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Leila Bekri,
Executive Director

Leila Bekri is executive director of International Focus, where she works closely with the organization’s board, staff and partners to foster multicultural understanding. Since assuming her current role in 2020, Leila has led International Focus through a strategic plan, staffing expansion and organizational restructuring to better align the group’s activities with its vision and goals.

Leila’s career spans more than 20 years in international educational and cultural exchanges in the nonprofit sector in Raleigh and the surrounding Research Triangle area. She has managed numerous short and long-term programs and built strong partnerships with local, national, and international stakeholders. She works closely with the U.S. Department of State on its premier professional exchange program, the International Visitor Leadership Program. IVLP has brought hundreds of emerging leaders from around the world to N.C. to learn from area business leaders, journalists and government officials.

In recognition of her role in expanding awareness of cultural diversity, The News & Observer named Leila as a “Tar Heel of the Week.”  International Focus also has won various awards and nominations for peace, diversity, mentorship, and programming excellence under her leadership.

Leila holds an M.A. in International Studies from North Carolina State University and B.A. in legal studies from the Faculté des Sciences Juridiques, Politiques et Sociales de Tunis. She enjoys the arts, road trips, and volunteering with local nonprofits. A native of Tunisia, Leila is fluent in English, French and Arabic.

John Thoma


John Thoma, retired Chief Executive Officer, joined the nonprofit Transitions LifeCare in 1991 as the Director of Finance and Information Systems.  John became CEO in 2002 and served on the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees. 
John graduated from Boston University with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature and has continued his education and training at the Tufts University Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and the Harvard Business School.
John is passionate about maximizing the impact nonprofit services bring to diverse communities and the importance of thriving mission-driven organizations.  John is very active at the regional, state and national level, and has served on numerous boards and committees including the United Way of the Greater Triangle, the Association for Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina, and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Maria Adoskina (PhD)

Director of Special Project

Dr. Maria Adoskina (PhD) emigrated from the Russian Federation in 1993 with her PhD in Philology and Linguistics from the Institute of Linguistics at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Maria became involved in International Focus in 1999 where she would become the Program Director for Community Connections and Open World Programs. Maria has directed more than 43 successful programs via Community Connections, Open World, Youth Leadership Programs, and the Young Leaders of Americas Initiative. In her free time, Maria loves her dog and family and has recently had a new grandchild born.

Samuel Josephson

IVLP Program Coordinator

Samuel Josephson, a native of North Carolina hailing from Cary, holds a dual bachelor's degree in political science and international studies, specializing in Global Governance, Human Rights, and International Law from Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. Currently serving as the IVLP Program Coordinator at International Focus, he spearheads the design and execution of International Visitors Leadership Program visits to the Triangle region, while also contributing to social media, website, and newsletter development. Samuel's passion for international affairs, citizen diplomacy, and cultural exchange led him to International Focus, where he's driven by a deep appreciation for the organization's mission, values, and community. Beyond his professional endeavors, Samuel dedicates time to his fiancé and training his beloved dog, Lulia, whilst also indulging in his love for reading.

Kasi Kindred

Multimedia Marketing Consultant

Kasi Kindred in her time with International Focus has been tasked with the development of the International Focus Cultural Newsletters. She was born and raised in Raleigh, NC, and received her certification in Business Administration: Advertising and Digital Media from Wake Tech Community College in May 2022. In her free time, she loves going to Wrightsville Beach, NC, listening to music, and traveling. Ever since she started at International Focus, she knew this was going to be a great internship for her because she is intrigued by learning about other countries' cultures and customs. Getting involved at International Focus has given her the confidence to take on highly skilled roles and work in a professional setting and by applying them in her future career. She is a joy to be around and appreciates everything she is learning at International Focus.  

Ashleigh Millinder

Multimedia Marketing Consultant

Ashleigh Millinder was born and raised in the small Appalachian holler town of Pleasant Gap, Pennsylvania. After finishing her secondary education in Charlotte, North Carolina, she came to Raleigh to pursue her Bachelor degree in Public Relations and Mass Communication from Meredith College, which she completed in Spring of 2023. With a foundation in communication and leadership, as well as her certification in BioWork, she has aspirations to join the biopharmaceutical industry in formulation and, eventually, quality assurance. In the past, Ashleigh has served as a social media intern for International Focus, and now acts as a freelance multimedia consultant for the company. In her role, she contributes to social media posts and ongoing social media campaigns, as well as general marketing. Outside of her interest in interactive and social media, she spends her free time hiking, trying (and failing) to keep her plants alive, collecting cool rocks and vinyls, as well as pampering her two cats, Karma and Glitch.

Elliott Howes

International Exchanges Intern

Elliott Howes is a rising senior at American University’s School of International Service. He is majoring in International Studies with a concentration in Justice, Ethics, and Human Rights, a regional focus in Europe and Eurasia, and he is also working towards a minor in Language and Area Studies for Italian/Europe. A Raleigh, NC native, Elliott is excited to help share his hometown with the international community as an intern at International Focus. Elliott enjoys playing soccer, traveling, and biking in his free time.

Sophia Sevillano

International Programming Intern

Sophia Sevillano was born in the United Kingdom and relocated to North Carolina in 2020. She is currently a rising senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, pursuing dual Bachelor's degrees in Economics and International Studies, with a concentration in development and sustainability. Additionally, Sophia is minoring in Spanish. Beyond her academics, Sophia serves as the internal vice president of the Filipino-American Student Union at UNC Charlotte and has been a mentor for international students for the past three years. Having grown up immersed in various cultures, she has developed a multicultural perspective and a deep passion for world affairs. Through her summer internship at International Focus, Sophia aims to build connections within the international community in the Triangle area and explore potential career paths post-graduation. She is particularly interested in the nonprofit sector of international relations and aspires to create positive change in the economic development of developing countries throughout her professional career.


Leila Bekri

Executive Director

Leila was born in New York City and raised in Tunis. Her father’s diplomatic service took her family to the U.S., Europe, and West Africa before moving back to Tunisia. Being exposed to a multitude of cultures and places at an early age, she cultivated a pluralistic perspective which she later reinforced through her education, work, and passion for world affairs.