy professional with 11 years of experience.  Dedicated to leaving North Carolina a little better than she found it, Gladney has effectively advocated for several pieces of legislation which have led to enhanced newborn screening, increased access to broadband in rural communities, and funding for updating sewer and waste water systems in rural North Carolina, as well as for tobacco cessation and preconception health initiatives.

Gladney’s proudest professional accomplishment is the passage of SB 98, legislation aimed at screening newborns for critical congenital heart defects. At the age of 12, she lost her older brother to an undetected congenital heart defect. The North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force (CFTF) is a legislative study commission that examines the causes of child death and makes recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on how to prevent child death, prevent abuse and neglect, and support the safety and well-being of children. Gladney was nominated and approved by Governor Roy Cooper to sit on the task force in the fall of 2022.

A Winston-Salem native, Gladney graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Media in 2009. Her career kicked off as the Communication Specialist at Saint Augustine’s University. In 2015, Emmy award winning, actor, comedian, and writer Jerrod Carmichael hired Gladney as the social media consultant on his acclaimed nationally televised show, The Carmichael Show.

In her free time, she enjoys reading, interior design DIY projects, and trying out new recipes.

Michael Cooper

Senior Director of Advocacy

When Michael was growing up in the foothills of North Carolina, he wanted to be a sportswriter. As Senior Director of Advocacy, he leads the development and implementation of NC Child’s campaign strategy. Before coming to NC Child, he practiced law, worked for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, and served as a Government Affairs Director for the NC Association of Realtors®. Michael is a Community Advisor for Weave: The Social Fabric Project at the Aspen Institute and was a 2020 Presidential Leadership Scholar, a fellowship hosted by the George W. Bush Center, the Clinton Center, the George & Barbara Bush Foundation, and the LBJ Foundation. He was also appointed, by the Governor, to the statewide Youth Advocacy Council. The Council provides support and guidance to the Secretary of the Department of Administration to further state and local youth councils in North Carolina. When he’s not working, Michael enjoys reading, hiking, college basketball, and traveling across the state.

Favorite thing about working at NC Child: Working to give every kid a chance in life.
Pets: A dog named Mojo.

Brad Beauregard

Development Director

When Brad was eight, he wanted to be a rock star. Since then, he’s learned to play and build guitars and has managed athletic equipment for teams at NC State, Wake Forest University, and the United States Military Academy at West Point, often earning the name of “team dad.” As NC Child’s development director, Brad works closely with the Executive Director and the Board of Directors to oversee all of the agency’s fundraising efforts, with an emphasis on individual and corporate giving. He has a BA in Religion from Wake Forest University and is a staunch Demon Deacons fan.

Brad’s favorite thing about working at NC Child: “Being able to support people who are passionate about improving the lives of children in North Carolina.”

Joined the NC Child staff: 2022
Pets: Two dogs, Eli and Frankie

Neil Harrington

Research Director

As NC Child’s Research Director, Neil is committed to supporting NC Child’s policy priorities with high-quality research, data, and analysis. He is passionate about using data and research to illustrate the experiences of North Carolina children and families and identify areas in which state policy can improve opportunities for all children to succeed. Prior to NC Child, Neil worked for the Labor & Economic Analysis Division at the NC Department of Commerce and a research and public relations consulting firm in Jackson, Mississippi, producing political, issues-based, and corporate research for a wide range of clients. He sits on the board of SwingPals, a non-profit organization teaching social-emotional regulation skills to under-resourced kids in Durham Public Schools through golf.

Neil holds a BA in political science from the University of Mississippi and a Master of Public Policy degree from Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. He lives in Durham with his wife, dog (Burr), and Bengal cat (Seymour Spots). In his free time, Neil enjoys reading, playing golf, traveling, and cooking.

Kelvin Stallings

Director of Community Engagement

Kelvin Stallings is an outreach and policy professional with almost a decade of experience navigating the intricacies of state government and public advocacy. Kelvin most recently served as the Policy and Advocacy Manager at Children’s Home Society of North Carolina where he led sustainability efforts around multiple agency programs and helped coordinate the overall advocacy and engagement strategy at the North Carolina General Assembly on behalf of the agency. Prior to Children’s Home Society, Kelvin served as a Legislative Assistant to State Representative Abraham Jones of Wake County for two years in the North Carolina House of Representatives.Kelvin’s experiences over the years equipped him with a profound understanding of the legislative process and the importance of stakeholder engagement, leading him to various impactful roles in political activism. A proud graduate of Elizabeth City State University and East Carolina University, Kelvin currently lives in Southwest Raleigh with his wife, Allysa, and their dog, Olive.

Kim Gibson-Forrest

Director of Finance
Kim Gibson-Forrest (919) 726-6535

Kim has always wanted to be an accountant, even as a little girl, when she dreamed of growing up to work with her Dad – an accountant. As NC Child’s Director of Finance & Administration, Kim manages the organization’s finance and human resource functions. Kim received her BS in – surprise! – accounting from Binghamton University. Outside of work, Kim spends most of her time watching her six kids in action in their wrestling matches, football, soccer, volleyball, and basketball games.

Kim’s favorite thing about working at NC Child: “Knowing I have a small part in making kids’ lives better in NC – not many accountants can say that!”

Joined NC Child Staff: 2017
Pets: 2 dogs, Koda and Bailey

Kim Gibson-Forrest

Tyler Cox

Executive Assistant/HR Coordinator

When Tyler was growing up, he wanted to be a marine biologist because he loves the ocean and the animals in it. These days, Tyler is making a difference on land as our executive assistant and HR coordinator. He keeps things running smoothly and handles even the smallest details with absolute precision. Prior to joining our team, Tyler worked at NC State Athletics as the Director of Operations running events for the home sports teams. He has a Bachelor’s degree from UNCW in Recreation, Sports Leadership, and Tourism Management.

As someone who grew up in North Carolina, he’s passionate about improving the lives of kids in his hometown and throughout the entire state.

Pets: Two dogs, a Bernese Mountain Dog named Annie and a Large Lunsterlander named Qwara

Josh McGee

Deputy Director of Community Engagement

Josh McGee, a dedicated leader in education policy and community engagement, currently serves as the Deputy Director of Community Engagement at NC Child. In this capacity, he plays a pivotal role in expanding the organization’s reach and effectiveness by engaging diverse stakeholders, including elected officials, community leaders, and families across North Carolina. His responsibilities include overseeing strategic initiatives, fostering partnerships, and driving impactful advocacy campaigns for children’s rights and education.

Previously, Josh contributed significantly to both national and state specific education policy and leadership initiatives. Notably at The Hunt Institute and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction where he held roles supporting a range of educational programs, all while equipping decision-makers with essential research and insights from across the education continuum. His educational journey encompasses a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from North Carolina State University, as well as a Masters of Education in Curriculum Studies from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Dedicated to driving positive change in education and community welfare, Josh continues his mission at NC Child, advancing impactful strategies and initiatives to improve outcomes for children across the state.

Aimee Allen

Senior Manager of Parent and Family Engagement

Aimee is a family support professional with over 20 years of experience working directly with parents and children in a variety of settings such as home, hospital and schools. She is energized in getting to know families from a variety of backgrounds and to support their parenting perspectives. As the Senior Manager Parent and Family Engagement Aimee looks forward to working alongside parent leaders and focus on the topics that is important to them.  

She feels that her proudest accomplishments are receiving her master’s degree from University of North Carolina Wilmington in Leadership, Advocacy in Early Childhood, and completing a certificate with University of North Carolina Greensboro in Leadership Infant and Toddler Development.  

Aimee moved from Georgia to the beaches of Wilmington in 2013. She has been married for over 30 years and has two children. She enjoys spending time with her family, watching live theatre, and playing tennis.  

Emily Blevins

Communications Director

When Emily was a kid, she wanted to be an archaeologist. Since then, she’s traded the fascination with digging up ancient civilizations with unearthing the remarkable stories of the people and organizations making a difference in communities across the country.

As Communications Director, Emily leads a multi-channel communications strategy that uplifts our collective opportunities to make a lasting, positive impact on North Carolina’s children. Before coming to NC Child, Emily directed marketing and communications at a statewide Community Development Financial Institution and supported communications in her tenures at the NC Rural Center and the North Carolina Community Foundation. Emily is also the founder of Fireside Creative, a communications consultancy that serves nonprofits and philanthropies across Appalachia and the U.S. Southeast.

When she’s not working, Emily enjoys hunting for treasure at vintage markets, taking classes at her local community arts center, and making headway on her annual Goodreads goal.

Her favorite thing about working at NC Child: making a difference through creativity, coalition building, and team collaboration.

Pets: none (unless you count a few needy houseplants!)

Taylor Main

Senior Marketing Manager

As Senior Marketing Manager, Taylor Main keeps the NC Child team running smoothly. When she was growing up in Virginia, she wanted to be a marine photographer. Now, when she’s not at NC Child, she is still an avid photographer specializing in weddings as well as a traveler, donut enthusiast, and loyal fan of the Atlanta Braves. She has a professional background as a videographer, photographer, and social media manager and holds a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University.

Favorite thing about working for NC Child: Being part of an organization that is making a difference in the lives of children

Pets: A dog named Remy and cats named Pepper and Mozzie

Emily Palermo

Research and Data Analyst

Before joining NC Child, Emily was a Policy Analyst at The Hunt Institute, where she facilitated state-level and national convenings for senior-level legislators to hear from resource experts in higher education and provided policymakers with information on best practices, trends, and current research in higher education. Prior to this, she was a graduate research assistant at the Education Policy Initiative at UNC Chapel Hill.

Emily earned her bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She continued her studies at UNC, earning her Master of Public Policy degree in the inaugural cohort of the program.

As an analyst, Emily is committed to the use of data and research to promote equitable outcomes for North Carolina children.

In her free time, Emily enjoys reading, going to concerts, and playing the flute!

Cassandra Rycek

Policy Analyst

Cassandra started with NC Child as a policy practicum student focused on developing tools to engage with policy makers on pressing early childhood education issues. Her background as a fundraising professional in the educational sector led her to pursue her master’s degree from University of North Carolina Gilling’s School of Public Health Leadership. As a policy analyst, her favorite aspect of the work is creating strategies to address systemic child health issues in innovative ways.
In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, hot yoga, and spending time with her pups.
Pets: Theo, a Foxhound mix, and Sammy, a Maltese mix

Hannah Preston

Health Policy Manager

Hannah Preston comes to us from the University of North Carolina Gilling’s School of Public Health with a master’s degree in health policy. She was a master’s fellow for the NC Division of Health Benefits (Medicaid) throughout her graduate program. As a Health Policy Manager, Preston works closely with the Senior Director of Policy and Government Relations to lead administrative policy with an emphasis on Medicaid in North Carolina.

Preston’s passion for health policy started at age 17. As a legislative fellow for the Baltimore City Health Department, she helped pass the Health Beverages for Kids Meals bill. This bill addressed childhood obesity in the city by requiring restaurants to offer healthy default options for kid’s meals such as water, milk, and 100% fruit juice.

Preston has a BS from Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina. When she is not at work, she is organizing within her community in Durham County, where she is the city youth representative for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission.

In her free time, she enjoys going to the Durham Farmers Market, painting, and hosting events.

Nayleny Banda

Development Associate

Nayleny Banda joined NC Child in February 2024 as a Development Associate. In this role, Nayleny supports the organization’s grants and fundraising initiatives. 

Before joining NC Child, Nayleny served as a Program Assistant at the Hunt Institute where she supported the organizations’ State Legislators Retreat model. Prior to this, she was a 2022-2023 John M. Belk Impact Fellow working with myFutureNC, providing organizational support to help close the educational attainment gap in North Carolina. 

Nayleny earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Work at the University of North Carolina Greensboro and continued her studies at North Carolina State University, where she earned a Master’s degree in Social Work. 

Driven by her commitment to social justice, Nayleny operates as a macro social worker, striving to enact large-scale systemic changes to ensure equitable opportunities for all of North Carolina’s youth.  

Nayleny enjoys being outdoors, cooking, and spending time with her orange tabby- Jimmy! 

Ariana Fahey

Administrative Assistant

Ariana is a graduate from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development with a concentration in Family and Child Studies. As NC Child’s administrative assistant, she makes sure the office runs smoothly and helps facilitate logistics for meetings and events, both internal and external. 

She has experience in early childhood education as well as nonprofits. She is passionate about child advocacy and hopes to work towards helping to make education accessible and affordable to all children.

In her free time, she enjoys trying new restaurants and thrifting.

Jessica Rivera

Marketing and Communications Intern

Jessie Rivera is a senior at Appalachian State University studying digital marketing and will earn her bachelor’s in business administration in December 2024. While earning her associate’s degree at Wake Tech, Jessie worked as a child care teacher and dance instructor, where she grew a passion for advocating for children and supporting child development. Her career goals involve using her degree to make a difference by supporting programs that assist children and families.

Monicky Saucedo

Data and Research Intern

Originally from Austin, Texas, Monicky is a current MPP candidate at Duke University and is passionate about social justice and equity. She aims to leverage her academic and teaching experience to advocate for legislative solutions addressing systemic inequities, believing in the power of policy to create positive change and empower communities. In her free time, you can find Monicky working towards her Goodreads goal, walking her dog Ace, or enjoying coffee!

Addison Tate

Marketing and Communications Intern

Addison Tate is a sophomore at North Carolina State University studying Communication with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Rhetoric and Professional Writing. Addison is also a dance teacher and values encouraging classrooms and welcoming spaces for all kids so they can express their creativity. In her free time, Addison can either be found nose-deep in a fantasy novel or singing along at a concert. 

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