Meet Our National Board of Directors & Staff
Board of Directors
- Ovidio B. Bermudez, M.D
- Robyn Block
- Colonel James E. Champagne
- Kirtana Choragudi
- Carlos DeBrito
- Ryan Fraase
- David K. Mineta
- Kelly Nantel
- Kendell Poole
Board of Directors
Ovidio B. Bermudez, M.D.
Dr. Bermudez is the Chief Medical Officer of the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, Colorado. He attended medical school at the Universidad Central del Este in the Dominican Republic, completed his residency in Pediatrics at The Medical College of Pennsylvania, and completed his fellowship in Adolescent Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is board-certified in both pediatrics and adolescent medicine. Dr. Bermudez is affiliated with a number of professional societies, serving in leadership roles. Dr. Bermudez currently serves on the board of directors of the National Eating Disorders Association and on the advisory board of GirlForce at Vanderbilt University. He is founder and president of the Eating Disorders Coalition of Tennessee. Dr. Bermudez and his family live in the Denver metro area.
State Coordinator Representative
Robyn Block has served as the Illinois Coordinator for Students Against Destructive Decisions since 2006. She stepped in on a part-time basis and began the task of assessing the number of chapters in Illinois and the types of prevention that was being practiced. During this time, Robyn has utilized her 15 years’ experience in the field of Prevention to move SADD chapters toward Best Practices. She was instrumental in the creation of DomeShift, the annual youth advocacy day that she began three years ago by bringing partners together to provide youth from around the state training in Advocacy and giving them the opportunity to put that training into practice with their state legislators. Robyn has two daughters, Randyl and Casey, and several loving pets, who live in southern Illinois.
Colonel James E. Champagne (Secretary/Clerk)
Lieutenant Colonel Champagne served as Executive Director and Governor’s Highway Safety Representative from 1996 to 2007. As the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative, he helped Louisiana implement a wide range of highway safety programs. Colonel Champagne has a degree in Criminal Justice from Southeastern University in Hammond, Louisiana, and a diploma in police administration and traffic management from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Colonel Champagne was awarded the 2002 National Commission Against Drunk Driving (NCADD) Government Leadership Award at the 18th Annual NCADD Awards Luncheon in Washington, D.C. He received the SADD National Outstanding Achievement Award in July 2003. In recognition of his outstanding achievements in highway safety, Colonel Champagne was awarded the 1998 J. Stannard Baker Award by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the only civilian honored with the Baker Award in 1998. Also in 1998, he was selected to receive the Chairman’s Award by the Metropolitan Safety Council of New Orleans and the Traffic Safety Achievement Award. He and his wife, Darlene, continue to live in Baton Rouge.
Student of the Year Emeritus
Kirtana joined SADD at the beginning of her freshman year in high school and quickly became very passionate about using peer-to-peer education methods to limit the number of preventable teen deaths among her peers. Kirtana served a three-year term as president of her small, rural chapter and helped to grow the group from six members to 70. For her great work, Kirtana was chosen as a student advocate for SADD SPEAKs and attended her first SADD conference in 2015, which she described as life-changing. In high school, Kirtana was also a section/squad leader in the band, student director of the chorale and President of the National Honor Society. You can find Kirtana at the University of Michigan, where she is a freshman studying business.
Carlos DeBrito is a Major Account Executive at AutoTrader.com and Kelley Blue Book, both of which are subsidiaries of Cox Automotive. In 2007 Carlos joined AutoTrader.com after years of sales and advertising experience in many different fields. While at AutoTrader, Carlos has held a variety of positions that enabled him to gain interactive, strategic planning and consulting experience with the largest auto dealer groups in the country. Carlos has also participated in many strategic planning committees and sales leadership groups within the organization. Of particular relevance, Carlos is working on a Mentorship program within his group that enables other employees to get real-life experience out in the field. Carlos and his wife Janine live in Howell, NJ and welcomed their first baby boy, Lucas, in April 2015.
David K. Mineta
David K. Mineta is President and CEO of Momentum for Mental Health, the largest private nonprofit dedicated to providing comprehensive adult mental health services in Santa Clara County. He was appointed to the position in August 2015. Previously, Mr. Mineta had served as a Presidential appointee in the position of Deputy Director of Demand Reduction for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). His focus on drug prevention, treatment and recovery support services is recognized nationally. David K. Mineta’s career in behavioral health began in Santa Clara County over 25 years ago. In 1996, Mr. Mineta worked with Asian American Recovery Services (AARS) throughout the Bay Area. Mineta also served twice as board president for the Jefferson Union High School District Board of Trustees. He served as a member of the American Public Health Association and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America before being unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on June 22, 2010, as Deputy Director of Demand Reduction for the White House Drug Policy Office.Mineta received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master of Social Work from San Jose State University.
Kelly Nantel is a globally recognized strategist and communications leader with more than 25 years of experience in executive communications, policymaking and crisis planning and response. In 2015, she was named Vice President of Communications & Advocacy at the National Safety Council to improve safety in the nation’s workplaces, homes and communities, and on the road. Prior to joining NSC, Ms. Nantel served as the Director of Public Affairs at the National Transportation Safety Board. Previously, Ms. Nantel led a team of public affairs professionals at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and served as the agency’s chief spokesperson on major national security investigations. She began her communications career at the Massachusetts Department of Correction where she led external affairs followed by a communications management role for the public safety secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety. Ms. Nantel has a bachelor of science in criminal justice and communications from Curry College and is a proud resident of the city of Chicago.
Kendell Poole (Chairman)
The principal of K.Poole Strategic Relations, Kendell has built an amazing 27-year career in both the public and private sectors based on his strong character and reputation. Kendell was appointed by Governor Phil Bredesen on January 27, 2006, as Director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office in the State of Tennessee and continued to serve in that capacity under the administration of Governor Bill Haslam. Serving as the longest serving Director in the history of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office in Tennessee (2005-2016), he has received numerous awards for his leadership while serving under two Governors who spanned both sides of the political aisle. Mr. Poole was a member of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) Executive Board since 2006. He served five years as a regional representative and one year as Chair of the Association’s Member Services Committee. He also served as the Association’s liaison in implementing a new law enforcement program known as DDACTS. Poole was elected Chair at the Association’s Annual Meeting in 2012 and re-elected in 2013 and 2014.
President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Richard “Rick” Birt joined the SADD National staff in June 2014 as the Development Officer and, in 2015, became the Director of Strategic Partnerships. In 2016, he was promoted to serve as Executive Vice President. Now as the Acting CEO, Rick leads national operations and development efforts, playing a critical role in managing all national programs and field relations while fostering relationships between the organization and external partners. Rick also manages the SADD National Youth Leadership Councils – the Student Leadership Council (SLC) and College Advisory Council (CAC), and oversees the planning and execution of the annual SADD National Conference on Youth Health & Safety.
Rick has years of experience working in the prevention field. Previously, he worked with Impact Teen Drivers to support peer-to-peer-based traffic safety education and training as the Midwest Director of Operations. Rick also has significant experience as a grant writer and has worked with many state agencies on youth health and safety and leadership development. Rick has been deeply involved with SADD, from his selection as the 2009-2010 SADD National Student of the Year to his service as the Ohio SADD State Contact. Rick loves to give back to the community. As such, he was elected to his local Board of Education at Northwestern Schools in Springfield, Ohio leading numerous community and state-wide advocacy efforts with the Ohio School Board Association and the National School Board Association.
Rick holds a Bachelor’s degree in political science from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio and is currently in the process of obtaining his MBA in Non-Profit Administration from the University of Notre Dame.
Director of Programs
Elizabeth Vermette, Director of Programming, joined the SADD National staff in November 2015. Her responsibilities include overseeing the creation of SADD’s prevention and empowerment programming that works to empower teens, engage parents, and mobilize communities.
Before joining SADD, Elizabeth served as the Director of Traffic Safety Programs at the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS), a coalition that works to save lives, prevent injuries, and promote safe and healthy lifestyles among youth. Previously, Elizabeth served as the Director of Government Relations for the Automotive Recyclers Association where she was responsible for monitoring legislative and regulatory activity at the federal level and all 50 states, D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico.
Additionally, Elizabeth’s career experience includes working at the AAA National Office as the Director of State Relations, where she developed education, outreach, and advocacy campaigns for implementation at the state level. During her tenure, she directed the Association’s “Licensed to Learn” campaign, which contributed to the passage of graduated licensing laws in all 50 states. Elizabeth also developed the “Seated, Safe and Secure” campaign aimed at strengthening child passenger safety laws, which received a Silver Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of America. Additionally, she developed and directed the Association’s distracted driving awareness campaign “Stay Focused, Keep Your Mind on the Road.”
Elizabeth graduated from Trinity University, in Washington D.C., with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Relations.
Assistant Director of Programs
Julie comes to SADD with over 20 years of professional experience, including over nine years in youth traffic safety. She has an extensive background in graphic design, public relations, and marketing. Julie has managed, projects, campaigns, and has planned, coordinated, and executed events for large groups including working with government contractors. She has written project plans and contracts, as well as copy for websites and newsletters. Her expertise in working with partners has included project development and implementation in addition to securing donations and connecting like-minded organizations.
Prior to joining the team at SADD, Julie was the Communications Director for The Gillen Group. She made a positive impact at the National Organizations for Youth Safety as the Director of Youth Engagement and enjoyed working with many traffic safety organizations and youth. Her commitment to a safety culture helped to build a strong coalition and laid a path for youth and adults to engage in opportunities on a global scale.
Outside work, Julie enjoys spending time with her husband and three daughters. Her hobbies include traveling and knitting. She can even speak conversational French and would love to travel back to France someday. Julie currently resides in Bristow, VA.
Special Projects Coordinator
Madeline joined the SADD National Staff in 2017 as the Special Projects Coordinator. Her roles include conference support, assisting the Acting CEO, and supporting programmatic efforts throughout the organization. After personal tragedy, Madeline joined SADD. In her high school, she led various projects including Y.I.E.L.D. (Youth Involved Education of Legal Drivers) to educate her community about the dangers of distracted and impaired driving, served on the Allegheny County Youth Traffic Safety Board, was named the 2013-2014 Pennsylvania SADD Student of the Year, and much more.
As a previous SADD student, Student Leadership Council Member, Student of the Year, and intern, her passion for SADD has been unwavering. A senior at the University of Pittsburgh, Madeline is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and religious studies.
Director of Youth Empowerment
Mallory joined the SADD National Staff in 2018 as the Director of Youth Empowerment. In this role, Mallory works to build student leaders across SADD Nation through community engagement, project management, and leadership development. Her favorite part of this role is guiding members of the SADD National Student Leadership Council and College Advisory Council. Mallory is a proud SADD alum with a rich history in prevention and education. She previously served as the Community Relations Coordinator of Ohio SADD, where she acted as the liaison between the state office and hundreds of chapters in the field. Mallory works with high school students in many different roles on a daily basis as a high school math teacher, cross country coach, and mentor. Mallory earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Mathematics Education and Mathematics from Ohio Dominican University and her Master’s Degree in Educational Administration with a focus in Counseling from Wright State University.
Gene Beresin and the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at MGH
Senior Advisor on Adolescent Psychiatry
Gene Beresin, M.D., M.A. is executive director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), a full professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (HMS), and senior educator in child and adolescent psychiatry at MGH. He received a B.A. in music from Princeton University, and an M.A. in philosophy along with his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Beresin previously served as residency training director in child and adolescent psychiatry at MGH for 29 years (24 of which were for the MGH/McLean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Training Program). In addition to his current role at The Clay Center, Dr. Beresin also directs the Elizabeth Thatcher Acampora Endowment, an outreach program to meet the needs of underserved youth and families in three community settings, as well as HMS’ year-long required course Patient Doctor III, which focuses on reflective practice, ethics, professionalism and interpersonal skills as students develop their identities as physicians.
Dr. Beresin has won a number of local and national teaching awards, including the Parker J. Palmer “Courage to Teach” Award in 2002, given annually by the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education to 10 program directors from all medical specialties. In 2004, he was awarded the American Psychiatric Association and National Institute of Mental Health Vestermark Award for Outstanding Teaching. In 2008, he was awarded the Bowis Award by the American College of Psychiatrists for outstanding service to and leadership in the College. In 2011, he won the HMS Department of Psychiatry Cynthia M. Kettyle Award for Medical Student Teaching.
Dr. Beresin has consulted on a variety of television shows, including ER, Law and Order SVU and the Emmy Award-winning HBO children’s specials Goodnight Moon and Other Sleepytime Tales (2000), Through a Child’s Eyes: September 11, 2001 (2003) and Classical Baby (2005). He was also co-producer of a section of the Parent Resource Center for ABCNews.com.
Dr. Beresin has published numerous papers and chapters on a variety of topics, including graduate medical education, mental health and media, eating disorders, personality disorders and child and adolescent psychiatric treatments. He is also deputy editor and media editor for Academic Psychiatry.
Dr. Beresin has been featured in/on CNN, Time, Forbes, Good Morning America, VICE.com, The Boston Globe, ABC News, The Huffington Post, WBUR’s CommonHealth, among others. View more from Gene and his team at The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds