Jr. Board of Directors


Our foundation’s vision is to empower and inspire the next generation to shape the future of sun safety.

In order for our foundation to effectively impact future generations, we must consider how children and young adults are learning about and forming habits with sun safety. To do this effectively, our junior board – made up of young adults – leads the way with the foundation’s voice, messaging, and outreach. This group guides the strategy because they have the crucial perspective of younger generations. The talent and passion they provide has allowed the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation to continue to have the impact we need to create a culture of sun safety.

Hannah O'Brien

Hannah is a senior at Durham Academy and is grateful for the opportunity to gain experience working with a non-profit while in high school. She’s been most proud of her work organizing the Giving Tuesday event for Polka Dot Mama. Hannah believes volunteer work not only helps make the world a better place, but also helps spread awareness about global issues. Outside of school, she enjoys riding horses, playing lacrosse, and hanging out with her friends.

Katie Yu

Katie is in her senior year and looking forward to focusing her undergraduate studies on healthcare. She’s motivated to inspire other young adults to make a change in their community. Katie’s experience with the junior board has taught her how much impact a group of young people can have. In addition to working with Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation, she’s also organized two successful blood drives through The Blood Connection. Katie is also active in cheerleading and pole vaulting.

Merritt Strodel

Merritt recently earned degrees in advertising and psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill. After graduation, she moved to Austin, Texas where she’s working in technology sales for Oracle. She enjoys volunteering with PDMMF because she knows the board can make a tangible difference by reaching and educating younger generations in order to increase the chances of preventing skin cancer and encouraging sun safety. Outside of her career, Merritt wants to continue to travel and spend time outdoors. She loves traveling, hiking, skiing, scuba diving, reading, and spending time with friends and family. She recently had a proud travel moment in Tanzania when she hiked and summited Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Matthew Ferranti

Matthew is in his junior year at Cary Academy. He is committed to balancing his school work with his volunteer time in pursuit of studying medicine in college. Matthew was drawn to the junior board to join a group of passionate young people serving the community. He has appreciated the learning and growing opportunities that have come as being a part of the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation. It has been incredibly rewarding for him to feel like his voice and ideas are having an impact for such an important cause and he’s excited to see what else the junior board can do in the future. Outside of school, Matthew runs track, hangs out with friends, and plays video games

Emma Bracken

Emma is a sophomore at Raleigh Charter High School. At school, she’s involved in the National High School Ethics Bowl, classic book club, and environmental politics. After high school graduation, she hopes to go to college in Europe to study design or a subject in the arts. With a family history of melanoma, Emma has a personal tie to the foundation and is passionate about making a difference with the deadliest form of skin cancer. Outside of school and volunteering, she runs cross country, enjoys hiking, creating art, and reading. She also creates art and sells her pieces on Etsy.

Ellie Cohen

Ellie is a freshman at the University of California Los Angeles, majoring in Computational and Systems Biology on the pre-Public Health track. She is proud to be chair of the Junior Board. Her favorite quote is from Dr. Seuss’ book the Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing will get better. It’s not.” She’s been passionate about skin cancer prevention and sun safety awareness since she was a young teen. Ellie is grateful to have the resources, support, and ability to work with equally passionate young adults to make a difference in this issue deeply affecting her age group. The work she’s done so far on the board has helped her understand the value of community and connection in public health. Outside of school, she enjoys computer science/coding and loves to knit and crochet.

Alex Goldstein

Alex is a senior at Cary Academy, successfully balancing school, sports, and family. He plans to major in kinesiology and pursue a career in the medical field. Driven by a close family tie to skin cancer, it’s important to him to make a difference in his community by educating young adults about skin safety and melanoma prevention. He enjoys playing soccer and spending time with friends and family.

Mark Harris

Mark is recently graduated from NC State with the goal of becoming a dentist. Mark is passionate about volunteer work because he wants to make an impact on his community and a difference in the lives of others. In his free time, Mark plays guitar, plays and watches sports, spends time with his friends, snowboards, and travels.

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