Liberty Fellowship selects new class

Twenty South Carolina leaders have been selected for Liberty Fellowship’s Class of 2023. Following the successful completion of five, multi-day seminars in the U.S. and abroad and individual leadership projects, the new class will join the community of more than 300 Liberty Fellows working collectively across South Carolina.

“Each leader in our new class has demonstrated the courage and ability to confront the big, systemic issues affecting the people in South Carolina now and into the future.” said Ann Marie Stieritz, president and CEO of Liberty Fellowship and a Fellow from the Class of 2016. “By accepting our invitation to become Liberty Fellows, they are challenging themselves to dig even deeper and answer the question ‘How do I lead well and live justly in a good society?’” 

Liberty Fellowship’s rigorous selection process takes place every two years. Each new Fellow was nominated, interviewed twice, and ultimately selected from a pool of more than 400 nominations. 

“We are very intentional in selecting leaders with different perspectives, experiences and professional affiliations to facilitate challenging and meaningful values exploration and dialogue. We have found this to be the key to creating trust and lifelong bonds among leaders uniquely positioned to confront the status quo,” said Stieritz. 

In addition to joining the Liberty Fellowship community, each new Fellow will also become a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, a worldwide community of more than 3,000 high-integrity, entrepreneurial leaders from business, government and the nonprofit sector in more than 50 countries.

The Liberty Fellowship Class of 2023 is:

Amy Barch

Founder and Executive Director, Turn90

Charleston

Amy founded Turn90 (formerly Turning Leaf) in 2011 as a volunteer. The organization now has 13 salaried staff and a budget of $1.1 million. Their second location was launched in Columbia in October and announced the organization’s rebranding as Turn90. Working with men returning home from prison who are at the highest risk of re-arrest, Turn90 combines behavioral therapy, one-on-one counseling, onsite transitional employment, and job placement to offer a proven model of prison reentry with a 78% success rate. Amy’s stated aim is to build the first evidence-based nation-wide re-entry program.

Prior to founding Turn90, Amy was the Director of Programs for East Cooper Community Outreach and served as the Special Assistant to the National Coordinator for the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Law, Societies & Justice at the University of Washington and is working towards her Master's in Criminal Justice at Arizona State.

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Gary Brewer

VP- South Atlantic Area Construction Services, HDR, Inc.

Charleston

A Summerville native, Gary worked with family-owned Banks Construction through 2019 when he joined HDR Engineering- a global company with over 10,000 employees. He covers transportation infrastructure construction for North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia and is engaged with many prominent infrastructure projects in the state including Carolina Crossroads, I-385, the SCSPA’s Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal as well as the Lowcountry Rapid Transit project which is billed as South Carolina’s first mass transit project.

Gary is the incoming chair of South Carolina Alliance to Fix our Roads (SCFOR) and is a member of the Trident Technical College Board of Trustees. He also serves on the boards of Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments, BCD Rural Transportation Management Association and A Steady Hand. He is immediate past president of the ARK (Alzheimer Respite Nonprofit) of Summerville.

Gary earned a Bachelor of Science degree from The Citadel.

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Chase Glenn

Director of LGBTQ+ Health Services and Enterprise Resources, Medical University of South Carolina

Charleston

In his role at MUSC, Chase is focused on closing the gap of disparity and making access and care more equitable, particularly to the LGBTQ+ community. The Illinois-native, who has lived in Charleston since 2006, previously was the executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA), an LGBTQ advocacy organization based in Charleston. Chase is known for his work to help others understand the transgender community and experience. Prior to his role with AFFA, Chase worked in account management at Blackbaud after serving as the Director of Communications for Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Church. He has served on a number of South Carolina boards and committees including the Charleston Pride Festival, South Carolina Equality and the Coastal Community Foundation Bridge Philanthropists.

Chase earned his Master of Arts in Counseling from Webster University and a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Belmont University.

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Teresa Goodman

Executive Director, Community Initiatives, Inc.

Greenwood

With a background in social services, prevention, and non-profit management, Teresa believes her personal and professional experiences have taught her the value of hard work, dedication, ethical excellence, and service to others. Teresa has moved throughout the state, working predominantly in rural areas (including Laurens, Clinton, Orangeburg and Greenwood). She is the founder of Vision Savvy Consulting, and has also worked with the Department of Social Services, the Dept. of Juvenile Justice, Orangeburg County First Steps, SC Dept. of Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Services, and Carolina Health Centers, Inc. In assuming the leadership role at Community Initiatives, Teresa faced circumstances that required a focus on re-establishing community trust and making decisions outside of her comfort zone. Many Greenwood residents rely on the community outreach efforts of Community Initiatives, including their free medical clinic and after school program.

Teresa earned a Master of Arts in Management and Leadership from Webster University and a Master of Science in Individual and Family Development and Bachelor of Science in Psychology from South Carolina State University.

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John Gordon

President & CEO, Leroy Springs & Company, Inc.

Fort Mill

John is a native of Clover, SC and has deep roots in the region. His organizational expertise is driven by more than 15 years of operational and leadership experience at some of the area’s most respected conservation and recreation facilities including the U.S. National Whitewater Center, YMCA Camp Thunderbird, and YMCA Camp Cherokee. This experience prepared him to assume his responsibility as the Executive Director of the Anne Springs Close Greenway, solidifying his position as a regional leader in outdoor education and recreation. As the Chief Operating Officer of LSC, John assumed responsibility for all LSC operations, with FLYERS After-School, Springs Golf and Springmaid Mountain reporting to him. He assumed the role of President and CEO in July 2021. He sees the challenge and inspiration for his work in taking the long view. While many organizations think in terms of year-to-year, John describes LCS as thinking “decades-to-decades” and is setting its course for the next 20 years.

John earned his Bachelor of Arts in History from Winthrop University.

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Shontavia Johnson

Associate VP for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Clemson University

Greenville

Shontavia has positioned herself as one of the nation’s foremost experts in intellectual property law, inclusive entrepreneurship, and digital brand building. At Clemson University she acts as a connecter between faculty, students, businesses and other universities to help faculty and students create personal brands and launch successful businesses. Shontavia is also the founder and managing member of LVRG LLC, a content creation company focused on diversifying entrepreneurship. She is committed to providing opportunities for generational wealth creation and has been tapped to speak by Google, TEDxAtlanta, SXSW, the Smithsonian and Entrepreneur Magazine.

Shontavia was raised in Aiken and began her career practicing law in Greenville, but she has traveled the world extensively, with stops including New Orleans, Des Moines, Haiti and Cape Town. While in Cape Town, she studied law under Justice Zak Yacoob (appointed by Nelson Mandela to the Constitutional Court of South Africa). Prior to her position at Clemson, she was the Director of the Intellectual Property Law Center and held the endowed Kern Family Chair in Intellectual Property Law at Drake University School of Law, a Westerfield Fellow at Loyola University College of Law and an Intellectual Property Attorney at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. Shontavia currently serves on the SCBIO Foundation Board of Directors. She will complete a Fulbright Specialist appointment to Uzbekistan in the Summer of 2022.

Shontavia earned her Juris Doctor (cum laude) from the University of Arkansas School of Law and her Bachelor of Science in Biosystems Engineering from Clemson University.

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James Jordon

President, Jordon Construction Company and Jordon Development Company

Greenville

As the founder of Jordon Construction Company (JCC) and Jordon Development Company, James brings more than 22 years of extensive experience leading thriving and successful businesses in the construction and development industry. JCC is a minority-owned construction business with a steadily growing team of 25. The firm is currently working on projects with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and the General Service Administration, to name a few. Jordon Development Company focuses on transformative projects in urban areas.

Having known both successes and struggles in his life, James is an advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. He acknowledges the role mentorship has played throughout his life and embeds it within the practices and values of his own company. EY recently recognized James as a 2021 Entrepreneur of the Year Southeast Awards finalist. 

James earned his Bachelor of Science in Organizational and Leadership Development from Marquette University.

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Michael Lalich

President and Founder, Lowcountry Labor Company

Johns Island

Michael specializes in helping businesses attain guest workers through the H2A and H2B visa program. He works along with the business or farm to ensure the presence of a legal, stable, and qualified workforce at the appropriate times throughout the season. Michael hired the Low Country Labor, LLC’s first workers in 2004 and now employs over 4400, primarily from Mexico and Central America. He estimates a 92% of return rate of workers each year and about 60% of his workers are supporting the agricultural industry in South Carolina. The effort to utilize the program is a viable solution to the current labor challenge faced by South Carolina growers in a major sector of the state’s economy. During the Covid-19 crisis,  Michael served on an ad hoc COVID task force that offered weekly advice to then-Vice President Mike Pence.

Michael is currently Chairman of the Board of the National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) and serves on their H2A and Immigration committees. He is also a member of the American Farm Bureau Labor Issue Committee and the SC Farm Bureau Labor Advisory Committee.

Lalich studied Language and International Trade at Clemson University.

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E. Smyth McKissick, IV

President & CEO, Alice Company

Greenville

Smyth is the President and CEO of Alice Company, a Greenville-based diversified investment firm. He is the fifth generation of his family to lead the company, a testament to his strong roots and continued commitment to South Carolina. He has overseen the evolution of the company from a prominent textile manufacturing firm to a diverse investment enterprise supporting industry throughout the United States. Smyth says the new Alice is guided by the same imperatives that shaped the old Alice: creating jobs and giving back to the community. Both will continue to play an important role as the firm and its partners invest in areas like real estate, private equity funds, and individual companies.

Prior to his role at Alice, Smyth worked for McKinsey & Company in Atlanta. In 2019 he returned to South Carolina specifically to take on the challenge of transitioning the family enterprise from textile manufacturer to investment partner. 

Smyth earned his Master of Business Administration from Columbia Business School and his Bachelor of Arts in Finance and Economics from The University of Georgia.

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Dominik Mjartan

President and CEO, Optus Bank

Columbia

Optus is a bank on a mission to ensure that all people can build wealth regardless of their  circumstances. Optus Bank is a U.S. Treasury certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and the only Black owned bank in South Carolina and one of 17 nationally.

An immigrant from the former Czechoslovakia, Dominik moved to the U.S. at age 16. Before joining Optus, he spent 12 years as a senior executive officer at Southern Bancorp, most recently as the Executive Vice President. He is past Chair of the CDFI Coalition and a current director of the Community Development Bankers Association and the National Bankers Association, D.C. based advocacy organizations. He is also finance chair of the Midlands Arts Conservatory and serves on the finance committee of Women’s Rights & Empowerment Network, on the board of directors of the South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development, The Opportunity Center and the South Carolina Bankers Association. 

Dominik earned his MBA from Ulster University in the United Kingdom and a Bachelors in Business Management from The University of Arkansas.

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Brooke Mueller

Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs (VA, NC, SC), Walmart, Inc.

Spartanburg

Brooke Mueller joined Walmart Public Affairs and Government Relations for the Mid-Atlantic Region in 2010. In this role her focus is on establishing and growing the organization’s legislative affairs and community outreach efforts by serving as the lead representative for Walmart in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. She also engages with national leaders through Walmart’s work with Governor’s associations and the US Conference of Mayors. Brooke has a keen understanding of South Carolina’s legislative process as well as other states. She recently testified before the SC Senate Committee on Judiciary House Bill 3620, Penalty Enhancements for Hate Crimes, stating, “Passage of this bill would encourage continued investment here by major corporations by demonstrating that we have cast off the legacy of the past.”

Brooke has a diverse background in both politics and business. She came to Walmart from the National Association of Home Builders where she served as the Director of Industry Relations & Grassroots. Prior to that she worked as a Land Acquisitions Manager for Pulte Home Corporation's Washington Division and a Land Development Finance Manager for Robert Harris Homes, a mid-size builder based in Atlanta, Georgia, her hometown. Brooke also worked as a Senior Consultant for Deloitte Consulting in New York.

She is proud to serve as the Vice-Chairman of the SC Retail Association Board and also serves on the Executive Board of the NC Retail Merchants Association, the Cancer Board for Spartanburg Regional Hospital and on the Board for the SC School for the Deaf and Blind.

She received her MBA with a concentration in real estate finance from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina and received a Bachelor of Science from Vanderbilt University.

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Tiffany Pizarro

Market VP- Clinic Operations, CenterWell Senior Primary Care

Greenville

Tiffany has worked in the healthcare field for over 20 years and is now Vice President of Clinic Operations for CenterWell Senior Primary Care (formerly Partners in Primary Care), a wholly owned entity of Humana, with responsibilities for expansion beyond South Carolina into the Georgia and North Carolina markets. She appreciates that the values of CenterWell Senior Primary Care align with her own, and that the organization is designed to provide the most trusted and respectful environment for patients. Tiffany brings years of understanding of community-based health care in underserved communities in the South. She has a particular passion for investment in girls and young women and has an aspiration to establish a foundation for young single mothers. Before joining Partners in Primary Care, Tiffany was Practice Operations Manager and Billing Supervisor for Greenville Health System, and Billing Manager for Blossom OB/GYN.

Tiffany earned her Master of Business Administration from North Greenville University and her Bachelor of Science in Accounting from University of Phoenix.

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Aparna Polavarapu

Associate Professor, UofSC School of Law/Director and Founder, SC Restorative Justice Initiative

Columbia

Aparna has over a decade of experience working in human rights, especially focusing on how women’s rights can be promoted and inhibited by informal justice systems. Through her work in sub-Saharan Africa, Aparna came to understand and respect the contributions of community-driven justice practices. More recently, she has worked with local partners to promote and develop restorative justice practices in South Carolina, founding the South Carolina Restorative Justice Institute in 2020. She has conducted webinars and other trainings with local and national audiences on the use of restorative justice to address harms, including intimate partner violence and sexual assault. As a “community-focused academic,” Aparna communicates broadly and presents new frameworks in her concepts of justice drawn from her grassroots work in South Carolina communities.

Aparna initially pursued study at MIT intending to become a neuroscientist before finding her interest in policy and law. She was a Corporate Associate at Locke Lorde LLP in Boston before pursuing her academic career. Prior to coming to University of South Carolina, she was working as a Teaching Fellow and Supervising Attorney at the International Women's Human Rights Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center. She is a current member of the SC Access to Justice Commission and the World Justice Project Rule of Law Research Consortium.

Aparna earned her Master of Laws (LLM) and Juris Doctor at Georgetown University Law Center, a Master of Arts from Tufts University, and a Bachelor of Science in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Zeb Portanova

CEO, GEM Funds

Aiken

Zeb is the Founder of GEM Funds, which grew from an initial Opportunity Zone fund to a encompass a broad portfolio comprised of several investment verticals including opportunity zones, greenhouse technology, renewable energy and digital asset mining. Among others, GEM Funds’ investment in Hampton County has drawn attention for its potential as a transformational project for the agricultural and Bitcoin mining industries.

Zeb grew up in Arizona and earlier in his career held leadership positions in real estate development, healthcare, nonprofits and manufacturing as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. He went on to lead several large multinationals. Zeb first came to South Carolina as President and CEO of Swiss Krono USA in Barnwell County. His next opportunity took him and his family to Lausanne, Switzerland for two years as he served as Chief Operating Officer for Vestergaard, the largest producer of mosquito nets in the world to prevent malaria, with additional business units in water purification and food security. He oversaw 10,000 global employees and subcontractors on four continents. Zeb and his family returned to South Carolina in 2019.Zeb is actively involved in Young President’s Organization (YPO) and serves as the incoming Chair for the Southern 7 Chapter and past chair for YPO South Carolina.

Zeb earned a MBA from Duke University, a Master of Public Policy from Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The University of Florida.

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Tommy Preston, Jr.

Vice President, Ethics, The Boeing Company

Charleston

Tommy leads a team of global professionals responsible for proactively identifying and implementing strategies to ensure a culture of compliance and integrity across the Boeing enterprise. His team also oversees the company’s numerous mechanisms for reporting noncompliance and misconduct. Previously, he served as Director of National Strategy and Engagement and Government Operations where he was responsible for protecting and advancing Boeing’s interests, competitiveness and reputation, and provided counsel on various regulatory and public policy issues. He supported a myriad of business unit programs, including 787, Space Launch System, and Missile and Weapon Systems across multiple sites. He also serves as Co-Chair of the company’s Racial Equity Task Force.

While in college, Tommy served as UofSC’s student body president and established Cocky’s Reading Express. He went on to become the youngest and the first African-American president of the UofSC Alumni association. Before joining Boeing, he worked as Special Assistant to the President at UofSC, as a Public Policy Advisor at NP Strategy, then as an Associate at Nexsen Pruet Law Firm.

Tommy earned a Juris Doctor from The University of South Carolina School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from The University of South Carolina.

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Seema Shrivastava

President, Carolina Convenience Corporation

Columbia

Seema has spent her 20-year career in the convenience industry and is currently the president of her family’s business, Carolina Convenience Corporation (CCC). As President, she has overseen the sale of the bulk of their convenience store filling station businesses and still manages the remaining stores, Hardee’s franchises, plus real estate and development. As Chair of the Board, she oversaw the merger of two convenience store and petroleum market trade associations into the South Carolina Convenience & Petroleum Marketers Association.

Giving back to the community is a priority for Seema, who manages all of CCC’s charitable activities. Under her leadership, CCC has contributed to fundraisers for breast cancer, muscular dystrophy, The Children’s Miracle Network, Harvest Hope Food Bank, Palmetto Children’s Hospital, and the Wounded Warrior Project. She also serves on the Board of the Columbia Museum of Art and the SC Governor’s Mansion Foundation.

Seema is currently Vice Chairwoman of the Board of South Carolina's Department of Health & Environmental Control (SCDHEC), representing the 2nd Congressional District. She headed SCDHEC’s Executive Director search during the world-wide pandemic and provided public commentary regarding curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Seema earned her Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Human Resources from The University of South Carolina.

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Sarah Simmons

Founder and CEO, CITY GRIT Hospitality Group

Columbia

In 2010, Sarah was named “America’s Home Cook Superstar” by FOOD & WINE magazine as part of its search for the nation’s best home cook. This recognition inspired her to leave the corporate world to pursue cooking fulltime and focus on bringing the CITY GRIT concept to market in New York City. In 2017, she and her husband relocated to Columbia—where she had spent her formative years--from New York to focus on economic development, workforce training and community growth. CITY GRIT’s purpose-driven business model includes CITY GRIT, smallSUGAR, il Focolare Pizzeria, Birds & Bubbles, and FEED the CITY. Sarah operates a Workforce Development Program for non-college bound individuals, leads a Hospitality Residency Program at the Cafe at Richland Library, provides consistent work for members of the homeless community, supports summer feeding programs in the community, and offers affordable wages, leadership development, and upward mobility for her employees.

Before leaving the corporate world, Sarah was Founder and Managing Partner of Sayan Media, VP of Retail, eCommerce and Online Marketing at Pokemon USA, Director of Strategic Accounts at RichFx, and VP and Client Partner at Macquarium Intelligent Communications.

Sarah earned her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from The University of Georgia.

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Megan Stifel

Chief Strategy Officer, Institute for Security and Technology

Mount Pleasant

Megan served for eight years as an attorney with the National Security Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, served as Executive Director to the Global Cyber Alliance, and in November 2021 joined the Institute for Security and Technology as their Chief Strategy Officer. She previously completed an 18-month detail to the National Security Council at the White House where she developed and implemented policies in connection with internet governance, cybersecurity, and cybercrime. Megan also founded Silicon Harbor Consultants to provide cybersecurity counsel to small- and medium-sized businesses. She is currently a non-resident senior fellow in the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council, and a visiting fellow at the National Security Institute. Given her professional background, she has a keen interest in how South Carolina positions itself within entrepreneurship in the technology arena, and how society more broadly will make space for developing technologies.
She and her husband made the permanent move to Charleston in 2014, investing in revitalization efforts in East Charleston even before their relocation.

Megan earned a Juris Doctor from Indiana University's Maurer School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts (magna cum laude) from the University of Notre Dame.

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Laura Ullrich

Senior Regional Economist, SC and NC- Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

Rock Hill

As the senior regional economist for North and South Carolina within the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Laura conducts regional economic research and serves as an on-the-ground “check” on the high-level economic models that often inform public policy. Laura’s research interests include higher education, workforce development, local and state level tax and expenditure analyses, welfare policy, and the economic impact of local development. She is well-engaged with many communities across the state and is known for her accessible and external facing communication. She has initiated a survey at the Fed concerning community college success metrics and has included three South Carolina Technical Colleges within the pilot. Prior to joining the Federal Reserve, Laura was Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs, a professor of economics and Assistant Dean for Innovation and Productivity at Winthrop University. Before graduate school, she worked as a business consultant for Ernst & Young, specializing in executive compensation determination. In 2014, she served as a Fulbright Scholar teaching economics in Kosovo and has spent considerable time working on local economic development issues in Bolivia. She currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, the board of Family Promise of York County, the Rock Hill Technology Incubator, the Carolina Immigrant Alliance and the Winthrop Eagle Club.

Laura earned a PhD and Master of Arts from The University of Tennessee and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics (summa cum laude) from the University of Georgia.

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Rochelle Williams

Executive Director, SC Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities Foundation

Spartanburg

In her statewide role as Executive Director of the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities Foundation, Rochelle has a keen understanding of the philanthropic landscape in South Carolina and its challenges. She is particularly interested in individual impact investing and helping to build entrepreneurial opportunities that create generational wealth. Rochelle previously served as a principal consultant and strategist with the South Carolina-based management consulting firm Gather. In that role, she oversaw nonprofit mergers and dissolutions, administrative restructuring, capacity building, and organizational development for nonprofit organizations and public agencies in the state, the southeast, and nationally. She most recently worked as the director of development at Middle Tyger Community Center in Lyman and served in the same role at the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault in Atlanta. In addition to other community service, Rochelle has served as a Board Member of the Northside Development Group.

Rochelle is a first generation American whose parents are from Panama. After her father joined the US Army, the family lived in Maryland, Italy, Texas, and North Carolina before Rochelle and her husband made South Carolina their permanent home.

Rochelle earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from The University of North Carolina.

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