Marilyn Markham

Board President

Marilyn Markham is the Head of the Salesforce Centre of Excellence at American Express Global Business Travel (GBT). In her role, she builds the operational platform necessary to enable modern digital experiences to manage business travel. Marilyn moved from London, UK, in 2018 to work in GBT’s New York area office. However, she is no stranger to international relocations or the travel industry. She has lived in 5 countries before this move, speaks French, Spanish and English, and has been in the travel industry for 15 years.

Travel is not just a necessity for Marilyn. Travel is a habit, a curiosity and a passion. The necessity comes from reaching her family which is spread across the globe from Vancouver, Canada to Accra, Ghana with her home base being Ferney-Voltaire, France. A true citizen of the world, Marilyn has an appreciation of various cultures and viewpoints. To satisfy her curiosity and intrepid spirit, she likes to visit at least one new place every year to experience, taste and learn about how others live.

When travel is not an option, Marilyn reads, listens to podcasts and participates in storytelling nights to stretch her imagination. She is a fan of the spoken word, a bit of a science geek and has recently discovered an interest in psychology. You will have gathered by now that Marilyn is an avid learner with wide-ranging interests! She holds a degree in Basic Theology from the St Mellitus College in London, she is a certified John Maxwell Team Public Speaker, Coach and Trainer, she was a member of Toastmasters International and is a Telecommunications Engineer by training. Her latest pursuits include social justice topics and learning how to play the saxophone.

When it comes to her legacy, Marilyn would like to have inspired and taught others how to challenge the status quo to bring about progress, justice and freedom.

For Marilyn 2020 has been challenging in its isolation and uncertainty but it has also been a blessing that is allowing her to discover the joys of cycling and affording her the time to catch up on her favorite action movies.

Donald Buaku

Board Secretary

Donald is married to Florence and they have 3 daughters Eileen, Isabelle and Julia.

Donald is originally from Ghana where he obtained a Bachelor of Architecture degree and a Post Graduate Diploma in Architecture from KNUST University. He migrated to the United States in 2005 and obtained two (2) Masters degrees in Urban Design and Urban Planning from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. While in Ann Arbor he also obtained a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies. Donald is a Certified Urban Planner and an associate of the American Institute of Architects. He has worked extensively around the country in several communities and capacities both in the public and private sectors. He pragmatically approaches urban design and balances creativity with practicality. He has been nicknamed ‘Donaldo da Vinci’ for his ability to combine art, design, science, and engineering within the built environment. He can use his skill as an artist and orator to bring clarity and simplicity to complex concepts to help engage multiple audiences.

He is currently a Principal Planner and Urban Designer with the City of Houston in Texas where he lives with his family. He has always been interested in the arts, music and theater and has also been active in youth and worship ministries in several churches. He likes to worship the Lord, read, write, and play his bass guitar in his spare time.

Lisa Bedell

Board Member (Communications)

Lisa Bedell has worked in public relations, marketing, event planning, and donor development for both for-profit companies and non-profit organizations for over 20 years.

Her varied career began in media, first as a college intern with CNN Medical News in Atlanta and directly post-college as a page at NBC in New York. From there, she made her way into the NBC Network newsroom, working with assignment editors to field calls from producers and correspondents on assignment around the world and to monitor news feeds in preparation for the morning network news show line-up, including Sunrise News and The Today Show. She later worked for NBC Network News Archives, researching and providing videotape and archived newsreel footage to producers and correspondents in the network news division.

Her parlay into public relations was unplanned, yet fortuitous. After leaving NBC News in New York, she spent a year travelling the world, with a short hiatus in Seoul, Korea to work with NBC Sports on their coverage of the 1988 Olympics. Upon her return, she worked in public relations & marketing at CNN in Atlanta, her hometown. These were the days when CNN was still vying for contention as the public’s preferred news source of choice. The young network was becoming a fiercely competitive rival to the “Big Three” (ABC, NBC, CBS) through its ‘round the clock’ coverage of events like Poland’s Solidarity movement, the Challenger shuttle disaster, China’s Tiananmen Square uprising, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. CNN was a daily staple for most government leaders and even became a go-between in some cases of diplomacy. (She recalls a time when Benjamin Netanyahu, at that time Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, came to speak to the news staff about responsible coverage of the political conflict in the Middle East). Her job was to get CNN’s name in the newspaper by citing when they were the first with breaking news, before the “Big Three.” She also edited video montages of CNN’s best breaking news coverage, which garnered prestigious media awards, including an Alfred I. Dupont Award, for its coverage of the San Francisco earthquake in 1989, among others.

After marriage, she and her husband Alan moved to Richmond, VA to raise their budding family.
She kept herself busy outside the home through volunteer work with the Junior League of Richmond (JLR) and through her children’s schools. As the VP of Communications for the JLR, she spearheaded a rebranding campaign for the affiliate as well as for their new community outreach program, Wonders on Wheels. She also co-chaired the Logistics Committee for INSPIRE, a bi-annual event designed to promote the arts at St. Catherine’s and St. Christopher’s Schools in Richmond. The event shined a spotlight on student works in the fine arts, music, dance, theater, as well as hands-on art projects incorporating the STEM curriculum.

In 2005, Lisa co-founded Sophisticated Soirees, a full-service event management company where she was responsible for new business development, budget management, design and concept planning, and all service provider coordination for corporate events, PR functions, private parties, and weddings. The firm’s most notable event included the “Remembering the Miller & Rhoads Tea Room” luncheon & fashion show, hosted by the Library of Virginia Foundation in 2006.

Lisa transitioned into the non-profit world when she was recruited by Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity (RMHFH) in 2007 to lead the affiliate’s marketing, public relations and event planning campaigns. While there, she was able to exponentially increase public exposure for the non-profit through free publicity and story positioning, cultivating new community development partners to help sustain the mission, while keeping marketing costs to a minimum. She was proud to be part of a small creative team that worked together to transform the affiliate into a high-profile non-profit through a customer-centric expansion of products and services. Under the directions of forward-thinking leadership, the team was able to attain multi-million-dollar asset growth in a down market and move the non-profit into the Top 20 position in a network of 1,500 national affiliates. In her later role as Education & Youth Development Coordinator, she trained students to serve as advocates for affordable housing and as youth ambassadors for RMHFH in order to build community relations and increase volunteer and donor support for the affiliate. During her tenure in this position, she established the RMHFH Junior Board of Directors, comprised of local University-based chapters and high school clubs, that worked together to engage students in the mission through education and advocacy, fundraising and community service.

Having grown up in a family of musicians, dancers and art appreciators, it was inevitable that Lisa too would develop a passion for all forms of art. Her work with the Next Star Arts program is the perfect intersection of her interests in youth leadership development and the arts, and she is thrilled to be a part of the team’s new vision to cultivate an appreciation of diverse cultures through exposure to the arts worldwide.

Lisa is married to Alan and they have 3 grown children – Colby, Wilson and Mallory. An avid reader and conservationist, she is currently living in Ridgeland, South Carolina where she is currently working as an Innkeeper at the historic Rhett House Inn in Beaufort, SC. When not tending to guests at the Inn, she enjoys boating, biking, tending to her garden, and taking long walks with her dog Banks.

Tara Brindle

Board Member

Tara Brindle is currently an independent business owner with a focus on skincare and a mother of three. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University with a focus on zoology and is currently enrolled in the American Sign Language program at the University of Georgia.
Tara has been on the Next Starboard of directors for three years. She enjoys volunteering in her community and especially using her gift of relationships and compassion for children through volunteerism at the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System Children’s Hospital in Richmond, VA as well as donating her time to numerous events at surrounding schools in Henrico County.

Now living in Atlanta, Georgia, Tara continues her pursuit of uplifting children’s mission work through her goal of finishing her ASL education to work with the deaf community.

Anna Powers

Board Member

Anna Powers currently serves as Virginia’s Specialty Dockets Coordinator with the Department of Judicial Services at the Office of the Executive Secretary for the Supreme Court of Virginia. Among her duties and responsibilities are assisting the Chief Justice, Executive Secretary, and the State Drug Treatment Advisory Committee in (i) developing strategies and oversight for the development and distribution of funds for drug treatment courts & speciality dockets; (ii) providing technical assistance to programs; (iii) providing training for judges who preside over drug treatment courts & speciality dockets; (iv) providing training to the providers of administrative, case management, and treatment services to drug treatment courts & speciality dockets; and (v) monitoring the efficiency of drug treatment courts & speciality dockets in the Commonwealth.

Previously she served as administrator for the Henrico County Drug Treatment Court program and the Substance Abuse Programs Manager for the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) serving institutions and community corrections. During her role with DOC, she was selected to serve as a special assistant in the Secretary of Public Safety’s Office and assisted with the development and coordination of the Substance Abuse Reduction Effort initiative known as SABRE. Ms Powers holds a Bachelor of the Arts degrees in Psychology and Sociology, Master of Science degree in Management and certifications as a Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC) by the Virginia Department of Health Professionals, and an Advanced Addictions Counselor (CAAC), by the Substance Abuse Certification Alliance of Virginia. She is a certified facilitator for the Stress First Aid curriculum, Trauma-informed Improves Criminal Justice Responses curriculum and Developing a Mental Health Court Interdisciplinary curriculum. She is currently working towards a doctorate degree.

Chad Ownby

Acting Instructor

Chad Ownby Is the acting instructor for Next Star! A licensed theatre teacher in the state of Virginia, Chad began his journey with Next Star when they first opened its doors in 2015. Since that time, Chad has written and directed numerous theatrical productions for Next Star including our very first show: “The Meadow,” “Arvolution”, “Cultural Adventure ” and “Alice In Christmas Land”, among others. It has been an honor and a pleasure for Chad to be a part of helping this wonderful program grow and reach as many individuals as possible. Chad feels it is his purpose in life to help students of all ages express themselves creatively and grow as individuals utilizing theatrical endeavors.

Rachel Casali

Volunteer Coordinator

Rachel was born and raised in London and has a long-standing teaching career that has involved designing and delivering course curricula and training programs, teaching adults, young people and more recently children and leading on teacher training programmes in post-19 adult education. Rachel’s specialism is in teaching English to speakers of other languages and she has lived and taught in Ireland, Italy and Mexico at public and private language schools and at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Rachel has been a teacher educator for ten years and has worked alongside University College London (UCL), Institute of Education, ranked number one globally for  education, in addition to several other well-established universities. Rachel’s time as a teacher educator is a role that she has loved and which she continues to be inspired by.

 

Rachel has loved working alongside staff teams and individuals for a number of years to coach, support and enable the development of best practice and she has designed and delivered staff development training sessions both at home and abroad, such as in Kathmandu in Nepal before the 2015 earthquake. Rachel has a particular passion for working alongside individuals from marginalised backgrounds to enable and encourage them to develop and to flourish. This is reflected in her long-held roles with students from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds, as a long-standing volunteer in the homeless sector, and more recently in her role in the care sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Rachel is delighted to have joined Next Start as Volunteer Coordinator and to have been given the opportunity to design the Meet the Natives sister series’ Create with a Native and Learn with a Native. The inspiration behind the creation of these series is based on Rachel’s research from her MA in Development Education at University College London which she did as a mature student and which deals with themes such as injustice, marginalisation and power relations between the global north and global south.

 

Rachel is passionate about her family, friends, developing relationships, learning and applying her learning to making a positive difference to the lives of others both at home and abroad, and to making an impact in a way that enables, inspires and is established over time in a sustainable way. Rachel looks forward to continuing to build on this exciting work as part of her role with Next Star.