SEEDS runs day-to-day with the support of an energetic staff dedicated to Durham’s next generation. We are proud to be a Durham Living Wage Certified organization.
Please note! While we are working remotely during the Coronavirus outbreak, the best way to get in touch with SEEDS staff is via email as we do not have regular access to our work extensions. Thank you!
Cecilia Polanco – Executive Director (she/her/hers)
Cecilia is the daughter of Jose and Nora, and sister to Ana, Sandra, and Yesenia. Originally from El Salvador, their family has lived in Durham for the past 27 years, where Cecilia attended Durham Public Schools and graduated from Northern High School in 2011. She then graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016, where she was a Morehead-Cain Scholar and Global Gap Year Fellow. She majored in Global Studies with a focus on Health and the Environment, and Latin America, minored in Geography and earned a certificate in Business from Kenan Flagler. She has since been working on launching and scaling So Good Pupusas, a social justice food truck, and Pupusas for Education, a last dollar scholarship fund for undocumented students. She is a community activist entrepreneur with a long history of work with youth and on various social justice issues surrounding food and environmental justice. She is also a mental health advocate and believes that education can enable us to free ourselves and others, and that love is the root of our relationship with ourselves, each other, and mother Earth.
Phone : 919.683.1197 ext. 8
Herb Thornton – Youth Programs Coordinator (he/him/his)
Herb has worked in the before- and after-school programs at Hope Valley Elementary School, motivating and engaging the students in academic, social and professional experiences they might not otherwise get at school. Passionate about children, his move to Eno Valley Elementary School as an educator for children with different learning styles was a natural fit. Herb studied English and sociology at North Carolina Central University, and now, in his free time, he cooks and reads modernist fiction and poetry. (He’s also a regular participant in the annual Great Durham Pun Challenge!) As a garden and chef educator at SEEDS, Herb helps engage young people in growing and cooking food as life skills; they learn to care for the environment, conserve natural resources, build confidence and foster teamwork.
Phone : 919.683.1197 ext. 6
Felix Pittman – SEEDlings Coordinator (he/him/his)
Aaron Williams – SAPLINGs Coordinator (he/him/his)
Aaron is a Miami native, but Tarheel bred. As a Carolina Firsts student, he graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2018 as the first in his family to go to college, with a bachelor’s degree in Peace,War & Defense. Seeking a way to use the peace building skills he learned about in his study of international relations, he began his journey into food justice work at Anathoth Community Garden in Cedar Grove, NC. This would be his first experience farming and reshaped his ideas about our relationship with food, land, and each other. Combining the flavors of his grandmothers Southern cuisine with the Carribean flavors of Miami, Aaron seeks to use food as a medium to build community through cooking, teaching, gardening, and storytelling together. In his spare time you can find him dancing bachata, reading, or traveling around the world.
Trevor Hyde – Farm Manager & Educator (he/him/his)
Trevor is super excited to join the SEEDS Team as the Farm Manager and Educator, managing the farm and DIG high school program. After a long stint in academia, at Trinity College, Yale, and UNC-Chapel Hill, Trevor realized the Ivory Tower was the wrong place for him, and switched to practical work with a community impact through food. After a second Masters in Agriculture and Education at NC-State, he worked on farms and managed his own incubator plot, honing his skills in permaculture, interplanting, and seasonality, with an educational focus. After a two-year search for the right educational agricultural nonprofit, he was excited for the possibilities unfolding in this new chapter of SEEDS. He believes that we can change the world through food and our interaction with nature, and that teaching youth will create a generation of change for the future.
Phone: 919-683-1197 ext. 5
Eli Mercuree Rue – Chef Educator (they/them/theirs)
Eli is excited to be returning home to Durham and work with SEEDS as a Chef Educator. Eli is a Durham native and attended Southern High School and went on to earn a B.S. in Chemistry from Mills College. After a few years in the biotech industry they decided they wanted to focus on their dreams of seeing a more just and liberated food system by offering theirself to community in the form of garden and kitchen education. They have worked with youth in a variety of settings from personal tutoring to science enrichment to farming, all with a common thread of seeing youth discover their infinite potential. Eli joins us after returning from Oakland, CA where they most recently worked with The Edible Schoolyard as an Americorp Garden Teacher and Summer Garden and Cooking Program Manager. They hope to share with the SEEDS youth and community their passion for cooking, gardening, herbalism, art, community resilience, food justice and liberation, science, short stories, healing, and so much more.
Phone: 919-683-1197 ext. 7
Aaron Kienow – Farm Educator (he/him/his)
Aaron worked as a chef for 10 years from the mountains to the coast of North Carolina. He left the kitchen and joined SEEDS to better understand farming and food systems. While diving deeper into agriculture, he continued his education and has recently finished a degree in Sustainable Technologies from Central Carolina Community College. With a focus and passion in building science, he continues to push forward into a future with improved infrastructure, food security, sustainable societal practices, and affordable efficient housing.
Abby Goodman – Development & Communications Coordinator (she/her/hers)
Phone: 919-683-1197 ext. 2
Jeymi Dubon – Operations & Administrative Coordinator (she/her/hers)
Jeymi was born in Honduras and has lived in Durham for 19 years where she attended Glenn Elementary, Brogden Middle School, and where she graduated from Hillside New Tech High School in 2018. Jeymi is currently in college finishing her Associates in Arts degree along with her Community Interpreting diploma with hopes of transferring to major in Psychology. She is passionate about nature, children and youth, education, mental health, advocacy, and most of all immigration rights. She’s a girl with many passions! During her free time Jeymi loves going on runs and hikes on nature trails, watching movies and tv shows, reading books, dancing, and spending quality time with friends and family. Jeymi is excited to take her on her next adventure at SEEDS.
Phone: 919-683-1197 ext. 1