Message from the President
Welcome to International Focus and thank you for visiting our page. For four decades our organization has brought the world to the Triangle and North Carolina. With the help of our talented staff and board of directors, along with countless volunteer hours, International Focus continuously delivers positive impact to our community through meaningful and life changing interactions. We bring the world to our North Carolina community through cultural festivals, international exchange programs, and events. Our members have the opportunity to host dinners for foreign dignitaries and our International Festival of Raleigh enriches our community by bringing the food, art and music of the world under one roof. Our exchange programs connect local companies with emerging leaders from around the world and area professionals have the opportunity to meet with their international counterparts. We also help develop our future leaders by mentoring students and offering opportunities to witness naturalization ceremonies. I along with our board invite you to explore the world here in North Carolina by participating in our events, becoming a member, and enjoying all the opportunities our exchange programs provide, or by your individual or corporate partnership that helps develop our future leaders and continue our life changing programs. We look forward to making a positive impact in your life and community.
Born in the U.S. to an American father and Argentine mother, Martin spent his childhood in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He completed high school in the U.S. and an Economics degree at NCSU along with a study abroad in Spain. Curious about the world, his early career took him to Santiago, Chile and later managed Latin American operations for a global Dutch company. For the past several years, Martin has been serving as a Financial Advisor for individual and businesses in North Carolina and has been involved in local organizations empowering Latino and diverse business owners. Martin looks to help drive International Focus’ goals through his global outlook and belief in the constructive and enriching power of intercultural exchange and dialogue.
Sejal Mehta is Indian-born and grew up in New York City. Sejal is currently a board member for both statewide and local organizations, including the North Carolina Arts Council, Raleigh Little Theater, Wiley Elementary School PTA and Sir Walter Cabinet. Previously, Sejal worked as a contract attorney for Duke Energy, an attorney at the New York Medical Examiner’s Office, and a prosecutor in the Queen’s District Attorney’s Office. Sejal has a B.A. from New York University and a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law. She lives in Village District with her husband Jay and their two children.
Jess Porta is the Director of HQ Raleigh, an entrepreneurial community in the heart of Raleigh, NC. Jess works to help start-up companies connect with the resources they need to grow their businesses. Jess’s passion for helping others is rooted in her background in human rights. Prior to her role as Director, Jess ran her own consulting company for educational and human rights organizations and was the Training and Education Manager for the Salvation Army’s Anti-Human Trafficking Program, Project FIGHT. She received her Masters of International Studies from NC State University. Jess is also a children’s book author and served as a consultant with the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture.
Parul was born in Gujurat, India and immigrated to the United States when she was two years old. She called small town North Carolina home for most of her life before moving to Raleigh in 2002. It was during college that she became in touch with my heritage and learned to appreciate diversity. She has a BA in Psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill, an MA in Family Counseling from the University of Akron and holds a certificate as an ESL instructor. Working with a non-profit, Asian Services in Action, she helped provide services to refugees in Akron. In Raleigh, she currently volunteers with USCRI as an ESL instructor. She served as PTAA president at Cary Academy and held various other leadership roles there including serving on the DEI committee. Parul believes it is important to find the common humanity we all share across the globe but also to celebrate our differences.
Henry is a North Carolina native that earned degrees in Accounting and Business Management from NC
State University in 1978. He received his CPA license in 1982 and has provided tax, accounting, auditing
and business advisory services to a wide range of clients and industries over his 40-year career. He was a
partner with the Raleigh CPA firm of Stancil PC until the end of 2018 and continues to serve the firm in a
technical capacity as needed. Henry has served the non-profit community as a board member for
organizations such as Urban Ministries of Wake County and Marbles Kid’s Museum. He lives in Raleigh
with his wife Fran with whom he enjoys traveling, gardening and spending time with family and friends.
Bardia was born in Raleigh, N.C. of Iranian parents who emigrated to the U.S. just before the Islamic Revolution unfolded. Having visited Iran twice as a young boy, he acknowledges the vast differences between two cultures – where he was raised and where his family originated from, thus sparking his passion for education and politics. He grew up as an avid soccer player and continued his academic studies onto the University of Massachusetts, where he excelled as a student-athlete graduating with a B.A. in Political Science. Currently, Bardia assists political candidates seeking re-election or higher office to educate their constituents through fundraising efforts. He previously worked with the N.C. Attorney General and currently works to elect the next representative of N.C. to U.S. Congress.
Bardia’s interest in International Focus stems from his desire to expose people from all backgrounds to cultures different than their own, free of political bias. He envisions a world in which individuals can learn from one another and celebrate the positives of each others cultures.
Mitch Rhodes is an entrepreneur who prides himself on putting ideas into action. He currently operates In-Rhodes Consulting which focuses on helping non-profits with strategy, operations and revenue generation. Prior to establishing his consulting firm, Mitch spent 9 years at Habitat for Humanity of Wake County building homes, community and hope. He is proud that during his time at tenure over 300 Wake families moved into their new homes built by Habitat Wake. When he is not consulting, Mitch enjoys two passions: outdoors and travel. If your run into Mitch, it will most likely be outside, either running on the trails in Umstead Park with his dog Porter or on a walking tour of some city around the world with his brilliant spouse Lisa.
Barrett R. Cain
Barrett, born in Cleveland, Ohio, is an Army Combat Veteran. He earned a Master of Divinity from Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio and Master of Arts in Psychology with a Certification as a Diversity Professional from Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio. Holding a Public Trust clearance, he worked as a Public Assistance Grants Manager for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety after retiring from the Federal Government. In Federal employment, he was Deputy Director of Operations and Administrative Officer for
the Office of Small Business Utilization, Washington, DC. He also served as an Equal Opportunity Program and an Equal Employment Opportunity Adjudication Specialist for the United States Department of Agriculture Washington, DC. He likes gardening and is a member of the Raleigh Garden Club. Barrett is a Professional Photographer and is a member of (PPA) Professional Photographer of America, the world’s
largest nonprofit trade association for professional photographers and a member of Professional
Photographers of North Carolina. Barrett also has an interest in Astronomy and UFO’s/UAP’s and is a member of and currently a Field Investigator for MUFON (Mutual UFO Network). Barrett loves to travel and learn about different cultures around the world.
Patricia Sasser is currently the Assistant Head of School at Saint Mary's School in Raleigh, NC. Originally from Washington D.C. as the daughter of a U.S. Foreign Service mom and Nigerian dad, Patricia spent her elementary and middle school years living overseas in Nigeria, Haiti, and Niger. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelors of Arts degree in English Literature and in African-American Studies. Patricia also earned a Masters of Arts degree in Educational Leadership & Administration from The George Washington University. Recently, Patricia was named a Fulbright Specialist for a tenure of three years (2023-2026) by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and World Learning.
Before joining Saint Mary's School, Patricia served as the Head of the Upper School at Ransom Everglades School. Patricia also worked at the Loomis Chaffee School as a Dean of Students and was heavily involved in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion at the school. Prior to Loomis Chaffee, Patricia worked at her alma mater The Madeira School in several roles, including as a Major Gifts Officer, Director of Student Activities, Special Assistant to the Head of School on Diversity, and the Assistant Dean of Students for Residential Life. Before transitioning into education, Patricia worked at ESPN in Bristol, CT as an Associate Producer where she was a two-time Emmy® nominee and a 2006 Emmy® award winner.
Being actively involved in and of service to her community is extremely important to Patricia. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Jack & Jill of America, Inc. and the Junior League of Raleigh.
One of her favorite quotes that inspires the way she lives her life is "My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." by Maya Angelou.
Patricia enjoys traveling, playing volleyball, reading, and going to the movies. She currently lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband and son.