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Fayetteville City Council member is among 22 Hunt Institute fellows


Fayetteville City Council member Mario Benavente has been selected to participate in the Hunt Institute’s 2023 cohort of the State Policy Fellows program, according to a news release.

The program aims to provide a bipartisan group of future education policymakers and aspiring state and local elected officials in North Carolina with the resources, space, and expertise needed to develop thoughtful positions on a variety of education policy issues, the release said. To do so, The institute has gathered leaders from across the state including county commissioners, school board members, mayors, city councilors, and other community leaders.

Benavente is one of 22 individuals that will meet for three sessions between May through September, each focusing on a different piece of the education pipeline: early childhood, K-12 and higher education. Each meeting will offer fellows the opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue and build relationships with one another and with policy experts across the state. 

“I want to understand what the leading research is saying — there’s a lot of myths and rumors about what’s trending in education,”  Benavente said. “Being able to talk with folks that are the experts and getting the insight that they’re sharing arms me with the information to get out into my community and let folks know what I’ve learned.”

The 2023 Hunt State Policy Fellows cohort is:

  • Nida Allam, county commissioner, Durham County.
  • Kevin Austin, Board of Commissioners chair, Yadkin County.
  • Mario Benavente, City Council member, Fayetteville.
  • Chris Blue, interim town manager, Chapel Hill.
  • Tina M. Brown, mayor, town of Robersonville.
  • Matt Calabria, Wake County commissioner, Fuquay-Varina.
  • Olivia Dawson, mayor, town of Burgaw.
  • Jennifer De La Jara, Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member.
  • Sandy Ellington-Graves, Alamance-Burlington school board chair, Graham.
  • Kimberly Hardy, second vice chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Linden.
  • Cyril Jefferson, City Council member, High Point.
  • Adrienne Martinez, senior vice president, Bank of America, Charlotte.
  • Lisa Meier, CEO and managing partner, Symphonic Leadership Partners, Mooresville.
  • Jeffrey Odham, mayor, city of New Bern.
  • Jose Oliva, Guilford County Schools chief of staff, Greensboro.
  • April Parker, statewide executive director, North Carolina Federation of Young Republicans, Raleigh.
  • Susie Sewell, executive director, Camp Schreiber Foundation, Wilmington.
  • Lyndsey Simpson, mayor pro temp, city of Hendersonville.
  • Jennifer M. Stepp, City Council member, Gastonia.
  • Tyler Swanson, Wake County school board member, Cary.
  • Jennifer Thompson, Cherokee Central Schools board chair, Cherokee.
  • Luke Waddell, City Council member, Wilmington.

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Fayetteville, Hunt Institute, City Council member, fellows program, education policy, Mario Benavente.