About Us

About the North Carolina Educational Scholarship Fund

NCESF is an exempt scholarship organization under IRC § 501(c)(3). It is in good standing with the North Carolina Secretary of State and holds Charitable Solicitation License No. SL010653. The NCESF, an independent tax-exempt scholarship organization, has passed the $600,000 mark for scholarship funds received.

There is 100% participation by NCESF Board Members as scholarship benefactors! The Board will not ask a prospective donor to invest in the scholarship funds if board members do not themselves invest! Charity begins at home.

NC Educational Scholarship Fund, Inc.
PO Box 5263
Pinehurst, NC 28374

Who We Are

The North Carolina Educational Scholarship Fund (NCESF), is a tax-exempt organization that became fully operational in 2015 with a governing board of civic-minded and volunteer-oriented directors. NCES is committed to delivering an enduring scholarship portfolio dedicated to providing educational opportunities and enriching career pathways for North Carolina.  The annual scholarship initiative generates more than $100,000 per year and includes at least twenty Benefactor Designated Scholarships ranging in size from $1000 up to $4000 each.  This type of scholarship allows the benefactor to select the subject matter of the academic award such as healthcare, law, women in business, and education, and to participate with a review panel to choose the winner.  The NCESF also includes two endowments:   the Heart of North Carolina Endowment funded by the Sisterhood of Miss North Carolina that underwrites scholarships in honor of longtime volunteer, the late Beverly Adams; and the Eric Ennis Music Scholarship Endowment, established by the Estate of the late Eric Ennis, to recognize and award scholarship funds to those studying in the field of music.  While the young women who participate in the Miss North Carolina and Outstanding Teen competition are the primary beneficiaries of NCESF funds, in recent years a number of grants have been made to North Carolina Community College Foundations, especially those serving in low socioeconomic areas in rural North Carolina.  NCESF is growing and can partner with businesses, trusts, foundations, and individuals to recognize and underwrite success.

Board of Directors

Meghan Porter (Chapel Hill), Chair

Meghan is a graduate of Campbell University, she has served as a trusted Financial Advisor for 10 years and is the current Resident Director for a large financial institution in Chapel Hill. Meghan services clients and their families by addressing their financial and wealth management needs. She is a tenured member of the Junior League and active member in her community.

David Clegg (Raleigh), Vice Chair

An attorney, David served as Assistant Secretary of the NC Department of Commerce and as Deputy Chairman of the NC Employment Security Commission. He is currently County Manager and County Attorney of Tyrrell County, NC. He is also Board Chairman of The Partnership for the Sounds, Chairman of the Raleigh Arts Commission, a board member of the Museum of the Albemarle, and a member of the NC Commission on Inaugural Ceremonies. He has been involved with the Miss America Program for over 40 years at the local and state level, is a member of SAG-AFTRA, and has received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

C. Wayne Hicks (Pinehurst), Vice President and Treasurer

A graduate of Kings College, Wayne is a retired Business executive for the North Carolina Department of Transportation and founding Member of Pinehurst United Methodist Church. He has been involved with the Miss America Program for over 55 years at the local and state level. He held statewide Jaycee offices, is a life member Jaycee and was awarded JCI Senator No. 19555, an internationally recognized honor and has received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Wayne also currently is a member of the Board of Directors of The Pinehurst Forum.

McNeil Chestnut (Pinehurst)

Retired as the Chief Financial Lawyer for the Office of the North Carolina Attorney General, and adjunct professor of fiduciary law and regulation at Campbell University, McNeil currently engages in a government relations practice representing financial entities. He received his undergraduate and legal education at Campbell University and provides substantial experience with exempt organizations.

Julie Caudle Fields (Asheville)

Julie is retired from the City of Asheville Planning Department and was licensed as an attorney in NC. She was a Top Five Contender at Miss North Carolina. Julie received her undergraduate degree from Duke University and her Masters and Law degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill. She has substantial expertise in municipal planning law and regulations and an extensive community service background.

Dana Stephenson Dixon (Garner)

Miss North Carolina 1994, Dana is an accomplished vocalist, recording artist, life/performance coach, and inspirational speaker. She is a graduate of Meredith College and the UNC School of Art master’s program. Dana has performed with the North Carolina Symphony and Piedmont Opera Company.

Jennifer Vaden Barth

Using scholarships earned as a local titleholder, Miss NC 1991 and a Top Ten Finalist at the Miss America Pageant, Jennifer is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with a Bachelors of Music degree in vocal performance. She earned her Masters of Music in Musical Theatre at The Boston Conservatory. A professional actor for 12 years, she is a proud member of Actors Equity and has performed in leading and ensemble roles across the US and Europe. Since 2003 she has built a career as an executive in various industry sectors including Finance, Technology and Energy. She currently is the Chief of Staff at Heliogen. Residing in Los Angeles with her family, she spends her spare time as a church soloist and volunteering with nonprofits focused on education initiatives for girls and underserved students. Jennifer currently serves as technology director and a board member on the North Carolina Educational Scholarship Fund. Performance and a Masters in Music with a concentration in Musical Theatre. From 1993 - 2002 she enjoyed a full-time career as a professional actor primarily focused in musical theatre based out of New York. As a proud member of Actor’s Equity, she performed across the U.S. and Germany including leading roles in Starlight Express, CATS and Ragtime. In 2002 she sought a career change and has spent the last 15 years at Google in various roles in Research, Sales, YouTube and the Chairman's office. She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with her family devoting her spare time to nonprofits focused on women's education.

Dakeita Vanderburg

Dakeita is a lifetime resident of Cabarrus county, a leading community figure, Dakeita has been recognized for her accomplishments with the 2015 Cabarrus Regional Chamber Citizen of the Year Award, 2015 American Red Cross All American Citizen Award and the 2016 Concord Rotary Club’s Rotarian of the Year. Dakeita is a graduate of North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree and continues to share her business expertise with young professionals. Dedicated to her community, Dakeita is involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Concord Rotary Club, Academic Learning Center and the Cabarrus County Boys and Girls Club as well as the Miss America Program. She serves with the Northeast Foundation, Rowan Cabarrus Community College Board of Trustees and Foundation and the Cabarrus Arts Council. Dakeita is the Director of the National League of Junior Cotillion teaching middle schoolers the art of manners and etiquette. Dakeita is an alumna of the Miss North Carolina Program having held the titles of Miss Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Miss Cabarrus Counites. She went on to earn the title of Miss Connecticut 1983. After returning to the Tarheel State, she established the Miss Western Piedmont Pageant which for many years was among the largest preliminaries in the Miss North Carolina Program. The mother of 3 adult children, Hayden, Laura and Hunter, and wife of Steve, Dakeita enjoys gardening, church projects, reading, cooking and her adorable Schnauzer Coco.

Karen Bloomquist Elson

Karen used the scholarship she won as Miss North Carolina 1986 to complete her MBA at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University in 1988. She went on to work in marketing and communication for several Fortune 500 firms, finally settling in Atlanta, Georgia where she and husband, Barry, raised their two children, Blake and Sabrina. Karen currently works part-time as a consultant, specializing in resume and interview preparation. She is honored to be joining the NCESF Board this year.

Professional Staff

Laura Kiker, General Counsel

Laura was born and raised in Pinehurst, North Carolina. She is a disciplined, dedicated, and mission-focused lawyer. She double majored in Greek and Latin at Duke University. Laura went on to law school at Washington & Lee. During her years in Virginia, Laura became Miss Virginia USA and traveled the Commonwealth for an entire year to promote Virginia and her personal platform of educating high school students on the Constitution. She placed in the Top 15 at Miss USA. The Army has moved Laura and her husband across the country to Georgia, Virginia, Texas, and back home to North Carolina. A former civilian attorney for the Department of the Army’s Office of Soldier’s Counsel, Laura counseled and fought for wounded and ill Service Members undergoing medical board separation from the US Army and provided legal counsel through the VA disability process. Laura is an avid reader of history and enjoys going on walks with her husband and daughter, playing tennis, and mentoring young ballet dancers in performance and technique.

Hali McKenzie Reese, Marketing and Public Affairs Director

Hali McKenize is a Beaufort, SC native. She spent the majority of her formative years in Fayetteville, NC due to her parents' service in the Army. Hali McKenzie is a graduate of North Carolina State University where she received her Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education, and a minor in Parks Recreation and Tourism Management. Upon graduation she pursued a career in Marketing and Events management and is now working as a Project Manager for a local digital marketing agency in Raleigh, NC. In her free time she enjoys working out and trying local fitness studios, spending time with her family on the coast, and playing with her yellow lab, Hank.