Staff & Board

Rusty Reynolds

Executive Director
Rusty has been with International House since February 2009 and she brings experience and expertise in project management, marketing, team building, process development and training. Her professional experience includes management positions with Bank of America, Belk Stores Services and Cadmus Communications. During her time at International House, she has managed financials, operations, volunteers and human resources. She has a bachelor's degree in business administration/accounting, and a Master of Project Management, both from Western Carolina University.
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Jelena Giric-Held

Immigration Clinic Director
Jelena first came to International House as a volunteer in 2004. In 2006 she joined the staff as operations manager and immigration paralegal. In 2014,she became our Immigration Clinic Director. She holds BIA (Board of Immigration Appeals) accreditation which means she can represent clients in much the same way an attorney can. 
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Johnelle M. Causwell

Citizen Diplomacy Program Director
Johnelle has been working with International House since 2012. Hailing from Kingston, Jamaica, she graduated from Warren Wilson College with a major in Economics and a minor in Political Science. After almost a decade in advertising, Johnelle transitioned her career as an agency Creative Director to her other passion, International Relations. She currently works on the local level to administer the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program along with other international professional and youth exchange programs. Johnelle was instrumental in the founding of the Young Professionals @ International House and she currently acts as Staff Liaison. She is the 2019 recipient of the Charlotte International Rotary Club’s Under 40 Global Service Award. She received the 2018 Business Professional of the Year Award from the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs-Charlotte Chapter, she was selected as one of Charlotte's Top 40 Under 40 Professionals by the Charlotte Business Journal for 2016 and was the 2013 recipient of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional Newcomer of the Year Award. She currently serves as Chairwoman of the Charlotte International Cabinet with a portfolio in international business and has been appointed to the Board of Trustees for the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.

Email Johnelle at

Jorge Fernandez

Development Director
Jorge joins International House as Development Director after 14 fruitful years as the Major Gifts Officer at WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR news station. Born in Havana, Cuba, Jorge emigrated to the U.S. as a seven-year-old with his family. After stops in Cranford, NJ, and New York City, the family settled in Southeast Florida, where his siblings remain. After the welcome he and his family received as Cuban immigrants, Jorge is delighted for the opportunity to “give back” through fundraising efforts to an organization as worthy and fundamentally essential as International House. In his free time, Jorge enjoys reading, cinema, music and cooking, especially Cuban fare, his specialty baking flan. He’s a big fan of both ATP tennis and Jeff Beck and has been known to kneel at the altar of Roger Federer and cross state lines to see Jeff Beck in concert. Jorge holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Minnesota.
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Jennifer De La Jara

Director of Education
Jennifer De La Jara has worked with the immigrant and refugee communities in Charlotte for over 18 years. She is passionate about language development and cross-cultural communications. She is an avid world-wide traveler and has lived in Latin America and Spain. She brings professional experience in higher education instruction and facilitation, family literacy, curriculum development, leadership, and diversity and inclusion. Jennifer holds a Master's in Education with a specialization in Teaching English as a Second Language from UNC-Charlotte and a Bachelor's in Communications Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill. She loves working with Charlotte's immigrant and refugee community, supporting both students and adults in their quest to improve English literacy skills and gain U.S. citizenship. Jennifer was recently elected to the CMS Board of Education.
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Liz Zipperer

Supervising Immigration Attorney
Liz studied International Studies and Spanish at Virginia Tech. She attended law school in North Carolina, and graduated with Pro-Bono Honors distinctions. Liz was recognized for the highest distinction of having completed over 300 hours of pro-bono service in the Charlotte area. Liz is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association, Mecklenburg County Bar, and American Immigration Lawyers Association. As a daughter of a first generation Mexican immigrant she has a personal as well as an academic understanding of the political and economic struggles in the countries from which many immigrants flee. Her understanding has inspired her desire to devote her legal career to the immigrant community.
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Alma Hernandez

Client Services Director
Alma has a bachelor's degree from Southern Methodist University, (Dallas, TX). Volunteering for at-risk high school students inspired her to become a teacher. She worked for a decade in Education, teaching Bilingual/ESL elementary K-5; often leading after-school programs and tutoring for students and parents. Since her arrival in Charlotte six years ago, she has been a community and political activist and holds officer and board positions with organizations throughout Mecklenburg. She spends her free time playing sports and volunteering for various local groups. Working at the International House allows her to interact, work with and serve the community.
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Nina Batson

Citizen Diplomacy Program Manager
Nina is the Program Associate with the Citizen Diplomacy Program at International House. Originally from the Republic of Georgia, she has called Charlotte home for 13 years. She has a degree in International Relations and Political Science from University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Nina has worked at the International House previously as an intern and during that time was chosen as the Global Ties’ Emerging Leader in 2015. She is genuinely happy about being a part of this team and contributing to this great cause that unites us all.
Email Nina at
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Zoila Velasquez

Immigration Law Attorney
Zoila Velasquez is a North Carolina licensed attorney practicing law since 2015. She practices removal defense before the Charlotte Immigration Court and primarily represents asylum seekers. She holds a Juris Doctor degree and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from UNC-Greensboro. Zoila is a Venezuelan immigrant to Peruvian and Venezuelan parents. She emigrated from Venezuela at the age of five and grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In 2009, she moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where she worked as a paralegal in the area of immigration law for six years. After becoming an attorney, she worked for a private firm as the primary litigator for two years. In this capacity she had the opportunity to provide pro bono representation to recently arrived women and children seeking asylum and detained at the South Texas Residential Center. She also partnered with local and national immigrant rights organizations to secure the release of unaccompanied minors detained during high profile Immigration & Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) operations in North Carolina. She then opened her own solo practice for two years where she continued this work. In her free time, Zoila enjoys volunteering with local grass roots community organizations.
Email Zoila at
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Stephanie D. Peterson

Immigration Law Attorney
Stephanie joins International House as an Immigration Attorney. She holds a BA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and received her JD from Elon University School of Law. During her time at Elon Law, Stephanie interned at Legal Aid of North Carolina with their Battered Immigrant Project, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Dummit Fradin, and Orlando Center for Justice, thus gaining experience in both the nonprofit and private sector . She is committed to helping immigrants navigate the U.S. immigration system and better access the resources they need to succeed. She is licensed in the District of Columbia. In her free time she enjoys traveling with her husband.
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Samantha Williams

Volunteer & Events Coordinator
Originally coming to International House as an AmeriCorps member, Samantha serves as the International House’s Volunteer Coordinator. She is a native of Charlotte but has spent the last 8 years living in Greensboro where she earned a BA in International and Global studies at UNC-Greensboro. She recently returned to Charlotte to work on a Master’s degree in Communications at Queen’s University.
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Charles Lansden

Winstead PC

Cynthia Aziz

Vice President
Aziz Law Firm

Satoshi Watanabe

Wells Fargo & Company

Stephanie Spicer

Luquire George Andrews

Vince Altamura

Wells Fargo & Company

John Barquin

Duke Energy

Alba Belegu

Wells Fargo & Company

Dr. Maha Gingrich

Wells Fargo & Company

Dana Hicks

Gene Katz

Retired, Wells Fargo & Company

Janet Malkemes

Retired, CPCC

Sam Smith

United Way of Central Carolinas

Luis Tochiki

Principal, LTArchitecture

Joe Woerner

XCultureBridge, LLC