Board of Directors

Aspire Trade High School is being created and built by Aspire Carolinas Foundation,  a non-profit organization that establishes and operates schools for students with learning challenges that need an alternative to the current public and private educational offerings.  In addition, Aspire has added a trade school component for public school students in grades 9-12. The first Aspire Trade High School campus has been established in Huntersville, NC.

The Aspire Carolinas Foundation Board of Directors will provide leadership to the Aspire Trade High School Board of Directors to ensure the success of students through positive community integration, fundraising and partnership retention, sound fiscal management, prudent personnel planning, a quality academic program, and management of enrollment and facilities.

The Aspire Trade School Board of Directors currently has five members.  Each members brings their experience and expertise to this highly innovative trade school. Members include:

Aspire Trade High School - Lauren Nicholson, Board Chair

Lauren Nicholson


Lauren holds Bachelor of Science degree in Finance, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in French from West Virginia University. Beginning her career with Bank of America in California as a Credit Product Analyst and Credit Development Program Manager, she then served as a Portfolio Manager II (Healthcare and Non-Profit) in Atlanta and Charlotte, and Sr. Vice President (SVP) Senior Credits Product Officer. Since 2017 Lauren has served as SVP-Sr. Relationship Manager for Healthcare, Education, and Not-for-Profit for Bank of America in Charlotte.

Aspire Trade High School - Jennifer Nichols, Vice Board Chair

Jennifer Nichols


Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Malone University in Canton, Ohio and completed additional coursework in reading education (Eastern Michigan University) and developmental disabilities (CPCC). She taught for nine years in Michigan before moving to North Carolina. She is a certified grants writer and seasoned fundraiser working with organizations such as InReach, The Arc of Mecklenburg, The American Red Cross, and Discovery Place. The opportunity to serve as Executive Director of Aspire Carolinas marks the culmination of a lifetime dream to head a non-profit that serves students with learning differences and Asperger’s.

Aspire Trade High School - Jim Secunda, Treasurer

Jim Secunda


Mr. James (Jim) Secunda graduated from Farleigh Dickinson University in 1975 with a degree in business and marketing. He then received his Master’s degree in 1976 from the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) in 1976. In 1979 he started his first company, American Rehabilitation Inc., which he later sold in 2008. Jim then co-founded two additional companies, CompSource Inc. in 1993 and Synergy Coverage Solutions Inc. in 2005. Jim has served on the boards of: Stony Brook Prep School, Charlotte Pregnancy Center, Community Health Services, Boy Scouts of America (Special Needs Board Member), The Epiphany School of Charlotte and Charlotte Christian School.

Aspire Trade High School - Marianna Sartin, Secretary

Marianna Sartin


Marianna holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Clemson University, a Masters of Arts in Teaching, Special Education from University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a Masters of Education in Educational Leadership from Winthrop University. She was a classroom teacher in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) for 8 years before moving into the role of Itinerant Coordinating Teacher for the Exceptional Children (EC) Department, where she worked to support classroom EC teachers for 4 years. Since 2015, she has served in the role of High School Program Manager for the CMS EC Department. In this role she coordinates and supports instructional programming for High School EC programs across the district.

Rob Dixon


Rob has a Bachelor of Science degree from Wingate University in Human Services. He began his career at Carowinds as their Security Manager. He has been an Independent Security Consultant for over 30 years. He previously worked for the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s office, working with inmates in their reentry program. He is currently the Safety Manager for Müller Corporation, a commercial tile installation business.