2008–2012 #LT30for30

Leadership Triangle
5 min readSep 19, 2022


Since 1992, Leadership Triangle has been a convener, educator, advocate, and amplifier for some of our region’s most engaged leaders and organizations. To celebrate our 30 year anniversary, we’re telling the stories of 30 Fellows from 30 years of programs. Each Fellow highlighted will represent one year of impact: from 1992, to 2001, to 2022.

James Forrest (2008)

James Forrest is Managing Partner of North Carolina for Michael Best & Friedrich, LLP, a full-service business law firm with over 400 legal and technical professionals serving clients across the U.S. James is a trusted advisor to companies, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and religious organizations on a wide range of general business and legal matters. He routinely works with organizations to proactively manage legal budgets and develop executive-level risk-management strategies.

Before joining Michael Best in 2022, James worked for 2 leading corporate firms before founding Forrest Firm in 2011. Forrest Firm experienced tremendous growth during its 11 year history based on its highly client-centric approach to legal services, focusing on predictable fees, responsiveness, and proactive solutions. Forrest Firm grew to seven offices across North Carolina, 50+ team members, and served thousands of clients. Forrest Firm was also a certified B-corporation based upon its commitment to serving communities across North Carolina.

Outside of his law practice, James dedicates considerable time to community leadership and support. He has been involved with numerous nonprofit organizations throughout his career, including First Tee of the Triangle, the Duke DREAM Campaign, the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, Kidznotes, Inc., the Durham Symphony Orchestra, Durham CrimeStoppers, Leadership Triangle, Leadership Durham, Mission Triangle, The Summit Church, Corporate Chaplains of America, and the Raleigh Rescue Mission.

Aysu Basaran (2009)

Aysu is an Ohio native who moved to North Carolina in 2007. Her background is in the news industry and she currently leads at WRAL-TV as the Assistant News Director. She is also the mother of three children, an avid runner, and a committed Buckeyes fan.

Read our conversation with her here.

Cheryl Parquet (2010)

Cheryl Parquet is the Director of Community Engagement and Marketing Activation at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), the state’s largest health insurer. She is responsible for the development and implementation of all corporate-based philanthropic initiatives including community investments and employee volunteerism, sports sponsorships, activation, and marketing events to help improve the health and wellness of North Carolinians.

In 2019, Parquet was appointed to serve on the Commission for Volunteerism and Community Service by Governor Cooper. She is an active board member for Durham Children’s Initiative, YMCA of the Triangle, Leadership North Carolina, Leadership Triangle, Girl Scouts of Coastal Pines and Wake Technical Community College Foundation. Parquet is a Goodmon Fellow (2010) and a graduate of Leadership North Carolina Class of XXVI. She is a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc Durham Alumnae Chapter and The Durham Rotary Club.

In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering with various non-profits in the community, spending time with her family and watching movies.

Read our conversation with her here.

Bridget McMinn (2010)

Bridget McMinn is the Director of Operations and Partnerships at First Flight Ventures. With an MA in Human Resources Development from George Washington University, Bridget began her career in Washington, DC serving in management roles for two federal agency projects on the prevention of sexual harassment in higher education and then the treatment of adolescent alcohol abuse. With a Washington, DC special events firm, she managed two 55-day national concert tours of the President’s Own Marine Band and oversaw marketing and special events at Union Station (train station).

She served as the Deputy Director of Inaugural Balls and Dinners for the 1993 Presidential Inaugural Committee, bringing 65,000 guests to Inaugural Balls and 8,00 guests to four Inaugural dinners. As Director of Public Affairs for a behavioral health firm, she created a government relations division and managed lobbyist activities in 8 states. Still in the healthcare arena as Director of Community Relations for an acute care hospital, she orchestrated public relations and advertising campaigns. With the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, she managed the grant team and created unique corporate partnership fundraising programs, raising over $3 million annually. At First Flight, Bridget “invents” business development strategies to raise revenue to support programs that help startups.

Zack Hawkins (2011)

Zack Hawkins is one of the most significant young political leaders in the state under 40, as indicated when he was named an NCCU 2018 Forty Under Forty Honoree. He has served in leadership roles at the local, state and national levels, most recently as 1st Vice Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party. In this role, he was able to see several plans to fruition, including his initiatives to increase voter registration and fight voter suppression.

Zack received a B.S. in Biology from Elizabeth City State University and a M.S. in Biology from North Carolina Central University. Zack has served as a teacher in Durham Public Schools (Southern High School) and works every day to help remove financial barriers for those that need it most. As a development and advancement professional in nonprofits such as United Way and higher education institutions like East Carolina University, Duke University and UNC, few causes are closer to his heart.

Zack lives in Durham with his wife, Tracey; sons, Zachari, James Preston and Adam; and golden retriever, Sophie.

Amber Smith (2012)

Amber has lived in North Carolina for the majority of her life and is currently a resident of Raleigh. Amber founded Activate Good in 2005 (then known as ME3) when she noticed that people seemed to want to get involved to help the community but were not sure how to get started, and that many causes could benefit from the help of more volunteers. Before Activate Good she volunteered with organizations such as Kiwanis, Hope for the Homeless, and Amnesty International. She completed a Masters in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management at N.C. State University where she also advised undergraduates in the Nonprofit Studies Minor. Amber hopes all individuals will see the potential they have to make a difference, and act to fulfill that potential.

Read our conversation with her here.



Leadership Triangle

Leadership Triangle builds leadership capacity and promotes regionalism across the separate communities of the Triangle (Chatham, Durham, Orange, Wake County).