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Mark Hellman, President
The People’s Alliance Fund
1101 Wells Street
Durham, North Carolina 27707

Board of Directors

Mark Hellman, President. Mark is a retired state employee who moved to North Carolina from Chicago in 1974 after earning degrees at Valparaiso University and the University of Michigan. He has been active in People's Alliance since its founding in 1976, performing a number of roles in the general membership organization, the Political Action Committee, and the Fund. As a member of the Economic Inequality Action Team, he led the successful effort in 2014 to repeal Durham's regressive trash pickup fee.  As a volunteer with You Can Vote, a former Fund project, he has registered new voters in high schools, shopping center parking lots, and wherever else they can be found.  





Jennifer McGovern, Treasurer. Jennifer is a tutor of students from the elementary grades through high school and a long-time community activist in Durham. Jennifer was the People’s Alliance staff person from 1989 to 1997. She has degrees from Duke University and North Carolina Central University. Upon becoming certified to teach, Jennifer began tutoring at-risk students in the Fast Track Project at Duke and taught reading to struggling GED students in the Durham Public Schools. She was a founding  board member of the Achievement Academy of Durham and works part-time on the staff of the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South.




Deondra Rose is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University.  Her research focuses on the feedback effects of landmark social policies on the American political landscape.  Her first book, Citizens by Degree (Oxford University Press, 2018), examines the development of major U.S. higher education policies--including the National Defense Education Act of 1958 and their impact on the gender dynamics of American citizenship. A summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Georgia, Deondra received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University, with a specialization in American Politics and public policy. 


Diane Catotti served 12 years on the Durham City Council (2003-15), where she championed a number of progressive issues and took a leading role in advocating for affordable housing and public transit, sustainable development, tax fairness, and LGBTQ rights. Diane served as president of People's Alliance in the late 1990s. She has degrees in economics, political science, and public health from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and is fluent in Spanish. Diane worked professionally on global healthcare policy and program management until her retirement. 

John Schelp led the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association as president for many years and is still a participating member and avid local historian.  He has been active in environmental justice battles in East Durham and along the NC 147 corridor and helped stop the billboard industry from erecting digital billboards in Durham. John was a Peace Corps volunteer in Congo and has served as president of the North Carolina Peace Corps Association.  He has also served as vice-president of the Durham NAACP, and as an elections observer for Jimmy Carter in Liberia, chair of the Parent Council at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and on Durham's Sesquicentennial Honors Commission.  

Cecilia Polanco was selected as the new director of SEEDS in January 2020.  The Durham nonprofit teaches young people important lessons through involvement in its urban garden and kitchen classroom. Cecilia was born in Los Angeles to Salvadoran immigrant parents and raised here in Durham.  She graduated in 2016 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain Scholar and Global Gap Year Fellow.  Since her graduation, Cecilia has established a food truck and catering business, So Good Pupusas, and used it to fund a foundation, Pupusas for Education, that provides last-dollar college scholarships to undocumented students. Her new position at SEEDS continues her work on social justice issues, especially those involving food and environmental justice.  As an advocate for mental health and education, Cecilia believes that each can free us and enable us to help others, al1ways remembering that love and kindness go a long way.



Bettina Umstead is a change agent who advocates for a more just and equitable community for all. She brings more than 10 years of experience devoted to non-profit organization-building and college access programming. Bettina’s professional and community-building efforts have focused on public education. As such, she has served on the Durham Public Schools Board of Education since 2016. Prior to her professional experience, Bettina graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Middle Grades Education with a focus on Language Arts & Social Studies. She supports the People of Color Caucus of Organizing Against Racism as well as providing racial equity training for educators.