Get to know the Be About Change Board of Directors
Marcel Hernandez founded Be About Change in 2016, putting his love for writing and working with others to use. He founded the non-profit organization to provide higher education scholarships to students from low-income households, using writing as a vehicle to promote expression.
Marcel leads writing and leadership workshops with students in the Nashville area and works with local youth to promote the philosophy of taking an active role in one’s community. He works in marketing and legal support at a Nashville-based law firm and plays piano and organ at a local church in Franklin, Tennessee. Currently, he is developing a pilot leadership curriculum for the youth at the Davidson County Juvenile Court that focuses on self-awareness, life skills, with an emphasis on confidence-building through fitness.
He received his BA in Communications, Business, and Music from Vanderbilt University. He also received a vocational degree from the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences in Tempe, Arizona, where he studied audio engineering and music business. Before attending Vanderbilt, he participated in University Outreach/University Crossroads, a program designed to prepare students to achieve at the college level.
In addition to Founder and Board Chairman of Be About Change, Marcel was a member of the Advisory Board for the YMCA Latino Achievers Program in Nashville, Tennessee, from 2011-2014, and was appointed by Mayor Karl Dean to the Metro Alarm Appeals Board for the 2011-2012 term. In addition to leadership and writing workshops, he participates with the YMCA Y-Cap program, has spoken at local schools on topics ranging from writing and motivation to racism, and has presented at several community events with others on immigration law-related issues.
Marcel enjoys spending time with family and friends, getting to know others, writing and playing music, weight/calisthenics training, and practicing yoga.
Woody Murray retired from The Gideons International in October 2017. The Gideons International is a major provider of Bibles for the world that operates in 201 countries, territories, and possessions. He still does freelance marketing communications, writing, and research for that association, as well as offering his communications services for other businesses and organizations.
Over a 40-year period, Woody has enjoyed three careers in mass communications: (1) vice president of a full-service advertising agency in Virginia, (2) first corporate brand manager for LifeWay Christian Resources—overseeing a major name transition and establishing a new slogan for this international organization, and (3) senior writer and researcher for The Gideons International. In the past, he also wrote a regular newspaper and online column for pastors on how to more effectively promote their churches.
Woody has a B.S. degree, cum laude, in Mass Communications from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. At VCU, he also received the Mass Communications Faculty Scholarship. He is still an active Gideon in the West Nashville area and involved in public relations and communications for his local church. At his church, he leads a Christian ministry for grade-school boys, called Royal Ambassadors (similar to boy scouts). He has been involved with that ministry to boys for more than forty years.
Woody is glad to be a part of Be About Change in providing scholarships to young people and helping them grow in their writing skills to gain confidence for facing the challenges of the business world.
Bruce Buchanan is an attorney at the Nashville and Atlanta offices of Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC, where he primarily represents employers in all aspects of immigration law, with a special emphasis on employer immigration compliance, as well as employment/labor law matters. Mr. Buchanan received his law degree from the Vanderbilt University School of Law in 1982. Before going into private practice in 2003, he served as senior trial specialist for the National Labor Relations Board for 20 years. Mr. Buchanan also served for 12 years as Adjunct Professor at William H. Bowen UALR School of Law. He earned his undergraduate degree from Florida State University.
Mr. Buchanan authors his own blog on employer immigration compliance and is a guest blogger for LawLogix. He is also the editor of the Tennessee Bar Association’s Immigration Law Section Newsletter, TBA’s Labor & Employment Law Newsletter, and AILA’s Georgia-Alabama Newsletter. Mr. Buchanan recently served on the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s National Verification Liaison Committee. In addition to serving on the Be About Change Board of Directors, Mr. Buchanan serves on the Board of Directors of the United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee and the Lupus Foundation – Mid-South. He is past-Chair of the TBA’s Immigration Law Section and Arkansas Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Section.
Donna-Michelle Copas – a Nashville native – is an English teacher at Glencliff High School in Nashville, Tennessee, where she serves as Chair of the English Department. She was selected as a 2016 Blue Ribbon Teacher by Nashville Public Education Foundation and Metro Nashville Public Schools and has consistently won or been nominated for Teacher of the Year at Glencliff High School. She has also taught in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Dallas, Texas.
Mrs. Copas earned her BA in English and Speech Communications at Lipscomb University and is a Coach of National Qualifiers in Speech and Debate. She directs dramas in several different venues, from schools and churches to community theaters. She also enjoys acting in community and repertoire theaters. Some of the plays she has directed include Big River, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, The Crucible, Our Town, Hello, Dolly, Grease, and Little Shop of Horrors.
In addition to serving on the Be About Change Board and volunteering at her church, Mrs. Copas also enjoys sewing, reading, writing, sports, hiking and traveling.
Iván Díaz is an experienced business manager who also works with a Nashville-based engineering firm, building robotics. As a Nashville resident and graduate of a local high school, Mr. Díaz is familiar with the struggles our inner-city youth face on a daily basis.
Iván is a firm believer in the power of confidence-building when it comes to physical training. While undergoing a personal transformation and losing over 157 pounds through dedicated weights/calisthenics training and running, Iván realized the potential to apply this approach to personal challenges. Mr. Díaz further realized his capacity to pass this mentality on to others, and now trains several individuals to utilize physical fitness as a means to bolster personal achievement.
With this mindset, business management and operations expertise, and a proven history of overcoming adversity and facing challenges head-on, Iván has positioned himself to have a maximum impact on the youth Be About Change serves. In addition to serving the Nashville community and surrounding areas, Ivan enjoys kayaking, hiking, and meeting and getting to know others.
Michael L. Freeman, PhD, is a Professor of Radiation Oncology and Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, where he served as Interim Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology. His research focuses on cancer and radiation biology. Mike is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Board of Scientific Counselors, Clinical Sciences and Epidemiology and a Senior Editor for the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics, a leading radiation oncology medical journal. Mike also serves as a consultant to the National Institutes of Health. Previously, he consulted for the Department of Homeland Security. He is an ad hoc reviewer for the National Academy of Medicine, NASA, the Dutch Cancer Society, and the United Kingdom Cancer Research Directorate.
Mike’s community service includes serving as a Cub Scout leader. He was a Tennessee Commission on Firefighting Journeyman Fire Fighter with the Bellevue Volunteer Fire Department, Nashville, TN and the Pegram Volunteer Fire Department, Pegram, TN.
Mike is honored to be a Board Member of Be About Change. An avid reader, he considers the mission of “promoting expression through writing” to be an excellent vehicle for producing enduring and positive impact on the community.
John “Gunny” Hendley is a retired U.S. Marine from Nashville, Tennessee who enlisted in September 1972 and retired in 1993.
Gunny has had a wide breath of life experiences and successes, both career and personal.
Mr. Hendley grew up in a one-parent home, as his Mother passed away when he was three months old. He began working at age 11, cutting neighborhood yards and working at the Nashville Speedway at the Nashville Fairgrounds, selling cokes and popcorn to race fans.
At 14, his Father passed away and he then lived with his older sister and her family. At age 17, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps to begin his career of twenty-one years beginning at Parris Island, South Carolina for Boot Camp then on to Millington, Tennessee for his MOS training as a Crash, Fire and Rescueman.
Additional duties included Recruiting Duty in Bowling Green, Kentucky until 1979 where he then went on for his first overseas tour at the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan. He returned to the U.S. in 1980, transferring to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. After two years, Gunny Hendley was selected for assignment with the Department of State serving as the Detachment Commander of the Marine Security Guard Detachment at the American Consulate General in Calcutta, India from 1982 to 1984 and at the American Embassy in Manila, Philippines until 1985.
Additional assignments took him to many other parts of the world until his retirement in 1993, when he returned to Nashville with his wife and children. During his time in the Marine Corps he earned his Associate in Arts Degree in Business at Craven Community College by attending evening and weekend studies beginning in 1979 while serving in the Marine Corps.
He has been in business since 1996 in the Investment Securities Industry and a General Insurance Agency. His company, Investment Strategies Inc., is located in Hendersonville and has been an active member of the Hendersonville Rotary Club since 2003.
Gunny has assisted with Be About Change efforts and is happy to be a member of the Board of Directors.
Brandie Jones has spent many years building her career in Corporate America. She has held the roles of Process Engineer, Project Manager, and currently Regional Account Manager for Nissan North America. Brandie has enjoyed her time learning and growing in business, but is currently transitioning into the nonprofit realm. Brandie also serves as an Intern Counselor at Lantern Lane Farm working with multiple populations.
Brandie partners with many community organizations to provide services to underserved communities. She is also a member of Faith Life Church, where she is a part of the Media Team.
Brandie received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Organizational Leadership and a Master of Arts Degree in Business Administration from Bethel University. She will be completing a Master in Marriage and Family Therapy from Trevecca Nazarene University in May 2019.
In addition to Board Member for Be About Change, Brandie has also served as the Financial Director for Overcoming Toxic Emotions, Associate Board Member for Nashville STARS, and Advisory Board President for the University School of Law and Leadership. Brandie has also served multiple organizations by creating curriculum, teaching classes, motivational speaking, providing group counseling, and mentoring adolescents.
Brandie enjoys traveling, spending time with family and friends, reading, trying new foods, serving the community, reading and writing poetry, and mentoring youth.
Demian Vonzalu was born and raised on the East side of inner-city Dallas, Texas. He is currently in his 14th year of military service where he is a First Sergeant in the United States Army. He was selected to serve as Board Member and a world-wide advocate for Be About Change.
Before devoting his life to change, Demian lived in the world that most of us refuse to acknowledge exists in our minds. A world that restrains us from facing our fears and accepting the blood, sweat, and tears it takes for one to lean into the winds of adversity. Without any true sense of what he believed was right, he took a chance at change at the age of 22 and enlisted into the United States Army. Since then he has dedicated his life to be being a personal tour guide for those who face challenges with life’s day-to-day problems.
Demian earned his High School Equivalency Diploma at Dallas Can Academy in East Dallas in 1997. He joined the military in 2002 as an Infantry Man and served multiple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has served as a Drill Sergeant, a Coach/Teacher/Mentor for Army units across the country, and a Talent Management Leader. A few of his current certifications include, Master Resiliency Trainer, Master Fitness Trainer, Small Group Instructor/Leader, Equal Opportunity Advisor, Ranger, Music Publisher, and Writer. He is currently pursuing a BA in Business and Music through Berklee College of Music.
Demian is a “ground truth” representative of what the Be About Change organization is all about. Developing young minds through the transitions of life using writing as a tool for a voice that otherwise might never be heard.