Board of Directors
Martin Noble, President
Born in the U.S. to an American father and Argentine mother, Martin spent his childhood in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He completed high school in the U.S. and an Economics degree at NCSU along with a study abroad in Spain. Curious about the world, his early career took him to Santiago, Chile and later managed Latin American operations for a global Dutch company. For the past several years, Martin has been serving as a Financial Advisor for individual and businesses in North Carolina and has been involved in local organizations empowering Latino and diverse business owners. Martin looks to help drive International Focus’ goals through his global outlook and belief in the constructive and enriching power of intercultural exchange and dialogue.
Sejal Mehta, Vice President
Sejal Mehta is Indian-born and grew up on New York City. Sejal is currently a board member for both statewide and local organizations, including the North Carolina Arts Council, Raleigh Little Theater, Wiley Elementary School PTA and Sir Walter Cabinet. Previously, Sejal worked as a contract attorney for Duke Energy, an attorney at the New York Medical Examiner’s Office, and a prosecutor in the Queen’s District Attorney’s Office. Sejal has a B.A. from New York University and a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law. She lives in Cameron Village with her husband Jay and their two children.
Jessica Porta, Treasurer
Jess Porta is the Director of HQ Raleigh, an entrepreneurial community in the heart of Raleigh, NC. Jess works to help start-up companies connect with the resources they need to grow their businesses. Jess’s passion for helping others is rooted in her background in human rights. Prior to her role as Director, Jess ran her own consulting company for educational and human rights organizations and was the Training and Education Manager for the Salvation Army’s Anti-Human Trafficking Program, Project FIGHT. She received her Masters of International Studies from NC State University. Jess is also a children’s book author and served as a consultant with the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture.
Sheri Golden Perry, Secretary
Governance Committee Chair
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. She has a Master of School Administration degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sheri’s initial interest and participation in International Focus spawned from the opportunity to help develop an International Field Trip for schools at the International Festival’s Naturalization Ceremony. This event now allows kindergarten through twelfth grade students to participate in the festival during school hours, and creates an intentional connection between the NC Standard Course of Study and all of the educational value that the International Festival offers.
Sheri’s interests include social justice rights, travel and event planning. She resides in the Triangle area with her husband and twin sons.
John Twomey, At Large
Strategic Planning Committee Chair
John was born in New York, the crossroads of the world, and has lived in the Triangle for the last 35 years. 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. John and his wife Jean have hosted over 30 International Visitor Leadership Program dinners with participants from over 40 countries and 6 continents. These dinners coupled with global travel have shown how critical diplomacy is to reach out and share our commonality, to resolve problems without resorting to conflict, to make the world a safer and better place.
Bardia Asefnia, At Large
Bardia was born in Raleigh, N.C. of Iranian parents who emigrated to the U.S. just before the Islamic Revolution unfolded. Having visited Iran twice as a young boy, he acknowledges the vast differences between two cultures – where he was raised and where his family originated from, thus sparking his passion for education and politics. He grew up as an avid soccer player and continued his academic studies onto the University of Massachusetts, where he excelled as a student-athlete graduating with a B.A. in Political Science. Currently, Bardia assists political candidates seeking re-election or higher office to educate their constituents through fundraising efforts. He previously worked with the N.C. Attorney General and currently works to elect the next representative of N.C. to U.S. Congress.
Bardia’s interest in International Focus stems from his desire to expose people from all backgrounds to cultures different than their own, free of political bias. He envisions a world in which individuals can learn from one another and celebrate the positives of each others cultures.
Debbie Hamrick, At Large
Debbie Hamrick is a member of the Public Policy Team at North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation. She and her husband Ed Gaines believe that people-to-people diplomacy is vital to creating international understanding. Through opportunities as members of IF, they’ve hosted dozens of visitors from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Central/South America and the Caribbean in their home for more than 10 years. Prior to joining Farm Bureau, Debbie founded FloraCulture International magazine. While there, she managed multi-cultural staff across four continents. She and Ed reside in the Hayes Barton neighborhood of Raleigh.
Mitch Rhodes, At Large
Mitch Rhodes is an entrepreneur who prides himself by putting ideas into action. He currently operates In-Rhodes Consulting that focuses on helping non-profits with strategy, operations and revenue generation. Prior to establishing his consulting firm, Mitch spent 9 years at Habitat for Humanity of Wake County building homes, community and hope. He is proud that during his time at tenure over 300 Wake families moved into their new homes built by Habitat Wake. When he is not consulting, Mitch enjoys two passions: outdoors and travel. If your run into Mitch, it will most likely be outside, either running on the trails in Umstead Park with his dog Porter or on a walking tour of some city around the world with his brilliant spouse Lisa.
Claris Castillo Singh
Claris Castillo Singh was born and raised in Panama. After earning her PhD in Computer Science from NC State University, she served as a research scientist at IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, earning several patents. Claris built on her experience as COO for an NIH Data Commons project at UNC-Chapel Hill, directing a cross-organizational team that piloted the future of biomedical data science. In this journey, she experienced the investment imbalance in developing new biomedical treatments and addressing the societal conditions that impair human health. Driven by this, she founded Humegy Corporation to build novel cloudbased products that improve people’s wellbeing.
As a Latina making waves to make the world a better place, she promotes the participation of underrepresented communities. She has served in leadership roles in the Grace Hopper Conference and co-founded Latinas in Computing, an organization that has since grown 100x with broad representation across the US and Latin America. Claris lives with her husband and children in Cary, NC, and loves all things diversity and nature.
After having been born and raised in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Rosa moved with her family to Florida when she was 16 years old. After graduating high school, she got a job as a medical secretary. In 2005, she moved to North Carolina and in 2006 she began her career in the legal field. While working full time, Rosa completed her Associates in Arts from Vance-Granville Community College in 2010 and her Bachelors in Psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2014, where she graduated with distinction. Rosa was a personal injury paralegal in Durham until she received her Juris Doctor from NC Central School of Law in 2016. She is now a trial lawyer at The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin in Durham, where she helps people who have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence.
Henry is a North Carolina native that earned degrees in Accounting and Business Management from NC State University in 1978. He received his CPA license in 1982 and has provided tax, accounting, auditing and business advisory services to a wide range of clients and industries over his 40 year career. He was a partner with the Raleigh CPA firm of Stancil PC until the end of 2018 and continues to serve the firm in a technical capacity as needed. Henry has served the non-profit community as a board member for organizations such as Urban Ministries of Wake County and Marbles Kid’s Museum. He lives in Raleigh with his wife Fran with whom he enjoys traveling, gardening and spending time with family and friends.