R.D. Leyva serves as the Director of National Engagement at Latinos for Education where he connects Latinos to professional development opportunities and leads communications and marketing. Prior to this role, he served as Director of Diversity and Leadership at Teach For America, where he supported the organization’s corps members and alumni of color across the country. He was responsible for building and developing a strong regional presence of alumni through their involvement with The Collective, Teach For America’s Alumni of Color Association. R.D. led efforts to create regional alumni advisory Collective boards in 32 regions across the country. He also supported national initiatives, including corps member and alumni summits and the annual School Leaders of Color Conference.
R.D. began his professional career as a middle school math teacher in West Philadelphia while earning his teaching certification at The University of Pennsylvania. He is a native Texan and holds a B.S. in Interpersonal Communications from The University of Texas at Austin. He is also a graduate of the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Leaders Program and an inaugural Pahara-Aspen NextGen Fellow. As a proud Mexican and first-generation college graduate, R.D. is passionate about supporting an inclusive community of Latino leaders from diverse backgrounds.
Amanda is a social entrepreneur and CEO/Co-Founder of Latinos for Education, the first Latino founded and led national organization solely dedicated to creating leadership pathways for emerging Latino leaders in education and diversifying education nonprofit boards. Amanda began working on issues of educational opportunity and representation serving as the Vice President of Latino external engagement at Teach For America and a Director at The Bridgespan Group, supporting clients on organization and talent development. Amanda’s career spans over 25 years working in the fields of recruiting, diversity, organization development, change management, strategic planning and Latino community engagement.
Over the course of her professional career, Amanda has been a frequent speaker at conferences and events. She is a Trustee of the Board with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Roxbury Community College. She is a Fall 2015 Aspen Pahara Fellow out of the prestigious Aspen Institute and delivered the convocation speech at Boston University School of Education graduation. El Planeta has twice named her one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in Massachusetts and she’s a Senior Fellow at FutureEd. Amanda holds an M.S. in Education from Fordham University and a B.A. from Western Illinois University. She lives in the Boston area with her spouse and two children.
Dr. Daniel Velasco is Chief Growth and Impact Officer at Latinos for Education, where he brings 13 years of experience in education, entrepreneurship, fundraising, and strategy. He joined as VP of Strategy and Programs in 2017 after five years at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education as founding Boston Executive Director and later Regional Director overseeing turnaround at 14 schools across the northeast in the largest randomized control trial of school reform in American history (Diplomas Now i3 Study). Dr. Velasco is program faculty at Harvard’s School Turnaround Leadership program since 2013. He started as a teacher with Teach For America and consulted on issues including evaluation policy, teacher retention, and adult learning and development. He’s served on various boards, including the Harvard GSE’s Alumni Council. Dr. Velasco was honored in 2016 by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in recognition for national service.
Originally from Peru, he was raised in Venezuela and came to the U.S. as a teenager. He earned a BA with Honors in Political Science from the University of Central Florida and is a graduate of the ICN Business School in France. He holds master’s degrees in Education Policy and Management from Harvard and International Development and Social Change from Clark University. He earned multiple executive certifications including Strategic Planning and Scaling for Impact from Harvard Business School. He earned a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Entrepreneurship from Johns Hopkins University with an emphasis on Human Capital Development.
Andy Canales is the Executive Director, Greater Houston at Latinos for Education. Previously, Andy led the Center for Social Measurement and Evaluation at Children at Risk, a statewide children’s research and advocacy organization in Texas. Before moving to Houston, Andy served as a founding director of the Commit Partnership in Dallas, the region’s collective impact organization, where he led the flagship initiative to improve early literacy outcomes for over low-income 8,000 children. Beforehand, Andy worked in corporate philanthropy and as a teacher in high-need communities in NYC and in Miami as a Teach For America corps member.
Andy is a Harris County Leadership ISD Fellow and serves on the board of multiple organizations making a difference in the community. Andy holds a dual B.A. in Political Science and Religion from Pepperdine University and a Master’s of Science in Education from Hunter College. As the son of Salvadoran immigrants and the first one in his family to graduate from college, Andy is passionate about expanding educational equity.
José Coló serves as the Director of Greater Boston Programs at Latinos for Education where he oversees the planning and execution of local programs and services. José is a native of Oaxaca, Mexico. He received his B.A. in Political Science and Spanish Literature from Loyola Marymount and his Ed.M in International Education Policy from Harvard University.
José’s professional experiences as an educator began as a high school teacher in a high needs public school in West Side of Chicago, later serving as Dean of Instruction at Uplift Education High School in North Texas.
José has served as a leader in a number of non-profit organizations, including his role as Educational Director at the National Hispanic Institute. José joined the Latinos for Education team after working with the Boston Debate League where he designed curriculum to make policy more accessible for middle and high school students and teachers.
Samantha Ader serves as Latinos for Education’s Director of Operations. In this role, she manages the growing team’s internal operations for the organization to effectively work toward their mission. Samantha brings 10 years of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising and marketing.
Prior to joining Latinos for Education, as Director of Development at Teach For America – South Carolina, she led private sector fundraising and co-led marketing and communications efforts to build the organization’s brand across the state of South Carolina. Additionally, Samantha helped launch InnovateSC, the organization’s initiative to bring greater access to quality STEM education for students in high-need schools. She has held professional roles with United Way and served as Assistant Director of Annual Giving at Butler University.
She graduated from Indiana University as a Hudson and Holland Scholar and holds her B.A. in Communication and Culture. Samantha currently resides near Chicago, IL with her partner and daughter. As the granddaughter of Cuban immigrants, she is driven by her belief in the power of education and works to ensure all children have equitable access to high-quality educational opportunities.
Johana Muriel Grajales serves as the Director of National Strategy and Innovation at Latinos for Education. In this role, she manages the design and implementation of national strategy tied to growth and innovation imperatives to ensure more Latino leaders and entrepreneurs are at the front of closing the education gaps facing the Latino community.
Prior to Latinos for Education, Johana spent six years at City Year Inc. where she worked on several national strategy and growth initiatives focused on expanding City Year to new markets, developing impact strategic plans across all local sites, and supporting the design, development, and spread of innovative school design practices.
Johana was born and raised in Colombia and gained her postsecondary education in Urban and Public Affairs while working with Latino grassroots organizations in Chicago advocating for immigrant rights and providing affordable housing services to low-income families. She moved to Boston in 2011 to participate in a Residency in Social Enterprise (RISE) with New Sector Alliance and learn about nonprofit management by studying Boston’s social impact ecosystem.
Johana’s career has been driven by the belief that if every person is given access to the supports and resources to fulfill their potential, we will be able to address the complex and diverse issues we face as a society.
Sylvia Zelaya is the Manager of Greater Boston. She joined Latinos for Education after working at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard for over 8 years. She was the outreach manager for the Strategic Data Project (SDP) Fellowship, where she managed and executed the recruitment and placement of SDP Data Fellows for partner agencies. Sylvia expanded the fellowship alumni network to develop long-lasting relationships with colleges, universities, nonprofits, and other leaders in the education sector. Prior to her outreach work, Sylvia also coordinated the data collection for several research projects on the topic of teacher effectiveness. She trained site coordinators on the effective administration of student surveys and student assessments. She also co-wrote a chapter on student data privacy for a video observation guide for teachers.
Prior to this role, Sylvia served as a corps member with City Year New York where her work focused on supporting literacy-based in-school and after-school programs, youth leadership, and community transformation of the PS 57 school community in East Harlem. Sylvia earned a bachelor’s degree in Writing from Ithaca College and a master’s in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Sylvia was born and raised in the Bronx to proud Colombian parents and is passionate about learning, adult education, and educational equity for all.
Rick Rodriguez is the Manager of Greater Houston, focused on developing and executing on strategies that drive success for the Latino Board Fellowship and Aspiring Latino Leaders Fellowship. Prior to this role, Rick was a Portfolio Manager with YES Prep Public Schools leading efforts to identify Technology solutions across the system. Rick also brings experience from his time with Houston ISD, the largest district in Texas. As a Program Manager, he launched multiple initiatives focused on building a “Grow Your Own” talent pipeline of classroom leaders from within the student and staff population of HISD. These efforts built collaborative approaches to the work, engaging multiple business groups including the College Readiness team where he initially started his career in education supporting efforts aligned with Financial Aid and College Application strategies for high school students.
Rick brings to education a wealth of business experience as he spent over 9 years in the corporate sector with Wells Fargo Bank. Starting as a teller, he grew into multiple leadership roles including that of Branch Manager, Home Preservation Supervisor, and Market Growth & Development Consultant where he supported regions in North Houston and Rio Grande Valley.
As a first-generation Mexican-American and college graduate, Rick acknowledges the challenges that our Latino students face in education. Barriers to success have further fueled his mission to ensure that the work is laser focused on removing such education barriers for others. Rick is a strong believer in Latinos for Education’s “Con Ganas We Can” value and is determined to lead efforts that bring about equitable education practices for all students.
Rick holds a B.A. in Sociology from Texas A&M University – San Antonio, an M.S. in Human Resource Development from the University of Houston and is currently completing is Ed.D. in Educational Leadership at the University of Houston. Si Se Puede!