Staff photo

Staff members at the Take Flight with SHIFT NC 2016 benefit auction.

Traci L. Baird, MPH, Chief Executive Officer

Traci’s career has focused on enhancing reproductive and sexual health and rights for women and girls. She has extensive leadership experience in public health, including more than 20 years designing and leading programs in international reproductive and sexual health. She has published more than 20 articles and monographs on reproductive health topics. As Executive Vice President for Programs at Ipas, Traci oversaw the growth and expansion of programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Traci has a strong track record of leading effective teams, establishing strategic plans, building relationships with partner organizations and institutional donors, and improving organizational effectiveness. Traci earned an undergraduate degree in Human Biology with a focus on women’s health from Stanford University and a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has volunteered on nonprofit boards for organizations working in the US and internationally. 

Amanda Fritts, MSPH, Community Coordinator – Cumberland County

Amanda coordinates the NC Youth Connected Initiative in Cumberland County – a community-wide teen pregnancy prevention approach. Before moving to North Carolina, Amanda worked for District of Columbia Public Schools with a focus on school climate and student satisfaction. She also worked with early childhood home visiting programs in Maryland as part of the Home Visiting Research Team at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Amanda received a BS in Health Behavior Science from the University of Delaware and an MSPH from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

Bianka Reese, MSPH, Evaluation Specialist

Bianka leads evaluation for the Every Teen Counts and North Carolina Youth Connected initiatives. She has previous experience in program evaluation of large-scale teen pregnancy prevention programs, qualitative data collection and analysis, and empirical analyses of complex, multilevel datasets. Bianka is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Maternal and Child Health at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her dissertation research explores the implications of positive youth development for holistic aspects of sexual health and romantic relationships in young adulthood, using a nationally representative sample of U.S. adolescents. Bianka holds a Master’s of Science in Public Health in Maternal and Child Health, also from UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Debbie Engelbrecht, Chief Financial Officer

Debbie has worked in the financial field for more than three decades. A native of Zimbabwe, she later moved to South Africa where she met her husband and started a family. She immigrated to the United States more than a decade ago.

Elise Berrier,  Capacity-Building Specialist - Juvenile Justice 

Elise specializes in capacity-building services for the Juvenile Justice System on the Every Teen Counts Initiative. Prior to joining SHIFT NC, Elise worked as a community health educator for Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic and ran a coalition focused on improving access to sexual and reproductive health care in rural communities. She has implemented domestic violence prevention education initiatives for the Compass Center for Women & Families and UNC-Chapel Hill's Student Wellness. Elise obtained her Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Women's & Gender Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill.  

Elizabeth Hundley Finley, Director of Strategic Communications

Elizabeth oversees communications for SHIFT NC. Prior to joining SHIFT NC, she worked with many of North Carolina’s other leading child advocacy organizations, including The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. (Smart Start) and Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina. Elizabeth is a graduate of Appalachian State University.

Janae’ Roberts, MPH, Program Specialist

Janae’ is the NC Youth Connected Program Specialist, focusing on providing direction and technical assistance to all school district, community-based partners, and other human services agencies in Cumberland County. Prior to joining SHIFT NC, Janae’ resided in Atlanta, Georgia where she obtained her Master’s in Public Health from Emory University, with a focus on behavioral science & health education, and worked as a Continuous Quality Improvement Associate at a state foster care & adoption agency. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was able to begin her undergraduate career completing research at Johns Hopkins University and working for The Jackson Heart Study, the largest single-site epidemiologic investigation of cardiovascular disease among African Americans. Janae’ maintains an interest in adolescent & women’s health and community-based program planning, implementation, and evaluation.

Kennon E. Jackson, Jr., MA, Director of Innovative Technologies

Kennon manages the BrdsNBz Text Line System, which includes the North Carolina BrdsNBz Text Message Warm Line and franchisees across the country. Kennon has a wealth of experience working with nonprofits, government agencies, and academic institutions, including the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the United States Department of State, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health Center for Adolescent Health. He has a BS in Biology from Davidson College, and a Master's in Public Policy from Duke University.

Kia Thacker, MPH, Director of Priority Populations

Kia leads SHIFT NC's Every Teen Counts Initiative. She previously worked on the Gaston Youth Connected project to create strategies to reach the most vulnerable youth and managed the project’s Teen Action Council. Prior to joining SHIFT NC, Kia worked in substance abuse prevention. She has a Bachelor’s in Sociology from UNC-Chapel Hill and an MPH from UNC-Greensboro.

Madison Ward Willis,  MPA, Community Coordinator - Wayne County

Madison is a coordinator for NC Youth Connected — an initiative to facilitate coordinated, community-wide approaches to teen pregnancy prevention. In addition, she oversees SHIFT NC's 100 County Campaign in Eastern NC. Prior to SHIFT NC, Madison worked for five years as Director of Adolescent Programs at Compass Center for Women and Families, focusing efforts on primary pregnancy prevention work with middle school girls. Madison holds a Master's in Public Administration from North Carolina Central University and completed her undergrad work at Peace College with a BA in Child Development.

Melinda DeJongh, Director of Resources and Special Projects

Melinda is SHIFT NC’s lead grant writer, and coordinates the Annual Conference and the Resource Library. She has been with SHIFT NC since 1999, which means she remembers when the fax machine was the most-used piece of technology in the office. Melinda holds a Bachelor’s in English from Guilford College, with a concentration in Women's Studies. Originally from Tennessee, she has lived in North Carolina for most of her life.

Meriel Shire, MSW, MPH, Clinic Improvement and Linking Specialist

Meriel works with health centers and youth-serving organizations in Durham County, providing technical assistance for best practice promotion and strengthening referral and linking networks as part of the All Together Now initiative.  A native of Connecticut, Meriel holds Master's degrees in Public Health and Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis, and a Bachelor's degree from Bard College.  Before moving to North Carolina, Meriel worked as a Policy Research Assistant for the Contraceptive Choice Center in St. Louis.

Michela GarrisonMPH, Evaluation Specialist

Michela leads evaluation for the All Together Now initiative in Durham, NC and the Healthy Tomorrow Alliance initiative in Greensboro, NC. She also provides evaluation support for the High Point Access Initiative. Michela has experience domestically and internationally in sexual and reproductive health evaluation and program development, and in teaching and developing sexual health education curricula. Michela has a Master’s of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Bachelor’s degree from Vassar College.

Michelle Reese, Director of Clinic Improvement Services

Michelle provides leadership and technical assistance to SHIFT NC healthcare improvement and access projects. Previously, she led community mobilization efforts and clinic improvement strategies for the Gaston Youth Connected initiative. She has more than two decades of experience working in adolescent reproductive health issues, starting as Director of Community Health Education at the Mecklenburg Council on Adolescent Pregnancy. She has also managed non-traditional HIV testing programs, served as a master trainer for the North Carolina School Health Training Center, and mentored young professionals for more than a decade. She holds a Bachelor’s in Health Promotion from UNC-Charlotte and is a graduate of the Emerging Minority Leaders in Public Health Fellowship at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Molly Russell, MSW, Supportive Schools Coordinator

Molly develops, delivers, and coordinates trainings on supporting LGBTQ+ youth for public school districts and other statewide partners. Before SHIFT, Molly engaged in mission-based capacity building work across North Carolina, most recently with Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. Molly has a degree in creative writing from UNC Asheville and an MSW from UNC Chapel Hill.   

Pat Hilliard, Administrative Coordinator

Pat provides in-office support for training and program activities, as well as coordination for public events. Pat received her Bachelor’s in English and Religion from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.

Sally Swanson, MSW, MSPH, Chief Program Officer

Sally oversees SHIFT NC's programs department, the department that coordinates all signature initiatives. She has also earned the alternate title "Director of Awesomeness." Previously, she directed the Gaston Youth Connected initiative, a nationally recognized prevention project that reduced teen birth rates in Gaston County by more than 40%. Sally previously worked in HIV prevention, counseling, and testing, as well as in domestic violence services. She holds Master’s degrees in Social Work and Public Health from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Sam Peterson, Marketing and Outreach Specialist

Sam is part of the communications team for SHIFT NC. Before joining SHIFT NC, he worked with a number of non-profit LGBTQ advocacy groups, including Integrity USA, Queer History South, and Equality Texas. Sam graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in Communication Studies. He mentors transgender and queer youth in recovery from substance abuse, and volunteers for several Durham-based gay and transgender groups.

Sarah Davis, MPH, Director of Public Health Strategy

Sarah leads SHIFT NC’s All Together Now initiative, focused on improving access to sexual health services for teens and young adults in Durham. In addition, she provides technical support and advisement to multiple other SHIFT NC efforts, working across a variety of health and youth-serving systems. She provides leadership for program planning and resource creation, including past work on the Gaston Youth Connected initiative. Sarah has more than 15 years of experience working to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable groups, from a variety of perspectives. She brings a strong background in applied public health, and has successfully worked in and with health care, education, and community-based non-profit organizations. Sarah was a high school teacher with Teach For America in the Mississippi Delta and holds a Master’s of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Tamara D. Roberston,  MPH, Capacity-Building Specialist - Foster Care 

Tamara Robertson is the Capacity Building Specialist for the Foster Care System on the Every Teen Counts Initiative. Prior to joining SHIFT NC, Tamara was a Public Health Educator with Wake County Human Services in the HIV/STD Community Program and interned with the Coastal Health District's Adolescent Health and Youth Development Department in Savannah, Georgia. Tamara earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Studies from Georgia Southern University and Master of Public Health from Armstrong State University. 

Tania Connaughton-Espino, MPH, Director of Integrated Community Initiatives (NCYC)

Tania coordinates SHIFT NC’s community-wide initiative (NC Youth Connected) in Cumberland county. Originally from Mexico City, Mexico, Tania came to North Carolina to obtain her Master’s in Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill. She has worked extensively with the Latino community on reproductive health issues and developed Spanish-language family planning and women’s health resources during her time with the NC Healthy Start Foundation. She also has experience implementing Cuídate!, presenting parent workshops in Spanish encouraging parents to talk to their children about sex, and leading trainings for lay health advisors. Tania served as the Team Leader for the NC Division of Public Health’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiatives (TPPI) and provided technical assistance to TPPI-funded projects in Eastern NC and projects funded under the Personal Responsibility and Education Program (PREP).