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 board member Lauren Nicholson
Lauren Nicholson
Vice President at Bank of America

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.

Heidi Bertino-Daum
Board Member
Head of School – The Halton School

Heidi is currently the Head of School at The Halton School. Prior to working at The Halton School Heidi was employed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, where she served as a Program Specialist for Autism. She’s also worked as an Exceptional Children Specialist for Iredell Statesville Schools and was an Adjunct Instructor at Lewis University and Northern Illinois University. She holds MEd and B.S. degrees in Special Education and a B.A degree in Anthropology, all from Penn State University.

Aspire Trade High School Board Member
Jim Secunda
Board Chair
Investor/Business owner

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.

Honorable Derek L. Partee
Private Investigator

The Honorable Derek L. Partee graduated from Southern University with a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science/ Psychology. He then received his Master’s degree in Public Administration from Long Island University. Derek served for 36 years with the Town of Hempstead, NY and Nassau County on Long Island, NY. In January 1984 he joined the Nassau County Police Department and retired after 25 years at the rank of Detective. Derek has extensive experience in conducting criminal investigations in auto crimes, dignitary protection, gang violence, homicides, narcotics, sexual offences and special weapons tactical response. When Derek retired in 2007, he had a 100% solvability and conviction rate on his homicide cases. He was the first detective in the Nassau County Police Department to be assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in the Manhattan office from 1999-2003. Derek was present at the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and involved in the investigation. Upon moving to North Carolina in 2012, he obtained his Private Investigators license and he currently consults for Carolina Fingerprinting/Citywide Investigations, located in Waxhaw. Derek’s passion is serving the community in which he lives. From 2017-2019 he served on the State Council of a political party. Derek also served on the Town of Huntersville Planning Board. On November 2, 2021, Derek was elected to the Town of Huntersville Board of Commissioners. Derek’s appointed committee assignments are the NC73 council of planning, planning board coordinating committee, parks committee, greenways, bikes and trails committee and the liaison to the police department.

Dale Halton
Dale Halton
Vice Chair
Retiree of Pepsi Cola Franchise

Ms. Dale Halton graduated from Myers Park High School and attended Agnes Scott College in Georgia. After two years she returned home to marry and start her family. In 1970 she began working for the family business, Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Charlotte, managing the company’s advertising. Although many good people worked at the company the business was struggling, and in 1981 she was made President of the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Charlotte. She began successfully running the company and gradually turned it around to again become profitable. She created a charitable foundation that gave 10% of the company’s profits to charity each year. Notable recipients include UNCC Charlotte and the NC Dance Theatre. “The more you have, the more responsibility you have to give to others,” Halton says. “I think it’s important to help folks who don’t have what I have. I wish I could do more. It’s fun.” Because Dale successfully faced many obstacles working in business at a time when it was difficult for women to do so, she continues to always root for those that face challenges. She is a strong supporter of children with learning differences and Asperger’s/autism spectrum disorder, and is thrilled to be able to support schools that help the students reach their potential.