Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind, Open the World

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Meet the Team


Clodagh BastianClodagh Bastian
Executive Director

Clodagh Bastian was raised in Dublin and Berlin before moving to the United States in early adulthood. She received her BA in Sociology and Psychology and her MS in Communication from North Carolina State University.

Clodagh's 25-year carreer in cross-cultural communication made her passionate about facilitating international exchange and understanding. She is thrilled to continue that work for an organization she loves in a place she loves.


Leila BekriLeila Bekri
Director of International Visitor Leadership Programs

Leila was born in New York City and was raised in Tunis. Her father's service with the UNDP ​took her family to the U.S., Europe, and West Africa before moving back to Tunis. Being exposed to a multitude of cultures, languages and places at an early age, she developed and cultivated a sense of diversity and pluralism which she later reinforced through her education, work and her passion for people and world affairs.

Fluent in French and Arabic, she returned to the United States in the Nineties. Leila graduated from the Faculté des Sciences Juridiques, Politiques et Sociales de Tunis, Tunis II; and North Carolina State University, where she earned a master's degree in international studies (including a few PhD level courses) with an extensive focus on comparative legal systems.

She took part in the planning committee for the Cary Citizen Diplomacy Summit from 2012 to 2016. She has sat on several panels locally and nationally on a variety of topics focusing on public diplomacy, peace building, and intercultural dialogue. In addition to these activities, she advocates for women’s issues, education, freedom of speech, and opinion, and information in the media. Today, besides her work at International Focus, Leila is involved with humanitarian organizations. She enjoys the outdoors, literature, music, and films. She is a fan of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina.


Maria AdoskinaMaria Adoskina
Director of Special Projects (Community Connections, Open World, and Youth Leadership Program)

Maria Adoskina is from Moscow, Russia where she was a professor of English at the prestigious Academy of Sciences and where she got her Ph.D. After immigrating to the USA, she worked at New Life Ministries (NLM), Apex, NC, directing its Slavic department, interpreting and teaching Russian and Russian history to NLM team members.

Maria started working for IF (then known as International Affairs Council) in 2000.

Being native Russian speaker, she is able to bridge cultures and provide guests with cultural exchanges that are sensitive to their needs while introducing them to all levels of American life. She has directed numerous successful programs via Community Connections, Open World, Youth Leadership Programs, and YLAI (Young Leaders of Americas Initiative).


Wanda CappsWanda Capps
Administrative Support and Bookkeeper

Wanda Capps, a native North Carolinian, has over 30 years of experience in bookkeeping, financial and office management in both the nonprofit and private sectors. Before coming to International Focus, she worked to support the International Visitors’ Leadership and Open World Programs at the International Affairs Council of NC from 2006-2013. Wanda is a life-long learner and has continued to build upon her mastery of her chosen profession. Outside of work, she volunteers her time in the community and at her church in support of various causes both local and abroad. Most importantly, however, Wanda dedicates her time to her family, her children, and her grandchildren.


Board of Directors

nazi picture2016 05 19 13.42.44Nazi Ahmadi Kite

Nazi Kite has been involved with the International Festival since 1987. In the beginning, she participated at the early festivals with the Iranian Cultural Society of NC and helped showcase Persian culture in this event. In Early 1990, she joined the International Focus Board of Directors. Since then she has served in different capacities including 10 years as the President of the Board and member of the Festival committee for numerous years. Nazi is an experienced Project Manager in the IT area and has worked in RTP over 30 years.

Nazi is also very active with the Persian community in the triangle area. Nazi and her husband Gary live in Cary. Nazi is a world traveler and her interests other than traveling are volunteer activities, theater, reading and spending time with family and friends.


Dikarn KabbendjianDikran Kabbendjian
Vice President

Born to Armenian parents in Nazareth, Dikran had the unique experience of growing up among Palestinians within a Jewish state, and attending a Catholic elementary school as well as a Southern Baptist middle school. While working in his father's photography shop, he was exposed to pilgrims from all over the world. He came to Raleigh in 1976, and while attending Wake Technical College, he worked in Raleigh's first gourmet food store. He accepted a position with IT&T, the predecessor of his current employer, Alcatel-Lucent. After a career in environmental health and safety, as well as in human resources, he is now a corporate real-estate operations manager. He also graduated, Summa Cum Laude, with BS in business administration from North Carolina Wesleyan College. During his many years in Raleigh he remained engaged in the cultural, musical, and multi-cultural scene of this growing city. He is active in the local Armenian community and has participated in the Raleigh International Festival since 1990.


Jackie PrillamanJackie Prillaman, CPA

Jackie is a tax partner based in McGladrey's Raleigh, N.C. office. She has more than 18 years of experience providing multi-state and multi-national tax compliance and consulting services. Jackie focuses on advising middle market clients on maximizing tax planning opportunities and aids clients in restructuring, ASC740 calculations, credit maximization and modeling of tax benefits.

Jackie currently works with clients throughout the U.S. and in various foreign countries in the engineering, architectural, construction, software, manufacturing, power, employment staffing, insurance and personal service industries. Her experience includes planning, organizing and supervising all phases of client engagements.

Prior to joining McGladrey, Jackie worked at two Big Four accounting firms and also served as a tax director for a $500 million multinational construction company.


Bernadette PelissierBernadette Pelissier

Bernadette Pelissier was born in Dakar, Senegal of French parents and came to the US as an infant. She lived in Damascus, Syria during her early adolescence. She has in Ph.D. in Sociology from UNC Chapel Hill. Her career has focused on evaluating mental health programs first for a local mental health center and subsequently for 20 years with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Recently she stepped down from serving two terms as a county commissioner. At present, she is farming with her children.


Elizabeth BenderElizabeth Bender
Board Member

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Elizabeth’s career took her all over the world before she landed in the Triangle in 2015. As a career Foreign Service Officer with the State Department, she served in Azerbaijan, Indonesia and Italy, as well as two domestic assignments in Washington D.C. Elizabeth also has significant experience working with international students at The Boston Conservatory and North Carolina State University. She holds a Master of Education degree from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Smith College. Elizabeth is a passionate believer in the value of person-to-person diplomacy. She lives in Raleigh with her husband and infant son.


Sheri Golden PerrySheri Golden Perry
Board Member

Sheri, a native North Carolinian, has been an educator for over twenty years. Currently, she serves as the Senior Administrator of Global Programming in the Wake County Public School System. Sheri graduated from NC State University with a BA in English Education and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Likewise, she has a Master of School Administration degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her interests include social justice rights, travel and event planning. Currently, she resides in the Triangle area with her husband and twin sons.


Ana Gomez
Board Member

Ana earned her Bachelor of Laws at Universidad Catolica Andres Bello in Caracas, Venezuela, her Master of Laws (l.L.M.) at Hamline University School of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and her Juris Doctor (j.D.) at William Mitchell College of Law, also in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Ana has experience working and volunteering with nonprofits, and diverse communities.  Ana brings the expertise needed to support the short-term and long-term goals of International Focus. She believes in the mission of the organization and has volunteered as a host parent since she moved to the Triangle.


Sam LazarusSam Lasris
Board Member

Originally from Jacksonville Florida, Sam recently retired from 39 years of dental practice in Danville Virginia where he is a past president of the local dental society. Sam has been a volunteer for International Affairs Council in early 2012 and for International Focus since January 2014. Sam has served on the Orange County Planning Board, was original chairman of the Orange County Unified Transportation Board, and is currently on the Orange County Board of Health. His interests include politics, human rights, urban/suburban growth and development,access to health care, theater, arts and culture, and travel.


Sean MaroneySean Maroney
Board Member

Sean anchors North Carolina News at 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. Raised in North Carolina, he returned home in 2013 after nearly a decade reporting around the world. Each night, he brings his love of this community and powerful journalism into our homes. Before starting at CBS North Carolina, Sean worked as a Pentagon correspondent for the Voice of America. He covered a wide-range of topics and travelled around the world. Sean graduated with distinction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he double majored in journalism and Spanish. In his senior year, the prestigious William Randolph Hearst Foundation recognized Sean as one of the country’s top collegiate television reporters. NPR also chose him for its “Next Generation Radio Project.” Sean enjoys traveling, playing guitar, being active outdoors and cooking.


John Twomey John Twomey
Board Member

John was born in New York, the crossroads of the world, and had lived in Ohio, Texas, the State of Washington and Boston before settling in the Triangle 35 years ago. He retired from a career in high tech sales, consulting and entrepreneurship and currently uses his professional skills to contribute to non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity and International Focus becoming more effective in implementing their mission. John and his wife Jean have hosted over 30 International Visitor Leadership Program dinners with participants from over 40 countries and 6 continents. John’s passions include mountain climbing, traveling across the US and globally, eating and cooking great food, making art out of metal and hanging with his grandchildren

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