LIFE Skills People



Alex Protzman,MSW, executive director

Alex Protzman is the Executive Director of LIFE Skills Foundation. Alex has worked with youth and young adults for over 20 years in NYC, Minneapolis, Costa Rica and here in Durham, NC. He has worked with many organizations and networks to help create supports that are innovative and effective for Transition Age Youth experiencing homelessness or instability. He has received awards and given talks, but can’t remember which ones. He received his BA from Antioch College and his MSW from NYU. Alex spent his adolescence in the late 80’s and early 90s riding his skateboard in downtown Durham, a very different era for this city. He moved back to the Triangle in 2010 with his wife, Alys, with whom he now has three children.

Shiesha Bell,MSW,LCSW, Transition Age therapist

Shiesha received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master of Social Work from North Carolina State University.  She specializes in working with transition age youth  and has done so in the foster care system, day treatment programs and in the private outpatient therapy sector.  Shiesha facilitates Independent Living Skills Groups to assist young people with developing the skills necessary to live independently.

Laura Wendell, Director of Operations and development

Laura has held leadership positions in Durham nonprofits since 1996. She has worked with Made in Durham, Dryad, One World Market and The World Library Partnership. She holds a BA in Biopsychology from Oberlin College where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She served in Peace Corps in Togo where she learned to speak French, helped to start a community library and enjoyed making fufu. She is proud to help the LIFE Skills team connect individuals with life-changing opportunities. She is working to build strong internal systems to track the organization's impact and increase its capacity. Laura shares her home with her husband, her teenage son and daughter and a variety of critters. She spends her free time out on the trail with her horses.

laura wooten, MSW, LCSW, Program Coordinator

Laura is the Independent Living Coordinator at LIFE Skills Foundation, where she provides clinical services as well as independent living skills to youth ages 16-21. She has been working in the field of mental health with children, adolescents, and families for eight years. Laura graduated from Campbell University in 2007 with a Bachelors of Social Work, and from UNC Chapel Hill in 2010 with a Masters of Social Work with a concentration in child and adolescent mental health. Laura is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and first began working with the Independent Living Program as an intern in 2009. She is passionate about helping young adults to feel empowered and overcome the challenges they face. Laura lives in Durham with her husband and daughter.

2016-17 Interns

Huge thanks to our wonderful 17-18 Interns! 

  • Kayae Kim, NC State School of Social Work
  • Hailey Leiva, UNC School of Social Work
  • Caroline Vincent, Duke Fuqua on Board
  • Kyle Mum, Duke Fuqua on Board


Sumi Ariely

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Joe battle, treasurer

Joe is an executive with 20+ years of experience in sales, marketing, business development, account management and IT. He has leadership experience in multiple industries: technology, consumer packaged goods, market research and business services. Joe is a Durham native with both an undergraduate degree and an MBA from Duke University. 

Timothy Brooks

is co-director of Carolina Outreach, LLC. He has worked in the field of mental health since 1990, with experience in direct services, research, and management. Tim earned his Bachelor of Arts in sociology from North Carolina State University and his Master of Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has been a board member for other youth and family-related non-profits, including the National Family Preservation Network and Scottie's Place. He lives in Durham with his wife and three children. 

Ben Feldman

Ben is a serial entrepreneur who is currently a partner in Bootstrap Advisors. Prior to Bootstrap, Ben was a founder and partner in Thundershirt, which sells a patented garment for dogs that reduces stress by providing gently calming pressure to the dog's torso. Ben has also been involved in starting and growing several other entrepreneurial companies including,, MDEverywhere, Austram and TradeCheck. Ben received his Bachelor's Degree in Economics from Duke University in 1990 and his MBA from the Fuqua School of Business in 1994.

Brian Gullette

Brian is the CEO of Romr, Inc., a Chapel Hill, NC startup applying mobile, social and digital mapping technologies for the enhancement of recreational land use. Brian is an accomplished technology executive and entrepreneur, having founded and managed several Internet-based big data, business intelligence and advertising/marketing companies. He received a Master's in Public Policy from Duke University, studied graduate Geography at the University of Kentucky, and received a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

joseph Mcclernon

Joe is a licensed clinical psychologist, Professor and Director of the Addiction Division in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the Duke University School of Medicine. His life's work has been to gain a better understanding of addiction through research, and to develop and test new and more effective interventions to help people suffering with drug abuse. He and his wife Emily are native Missourians, but they and their 4 kids call Durham, NC home now. When he's not at work or chasing the kids around he's running area trails, playing music with the kids or out in the garden.

David Morris, Chair

David, who possesses over 20 years of legal and financial experience, is an attorney with the Forrest Firm where he focuses on corporate transactions, estate planning, and commercial real estate. In addition to his role at the Forrest Firm, he is a co-founder and chief strategy officer äLuxuRē, a technology firm headquartered in Durham's American Underground. David received his B.A. and J.D. degrees from Duke University and earned his MBA at Tulane University's A.B. Freeman School of Business.

fungai Muzorewa-bennett, Esq., Secretary

Fungai is the principal attorney at The Muzorewa Bennett Law Firm, PLLC. The firm primarily handles Criminal, Family, and Business law matters in the Durham, Wake, and Chapel Hill area. She earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of Dayton School of Law in 2001 after earning her Bachelor of Science from Ohio Northern University pursuant to International Business and Economics major studies and French minor studies. Fungai is licensed to practice in both Louisiana and North Carolina. She began her career as an Assistant District Attorney in New Orleans, then relocated in 2005 and resumed her work as a criminal prosecutor in Durham.

In addition to being married to a perfect husband, and being a mother to two sons who make her very proud, Fungai is an active member of the community.  She spends the most time involved in the international community service organization Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She is member of the Economic Development Committee and the Covenant of Praise Dance Ministry at Union Baptist Church.  She is the Chair of the Silent Auction Committee for Durham’s UNCF Steering Committee. Her favorite quote is: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

thomas reid

Tom is co-director of Carolina Outreach, LLC. He has worked with children and their families in both residential and community-based settings since 1988. Tom earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the State University of New York at Oneonta and his Master of Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He lives in Chapel Hill with his wife, Jackie, and son, Ethan. 

Dr. Lahoma Romocki

LaHoma is a Health Communication specialist. Her experience includes managing complex statewide, national, and international public health programs, teaching public health courses, applying scientific research to program operations and interventions, handling media relations, conducting communications research, writing proposals, developing curricula and educational materials, and conducting public health education workshops for U.S. and international audiences.  LaHoma has worked extensively in the area of reproductive health including the prevention of HIV/AIDS and other STDs. She has developed a network of colleagues throughout government and non-governmental programs to integrate research findings into communication and training programs targeting service providers, policy makers and family planning clients. She has worked with the media, and has made numerous television and radio appearances. She has substantive work experience in nine developing countries and has good command of both conversational and professional French. 

Aminah Thompson

Aminah was born in Greenville, SC, the daughter of educators and the younger of two children.  She spent her formative years in Amherst, MA, and Lawrence, KS, before moving to Durham in 1999, to attend Duke University.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, with a minor in Chemistry in 2003 and her J.D from the University of North Carolina School Of Law in 2007.  Following law school, she worked in personal injury litigation (negotiations, mediations, arbitrations and jury trials).  For the past seven years, she has been proudly serving the citizens of Durham as Magistrate Judge, performing marriages and presiding over landlord-tenant cases and Small Claims Court.  She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., International Association of Women Judges, North Carolina Magistrates Association, Duke Campus Club, and participates actively with the Durham Youth Alliance.  She enjoys International travel and writing.  A piece of her work on housing discrimination was recently published in The Encyclopedia of Diversity and Social Justice, Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.