When Ravenscroft launched Lead From Here, our signature citizen leadership framework, in 2014, the initiative integrated the school’s emphasis on building essential leadership competencies into all aspects of the student, faculty and staff, and institutional leadership experience.
For many alumni, the details of the framework — developed in partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked global provider of executive education that is devoted to the study and practice of leadership development — may have been new, but the call to lead self, lead with others and change your world likely stirred memories of their time here. Ravenscroft has long cultivated in students a strong sense of purpose, a connection to community and a commitment to supporting and uplifting others. In many ways, changing their world has been the charge to our alumni, too.
Here, we share the stories of just a few of the many Ravenscroft alumni who — through their profession or calling, as an advocate or a volunteer leader, or at the grassroots level — have made leadership in service a priority in their lives.
Jump ToAt top, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles' Lauren Plichta ’01 joins program “Bigs” and “Littles” in visiting a Los Angeles Chargers training camp practice as part of the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative.
By Janice Lewine
For these Ravens, the call to leadership and service has shaped their professional lives, spurring them to helm — or even create — organizations that answer a need in their community and beyond.
Wade Halva ’94’s desire to serve others began in his youth, when he took part in church mission trips. Today, as a Presbyterian minister in Marion, Illinois, he embodies service through the many initiatives he leads and supports. For example, Halva and his congregation have worked with other local nonprofits including the Salvation Army to build and maintain a community garden on church property to serve local food pantries. Members recently built a Blessing Box, similar to a Little Free Library, that is stocked with nonperishables for community members facing food insecurity.
Wade Halva ’94; Halva’s congregation’s Blessing Box is stocked with nonperishable food items that are available at any time for members of the community facing food insecurity.
In addition to his ministry, Halva works part-time as an outreach coordinator for Faith in Place, a nonprofit that encourages people to practice sustainable living. But his contributions don’t end there. Since 2012, Halva has traveled every few years to sub-Saharan Africa with Marion Medical Mission to build shallow wells that provide clean drinking water for villagers. He also assisted Habitat for Humanity’s efforts to move New Orleanians back into their homes after Hurricane Katrina struck.
“Volunteering has been a piece of my life for a long time,” he said. “It’s easy to do it in a community of shared values. The fun part is when you realize how many folks are benefiting. If you can make a difference in one or two lives, that’s still very significant.”
First Presbyterian Church has partnered with other local nonprofits to establish a community garden to provide fresh produce to local families.
Like Halva, Akeia Blue ’05 is motivated by the needs she sees in the world around her. In addition to a full-time job in health communications, Blue runs Be Health Literate, a consultancy she founded in 2016. A board-certified patient advocate, she gives presentations about health literacy for medical professionals and patients and also provides public relations and marketing services for health-focused businesses.
“Helping people has always been my thing,” she said. “Advocating for people is the most rewarding part of all of the work I do.”
Akeia Blue ’05
Seeing the effects of food insecurity in her community of Prince George’s County, Maryland, Blue volunteers on weekends at an area nonprofit, Food4Thought, which packages and distributes hundreds of food boxes for families. Drawing on her professional skills, she also coordinates the group’s social media campaigns.
“Food4Thought started during the pandemic. It’s near and dear to my heart because they work in the community that I live in, which is under-resourced, and it gives me the opportunity to help, which is awesome,” she said.
Blue volunteers at a recent packaging and distribution event for Food4Thought, a nonprofit serving her community of Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Dale Robbins ’83 said he felt called to find a way to better support our nation’s veterans — the epitome of selfless commitment — after realizing how many were struggling with fear, stress and anxiety after returning from deployment. He was galvanized when one vet at a career transition event in 2010 asked, “Is there hope for me?”
While Robbins, who lives in North Carolina, never served in the military, he felt he understood some of the problems these veterans were facing at home because members of his family had also faced daunting medical challenges. “Creating Whole Vet was a growing passion,” he explained.
Dale Robbins ’83; as founder, he shares the vision of Whole Vet at a presentation at N.C. State’s McKimmon Center in 2019.
Since its launch in 2017, the organization has provided support and resources not only for veterans but for active-duty military personnel, National Guard and Reserve members, and their spouses and families, partnering with businesses and universities to host events that offer opportunities for career development, networking, education and mentorship. Whole Vet has even hosted car shows to bring people together, raise money and encourage members of the community to show their support and appreciation.
“At Whole Vet, we’re good at bringing a lot of resources together and building relationships,” he said. “Everything we do is to give access to the people. We exist to inspire, encourage and connect.”
As part of its mission to engage the community, Whole Vet puts on a range of events including car shows, some of which have included a “best beard” contest.
Lauren Plichta ’01’s work in nonprofits was launched by a personal experience as well. She became a volunteer fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in 2008 after losing her mother to leukemia.
“My mom was always giving back. We celebrated her legacy by raising money for others who were fighting the same battle and would hopefully survive,” Plichta said. “Fundraising came so naturally to me, and I loved the feeling of encouraging others.” She later joined the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as a campaign manager.
Lauren Plichta ’01; Plichta (at center) and other BBBSLA team members pose at the LA Big 5K, a family-friendly race open to participants of all ages and abilities.
In 2018, she answered a different calling: helping at-risk youth as president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles. The nonprofit matches nearly 1,500 children a year with caring mentors — a connection that helps each learn and grow from the other. Plichta said she cherishes her role and the essential work they do.
“We’re empowering young people, regardless of their background, to be the best version of themselves. The work that we do is transformative, and it warms my heart every day,” Plichta said.
Plichta participates in the virtual Bigger Together National Conference as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles is recognized with the 2020 Large Agency Board of the Year award; sharing the screen are Big Brothers Big Sisters of America President & CEO Artis Stevens (at left) and BBBSLA Board Chair Brock Moseley.
Empowering others is also Emily Procter ’86’s mission. While she’s perhaps best known for her roles on “CSI: Miami” and “The West Wing,” two years ago Procter — who said she has always been interested in behavioral science — founded The Ground, a California-based nonprofit that teaches conflict-management skills to incarcerated individuals in preparation for their reentry into society. The organization also designs and shares curricula to help children develop positive self-worth and make healthy life choices.
“Our goal is to introduce the emotional thought process,” Procter said of her outreach at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, California. “It’s been a real gift to watch people who thought they had no way to survive on the outside go back to their families and have productive relationships.”
Emily Procter ’86
Procter received Ravenscroft’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2007 and was inducted into the Alumni Fine Arts Hall of Fame in 2015. She continues to support an endowment in honor of her grandfather, William Isaac Procter, that brings guest speakers to the school. Like many other alumni, she credits Ravenscroft with helping spark her passion for leadership and service.
“The bricks that led to the journey of my life were all laid at Ravenscroft. Talking openly about our life experiences, that all started there,” she said
Procter shares conflict-management programming from her nonprofit, The Ground, with incarcerated individuals as a way of helping them prepare for a successful return to their communities.
By Stacy Calfo
These alumni have leveraged skills and knowledge from their professional spheres to support nonprofits through volunteer leadership and grassroots efforts.
The school’s inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Vic Bell ’74 began his long history of community service as a junior at Ravenscroft, volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club of Wake County.
Vic Bell ’74
“Ravenscroft encouraged me to volunteer at a young age, and I am so thankful,” Bell said. “I feel strongly about building community. That passion was born while I was a student at Ravenscroft.”
Bell, who is president of Marjan Ltd., his family’s real estate firm, and fellow Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Easter Maynard ’89 have both been recognized by the school and in the community for their long-standing and multifaceted commitment to service. The two have recently teamed up to co-chair the local YMCA’s “We Build People” annual campaign. This annual campaign started in 1993 and to date has raised more than $100 million for programs that support Triangle families and communities.
Bell poses with staff members at a Triangle-area YMCA, which is supported by the “We Build People” campaign. Photo courtesy of YMCA of the Triangle
“When I think of servant leadership, Easter and Vic always come to mind. Their willingness to make our community the best it can be is inspiring and humbling,” said Matt Strickland, YMCA of the Triangle’s Senior Vice President, Financial Development.
Maynard, who serves as the director of community investment for Investors Management Corporation and is executive director of its ChildTrust Foundation, emphasized that giving back is a driving force in her life.
Easter Maynard ’89; Maynard accepts the 2018 Vernon Malone Friend of Education Award for her long-standing commitment and service to Wake County families in her role as executive director of the ChildTrust Foundation and director of charitable giving for Investors Management Corporation.
“We should all do what we can to help our community and make it a better place because we all live in it together,” Maynard explained. “I grew up in a family that expected us to give back to our community. What started as a fun social time for me as a teenager has grown into so much more.”
Maynard, third from right at back, poses with classmates at the Oct. 11, 2019, Alumni Association Luncheon at which she was recognized with the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Attiya Taylor ’99 can attest to that growth as well. When she volunteered as an Upper School student to help build houses through Habitat for Humanity, she never anticipated how influential that one opportunity would become in her life.
“I have come full circle with the organization,” Taylor, an investor service assistant at First Citizens, said. “I started as a volunteer, now I’m a homeowner in the program, and I’ve recently joined the board of Habitat for Humanity of Wake County. I speak all over the country about the importance of Habitat in our communities.”
Attiya Taylor ’99; Taylor, District Liaison Sonia Barnes and Congressman David Price tour a completed Habitat home in Raleigh’s Crosstowne neighborhood in October 2017.
Similarly, Jake Berton ’04 said he didn’t realize at the time how volunteering at the Special Olympics events at Ravenscroft might shape his path. But today, as the founder of Rheos Nautical Eyewear in Charleston, South Carolina, he has dedicated his company’s philosophy to three pillars of giving: the environment, community and wildlife.
“Volunteering at Special Olympics and other service-hour opportunities in high school lit a fire in my youth that showed me how much joy and happiness can come from being more engaged in the community,” Berton said.
Jake Berton ’04; Berton and other members of the Rheos team participate in their monthly Adopt-A-Highway cleanups on Sol Legare in Charleston, South Carolina.
Debbie Eubanks ’82 said volunteering has been a treasured part of her adult life.
“As early as my twenties, I found I needed community service opportunities to fulfill me. It’s important to understand that your volunteering opportunities can change with your age,” she explained. “In my forties, I was all about health, so I took up running to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma organizations. Today, I dedicate my hours to helping animals in need.”
A retired flight attendant living in Georgia, Eubanks channels her love for animals into volunteer work with Angels Among Us Pet Rescue, making vet appointments for dogs in foster care and keeping all of the records up-to-date.
Debbie Eubanks ’82; Eubanks, a longtime community volunteer, said she’s turned her focus to animal welfare since she retired, supporting Angels Among Us Pet Rescue with administrative duties.
For Michelle Pfeiffer ’86, the desire to make a difference grew following the birth of her daughter, Anna, in 2001. Anna has Down syndrome, and Michelle soon realized her MBA and background in communications could make a difference outside of the corporate world. It was a life-changing epiphany. In the years since then, the Anna’s Angels Foundation — which Pfeiffer and her husband founded in 2003 in partnership with Duke Children’s Hospital — has raised $1.6 million for research to improve the cognitive and communicative ability of individuals with Down syndrome. She is also the board president for GiGi’s Playhouse of Raleigh, an organization dedicated to changing the way the world views people with Down syndrome.
“While I didn’t get my start volunteering at Ravenscroft, I can tell you the teen volunteers who work with us [at Gigi’s Playhouse] experience something transformational,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s an opportunity for them to be leaders when maybe they aren’t in the classroom or on the athletic field. They feel amazing because they make an impact on someone else’s life.”
Michelle Pfeiffer ’86 with her husband, Andrew Merrills; Pfeiffer says the birth of daughter Anna (at left, with siblings Andrew and Ashley) motivated her to apply her corporate experience to raise money and awareness toward helping individuals with Down syndrome live long and healthy lives.
For all of these community volunteers, passion and growth are the ties that bind.
“You never know who you will meet and have become a blessing in your life,” Taylor said. “When I volunteered with Habitat in high school, I never knew I would need them as a homeowner one day. It’s a program that saved me and my family.”
“It’s so important to help others. Giving back should light you up and bring you passion,” Berton added. “A lot of times you won’t find it on the first go-around. So, make a point to meet a lot of different people doing a lot of different things, and see what resonates with you.”
“Ravenscroft makes a positive difference in the community every day,” Bell concluded. “Service learning is powerful to help shape younger generations. Service often takes you out of your comfort zone and into the community. Valuable learning exists beyond the campus, and it’s important for the growth of the entire individual. I appreciate how Ravenscroft makes service learning a priority.”