Made in Durham names three to staff posts, promotes one to focus on employer engagement

November 3, 2017

Made in Durham has named three people to staff positions and promoted Jacob Dolan to employer engagement strategist.

Lorenza Wilkins has been named senior director of programs and operations, succeeding Valerie Anderson, who left in September to become senior director of programs for the Emily Krzyzewski Center.

Deanna Knighton has been named career development specialist, replacing Dolan. She will help students served by Made in Durham’s Durham Futures dropout recovery initiative develop career plans and career-readiness skills.

Dominique Oliver has been named re-engagement specialist, a new position that will support the expansion of Durham Futures with a three -year, $750,000 grant from the Oak Foundation.

“These key hires and Jacob’s move to a new role positions the partnership to move aggressively to expand its work to align our education-to-career system so that it better serves Durham’s young people,” said Casey Steinbacher, interim executive director of Made in Durham and chair of its Management Committee.

Lorenza Wilkins

Wilkins will manage the process of aligning partner institutions to achieve Made in Durham’s vision to ensure all Durham youth complete high school, earn a post-secondary credential and secure a sustainable career by 25. He will also manage the work of Durham Futures, Made in Durham’s initiative to pilot and scale interventions that help “disconnected” youth – those who are not in school or working – get back on track and stay there.

Wilkins brings years of experience in talent development and more recently in nonprofit management focused on developing socio-economically disadvantaged youth. He was talent advisor for CSX Transportation in Jacksonville, Fla., from 1998-2015.

Since 2016, he has served as program manager for Triangle Literacy Council. In addition, he has served since 2009 as president, chairman and chief executive officer of Compass Youth Center, a Warrenton mentoring program focused on providing sustainable pathways out of poverty for young people.

He holds a MBA and bachelor of science in business administration, both from Columbia Southern University, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Business Administration with a focus on project-based research there.

Reach Wilkins at
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Deanna Knighton

Knighton will begin work at Made in Durham Nov. 17. She will work with students and staff at Durham Futures partner sites to develop career development activities and coordinate work-based learning experiences that helps students develop career plans and prepare for careers.

She brings experience advising and teaching a diverse population of students and developing curricula. She comes to Made in Durham from Wake Technical Community College, where she serves as a career specialist in Career and Employment Resources and an adjunct instructor in the accounting department. Previously, she was a career services graduate assistant at William Peace University and graduate student intern at N.C. State University.

She holds a master’s degree in higher education administration from N.C. State.

Reach Knighton after Nov. 17 at
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Dominique Oliver

Oliver will lead Made in Durham’s Oak Foundation-funded re-engagement initiative, which seeks to get more young people who have dropped out of school back in school and connect them with best-fit programs and support services with Durham Futures partner sites.

He most recently served as a social worker for Durham County’s Department of Social Services, providing assessment, counseling and connections to resources for children and families in crisis. Before that, he was an admissions counselor for N.C. Central University, assistant director of admissions for The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, a benefits representative for Fidelity Investments and branch manager for Sherwin Williams. He holds a Master of Social Work degree with a concentration in juvenile justice from N.C. Central University.

Reach Oliver at .
Read his bio

In his new role, Dolan will focus on developing systems, tools and supports needed to increase employer participation across Durham’s education and training system in such areas as work-based and experiential learning, career mentoring, apprenticeships, summer and year-round internships for students, and externships for teachers. He will work with partners to develop customized talent pipeline pilots and hiring opportunities, and guide education and training partners on industry skills and workforce requirements.

Dolan brings a background in business and education to this role, as well as knowledge of the needs of Durham youth and employers from his work during the past year as employer engagement associate. He previously worked as a Durham Public Schools middle school teacher and spent 11 years in various management roles in business, leading the hiring and training of new employees and supervising managers and employee service and operation teams.

Reach Dolan at (919) 215-5844 or
Read his bio

Made in Durham is a community partnership of educators, business, government, nonprofits and young people mobilized around a shared vision that all of Durham’s youth will complete high school and a postsecondary credential and begin a rewarding career by the age of 25. Staff of the Made in Durham nonprofit facilitate, inform, raise funds for and monitor progress and results of partner efforts toward achieving that vision. For more information, visit


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Made in Durham is a community partnership of educators, business, government, youth-serving nonprofits and young people mobilized around a shared vision that all of Durham’s youth will complete high school and a post-secondary credential and begin a rewarding career by the age of 25.
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