Our Team

Board of Directors

Justin Tilghman, Ph.D., Chairman

Justin is the Pastor of Development at Grace Fellowship Church and also serves as a Professor of Leadership and Biblical Studies at the Carolina College of Biblical Studies. He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and has served in various leadership roles within higher education over the past 12 years as well as an international life and leadership development coach, before transitioning to full-time vocational ministry. He and his wife Ellen and their two sons, live in Kinston (Justin’s hometown).

Ryan Vernon

Ryan is a native of Kinston and currently serves as the Lead Pastor of 902 Church. He has been married to his “way out of his league” wife Mindy for 17 years. They have 5 children who keep them very busy. He enjoys playing basketball, tennis, and working out. Ryan looks forward to serving Hope Prep and believes the best is yet to come for the city of Kinston.


Angelia Shepherd

Angelia Shepherd lives in Kinston, NC, but is from Deep Run and is a graduate of South Lenoir High School. She continued her education at Lenoir Community College, with a certification in Cosmetology and an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She also has a B.A. and an M.A. in Early Childhood Education from Ashford University. She has been the wife of one husband for 23 years. They have 3 children and 4 grandsons. She has been working with children for about 15 years and has been a lead teacher at Greenelamp Head Start for 7 years. Along with her husband, she pastors Sons of Issachar Ministries in Kinston, NC. She loves ministry and the Lord’s church. She also leads a women’s fellowship called Sisters Building Sisters. She has a keen interest in helping to shape the future leaders of tomorrow…our children.


Debbie Jones

Using her degrees in Special Education, Learning Disabilities, and Regular and Gifted Education, Debbie completed a thirty-year career with Lenoir County Schools. She and her husband raised two sons and a daughter, now grown with families of their own, and they have six grandchildren. She serves as the organist at First Baptist Church, where she has been a member for 46 years. She currently enjoys teaching gardening/horticulture to the students at Hope Preparatory. She loves being a part of Hope, seeing children thrive in a nurturing, well-rounded educational environment.

Tim Smith

Tim is originally from upstate New York and serves as the Associate Pastor at 902 Church. After graduating from Liberty Theological Seminary, he pursued a beautiful woman and his calling to North Carolina where they have served together for almost 15 years. Tim and his wife Lindsey are foster parents and have adopted four children, so their home is always a little crazy! Tim loves the mission of Hope Prep and is excited to be a part of what God is doing at it!

David Edwards

David was born and raised in Kinston and attended Arendell Parrott Academy, Kinston High School, and North Carolina State University. He started Edwards Realty Group and now works with The Overton Group of Greenville. A community leader, he is a past or current member of numerous boards in Kinston. He is a member of First Baptist Church with his wife, Raven, and two sons, Parker and Seth.

Advisory Board

Jason McKnight

Jason has served as Lead Pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Kinston since 2003. He also serves as Chair of the Board of South America Mission, and he teaches one course a semester at Christ Covenant School – a classical Christian school in Winterville. He originally hails from Montreal, Canada. He graduated from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston. He and his wife Susan love raising their sons, Andrew and Daniel.

Jimbo Perry

Jimbo is a small town lawyer. He and his wife Joan have raised five sons (and participated in and watched all their extracurricular activities) and given a temporary home to dozens more children and young adults. He volunteers many hours of his week in several other endeavors, such as little by little, The Refuge, and spending time with his 11 grandchildren.

Joan Perry

Originally from Charlotte, Joan received her B.A. in Chemistry in 1979 and M.D. in 1983 from UNC-Chapel Hill. After completing her pediatric residency at UNC, she and her family moved to Kinston, where she and her husband, Jimbo, have raised 5 sons and been intimately involved in the rural eastern NC community. Her professional career has included 35+ years of employment with a private pediatric practice, the Lenoir County Health Department, and adjunct appointments at UNC and Brody Schools of Medicine. Her life in Kinston has revolved around community involvement addressing issues ranging from education to homelessness to prevention of sexual abuse. Perhaps her most rewarding investment has been the privilege of having more than 25 individuals share life with her family in her home for extended periods of time.

Khayyam Shepherd

Pastor Khayyam Shepherd has been a resident of Kinston since 1985. After serving on active duty in the U.S. Navy, he finished out his reserve time, and went on to become a department manager at the Kinston Walmart. In 2004 he was called to preach the gospel, and after completing the required school of ministry, Pastor Shepherd became an associate minister in Mt. Zion Church Ministries in Goldsboro. In 2008 he was ordained into the Eldership of that church, and served there faithfully until 2013. That’s when he transitioned back to Kinston to serve as an Elder at St. Mark Church Ministry until 2017, when he and his wife Angelia founded S.O.I. Ministries in Kinston. Pastor Shepherd has been married 23 years, with 3 children, and 4 grandchildren. He represents the faith-based community on the Lenoir County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council. He also is a member of the Kinston Economic Empowerment Coalition. Pastor Shepherd loves helping people.

Lindsay Corrigan

Lindsay served as secretary on the inaugural Board of Directors for Hope Preparatory School and currently serves on the Advisory Board, aiding in marketing and promotion of the school. In 2004, she earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications, Bible and Theology, and English Literature from Malone University in Canton, Ohio. Lindsay is a classical home educator for her three children and teaches The Essentials of the English Language, an English and grammar course for 9- to 12-year-old homeschool students offered through Classical Conversations of Kinston. Lindsay has been a professional photographer since 2006 and has been featured and published nationally for her work. Lindsay resides in Kinston with her husband, Josiah, and their three children, and they have been active members at Grace Fellowship Church since 2009.


Diane Spear – Head of School

Diane grew up in Houston, Texas, and graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Slavic Studies. She worked as a legislative assistant and then attended Baylor School of Law. She came to Kinston to work in the Perry Law Office. While there she met and married Kinston native, Gram Spear, with whom she has been blessed to raise 4 children over the past 25 years. Gram and Diane were founding members of Grace Fellowship Church and continue to be active in serving their church and their beloved Kinston to elevate the welfare of this community. Diane developed a passion for Christ-centered classical education and brought Classical Conversations to eastern North Carolina. In addition to homeschooling her own children classically, Diane taught Latin and Bible at Christ Covenant School of Winterville, NC, and loves working with students and parents in Christian community to help children realize their remarkable potential as image-bearers of God.

Joy Perez – Kindergarten Teacher

Joy Perez was born in Kinston and moved all over Eastern North Carolina with her large family of seven. Her heart for children began at an early age, and as she began searching for God’s calling on her life, she traveled on three mission trips to serve in a Honduran orphanage. It wasn’t until she started a family of her own that Joy found her calling to teach! She served her local Classical Conversations homeschool community for nine years in various capacities. Joy is now pursuing a different avenue of education, as God has directed her to serve at Hope Preparatory School. She and her husband of 17 years, Jose, serve faithfully in their local church, Immanuel Baptist, leading worship, opening their homes for small group Bible studies, and being available to serve as the Father leads. In her spare time, Joy enjoys beach days with her two girls, playing with her dog Peanut, cooking, and hanging out with her friends and family.

Debbie Johnson – First Grade Teacher

Debbie is originally from Chicago, IL, but she has lived in Kinston for over 40 years with her husband Stuart and their four daughters. She is retired from her Nurse Practitioner position, serving our community for 25 years. Last year, she served as a substitute teacher with Lenoir County Public Schools, where a love for teaching blossomed. In her spare time, she loves to spend time with family, serve her church, and lead and mentor a middle and high school choir. She has a passion for our youth to learn, to grow, and to serve our Lord Jesus Christ.

Debbie Golden – Third Grade Teacher

Debbie has a Doctorate of Ministry in Christian Counseling and she is a Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor. She is a Prayer Team Member at Open Door Church in Winterville and a member of the Christian Motorcycle Association. She is married to Dr. Jerry Golden and they have three grown sons and 9 grandchildren.

Sara Golden – Office Administrator

Sara has served as a preschool teacher for eight years and has been teaching classically for four years.  She has her bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education with concentrations in English and Counseling.  Sara is married and has four children, two of whom were adopted through foster care.  She and her husband are licensed foster parents, and they are very passionate about reaching across socioeconomic lines to reach the under-served in their community of Kinston. While she is not a Kinston native, she has called Kinston home since 2010 and has worked in Kinston since 2005. Sara also serves as a member of our board.

Additional Staff and Faculty

Veronica Nelson – Custodian

Jeannette King – Tutor


Shannon Johnson – Art


Ashely Perry Rudolph – Character Education

Rachel Maw – Music

Carrie Hines – PE & Leadership

Debbie Jones – Gardening/Horticulture