Aspiring Latino Leaders Fellows RD Leyva
R.D. Leyva serves as the Director of National Engagement at Latinos for Education where he connects Latinos to professional development opportunities, high-impact roles, and one another. 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. helped create regional alumni advisory Collective boards in 32 regions across the country. In addition, R.D. supported national Teach For America initiatives, including corps member and alumni summits and the annual School Leaders of Color Conference hosted by The Collective. He began his professional career as a middle school math teacher in West Philadelphia while earning his teaching certification at The University of Pennsylvania. R.D. 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 he’s an inaugural Pahara-Aspen NextGen Fellow. He currently resides in Washington, DC.
Amanda has 25 years of experience in the areas of recruiting, diversity, organization development, change management, strategic planning and Latino community relations. Prior to this, she was the Vice President of Latino Community Partnerships at Teach For America, where she developed relationships with national Latino serving organizations to advance recruitment of Latino teachers and support Latino alumni. Amanda was a Director at The Bridgespan Group where she served as an organizational consultant to youth and education clients in support of their strategic planning efforts. She also spent seven years at Deloitte, an international professional services firm, where she focused on human capital consulting projects and diversity program management for Deloitte staff nationally. Over the course of her professional career, Amanda has been a frequent speaker at conferences and events. She is a blogger on Huffington Post Latino Voices, a Senior Fellow at FutureEd, and she has been featured in Poder Magazine’s list of movers and shakers. In 2017, Amanda was appointed to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Achieve Mission and Roxbury Community College, as well as the advisory board for RISE Colorado and Innovare Social Innovation Partners. El Planeta named her one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in Massachusetts. Amanda holds an M.S. from Fordham University and lives in the Boston area with her spouse and two children.
Passionate about educating young children, Jennifer Aponte is in her eleventh year of teaching pre-K (K1) for Boston Public Schools (BPS). In addition to teaching her 22 brilliant four and five-year olds, Jennifer is a member of the Mildred Avenue School’s Instructional Leadership Team.
Jennifer is a fierce advocate for educational equity. She believes that education should be the ultimate equalizer. To this end she is a member of the Boston School Committee’s Opportunity and Achievement Gaps Task Force (OAGTF). As an OAGTF member, Jennifer helped to update the BPS Policy to Eliminate Opportunity and Achievement Gaps. Through the OAGTF, she continues to work with central offices of BPS to monitor and support implementation of the policy throughout the district.
Jennifer is diligently growing her capacity for effective leadership in order to better serve her students and families. She is a member of BPS Women Educators of Color Executive Leadership program (WEOC). Through WEOC, Jennifer is studying organizational change. Her focus is school culture; she is researching strategies to create, strengthen, and support a productive and healthy school culture.
Jennifer is certified in Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, English as a Second Language, and Reading. Jennifer earned her B.S. in Elementary Education from Boston University and her M.S.Ed in Language and Literacy from Simmons College.
Originally from Edinburg, Texas, Juan has lived in Massachusetts since 2008. He brings his unique perspective from his past as a migrant worker who eventually studied his way to Harvard University, graduating in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Government and Ethnic Studies. He currently works at Hyde Square Task Force, a youth community development center in the Latin Quarter of Boston as a College Success Coordinator, where he uses his experience to help guide young people in the Boston Public School system to stay on track and become high achievers in school and beyond. This coming fall, Juan is returning to Harvard, selected as an Urban Scholar Fellow at the Graduate School of Education, where he is pursuing his Masters of Education in Education Policy and Management.
Kathy joined Excel in 2015 as the Network Project Manager with a focus on analyzing and using data to support academic excellence. A student of the Newark School district, Kathy is excited to help support schools use of data and technology as tools for achieving educational equity. Prior to joining the Excel community, Kathy worked with Teach For America alumni in her home state of New Jersey transforming data into information and insight into strategy. She currently is an active member of the Unanue Latino Institute which works with her alma mater and the Latino community to build the next generation of Latino leaders. She graduated from Seton Hall University in 2011 with a Master’s degree in Diplomacy & International Relations and is an Education Pioneers Alumnae.
Caroline DeLeon serves as the Director of uAspire’s postsecondary program, Succeed. In this role, she manages the day-to-day logistics of the program and college affordability advising team in addition to fostering relationships with local higher education institutions across the greater Boston area. Prior to working with uAspire, she worked with American University in Washington, D.C., The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and Northeastern University TORCH Scholars Program. Over the past eight years, she has worked in a variety of roles within higher education and college access, including student activities, multicultural affairs, first-generation student services and programming, in addition to supporting student transition and retention, all of which have been extremely rewarding and continue to develop her passion as a life-long learner. Outside of her professional world, she enjoys spending time with family, friends, brunching, traveling, 90’s dance parties, and live music. She looks forward to being a part of the Aspiring Latino Leaders Fellowship cohort and contributing to the growing Latinos for Education network. Caroline completed her undergraduate work at Alfred University in New York, where she majored in History and Spanish, and later when on to earn a Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration & Human Development from the George Washington University
Yasenia Dudley is an Afro-Latina, born and raised in Boston. She currently serves as the Dean of Students at Brooke Charter School in East Boston. As the Dean of Students, she manages disciplinary procedures, school culture and student behavior. Prior to this, she worked as the Clinical Coordinator at the Washington Irving Middle School in Roslindale. While at the Irving, she provided counseling and therapeutic services to students in the Learning Adaptive Behavior Program. She received her Masters in Counseling from William James College and her Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She will be attending Northeastern University in the Fall to pursue her certification in Applied Behavior Analysis in hopes of becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
Chris Espinoza is the Assistant Director for Student Life at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. Chris completed his bachelors of Science in Psychology and English at Bridgewater State University and his Masters Degree in Higher Education Administration in Student Affairs at Boston College. While completing his Masters, Chris worked at Bridgewater State University, Boston College, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chris primarily works in student activities, student leadership, and college housing; but also has experience in academic advising, multicultural affairs, orientation, and high school to college bridge programs. Originally from San Diego California, Chris moved to Massachusetts for college as a first generation college student and his primary professional interest is in student leadership development for students from underrepresented populations.
Yahaira-Maria Frier was born and raised in Lawrence, Massachusetts. As a first-generation Dominican-American, she takes great pride in her culture and the values it has instilled in her. She earned a Bachelor of Liberal Arts with a concentration in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. She is an alum of City Year Boston and has her Master of Arts in Teaching from Simmons College. For the past three years, she has worked at UP Academy Leonard in her hometown of Lawrence, serving a predominantly Dominican population, most of whom have just arrived to the United States within the past year or two. Yahaira-Maria feels a great sense of responsibility and privilege to work with this population in the very city that has made her who she is today.
Luis Gallegos is a 7th and 8th grade English & Spanish Language Arts teacher at the dual language Rafael Hernandez Middle School in Roxbury, MA. He is originally from Los Angeles, CA, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in English Literature & Central American Studies from Cal State Northridge and a Master’s of Arts in Teaching from the University of Southern California. From Lynn to Lawrence, Luis has taught in a wide range of school settings in Massachusetts–from alternative, to public, to charter–serving students from all grades 6-12.
A 2012 Teach for America alum, Luis has served as a teacher coach to first-year educators in Philadelphia and Boston from 2014-2015, and more recently, as a literacy specialist supporting teachers on implementing strong literacy practices into their curriculum. Luis is also a recipient of the 2013 and 2015 Sontag Prize in Urban Education, an award that recognizes high achieving teachers with a proven track record for student success. As a queer educator and son of immigrants, he uses his classroom as a space to tackle social justice and local community issues. He builds curricula that not only teaches students about the injustices in today’s society, but empowers them to challenge these issues through a critical and empathetic lens.
Carlos Augusto Gonzalez currently serves as a Campus Director at the Joseph A. Browne Middle School in Chelsea. He was born in Puerto Rico and raised in The Bronx, NY and has resided in Massachusetts since 2014. Formerly, Carlos served as the Americrop Teaching Fellow. Infusing his passions for art & culture he taught mathematics, art & design, and was a high school advisor all the while. His partnership with the school’s administration deepened his passions to provide a voice for students’ and their families. He believes deeply that our current students are reflections of us and we must work together as a community to bridge the gaps. A creator at heart, he holds a BA in Graphic Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Marvin Gutierrez is a graduate of the Boston Public School system and the University of Rhode Island where he double majored in Mathematics and Secondary Education. Marvin taught in Baltimore City Public Schools where he was able to collaborate with John Hopkins University in designing lesson plans focused on STEM concepts. Upon returning to Boston Public Schools as a teacher, he created a STEM class and engaged in various aspects of school leadership. Marvin’s continued passion for integrating STEM disciplines lead him to earn a Masters in Science Education from Boston University with a focus on Physics. In pursuit of change, he landed at the Cambridge School of Weston where he has been able to practice and develop his craft in teaching, curriculum development and school leadership.
Christina Jusino currently teaches 6th grade Science at Spark Academy in Lawrence, MA. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) and a Masters of Education from Boston University. As a first-generation college graduate, she has demonstrated significant personal and academic perseverance. During her time at Chapel Hill, Christina served as a mentor for three years to another young Latina who desired to attend college despite her own obstacles as an undocumented youth. Her relationship with her mentee inspired Christina to pursue work in the education field upon graduation. Ultimately, she decided to use her experiences to empower youth by becoming a 2011 Greater Boston Teach For America Corps Member. Six years later, Christina still teaches in her placement district (Lawrence) and has earned the distinction of Advanced Educator which allows her to take on more leadership roles within her school. Her current project is focused on supporting the social-emotional growth of all students at her school by infusing Restorative Justice practices into the current school climate system. She believes that opportunities like this to help develop and cultivate Teacher Leadership is a key factor in retaining highly effective teachers which ultimately leads to greater student outcomes.
The son of parents who immigrated to the United States from Guatemala, Giovany Morales-Ramos was born and raised in Boston. He was a member of the first graduating class of one of Boston’s first charter schools, Roxbury Prep, a place where he learned what it meant to be academically challenged and supported. He continued on to a private high school called The Governor’s Academy and then to Wentworth Institute of Technology for college to study Mechanical Engineering. Months before graduating from Wentworth, the company with which Giovany was interning went on a hiring freeze. To gain financial stability, Giovany took on job as an IT support specialist at Boston Prep while resolving to find employment in the engineering field. After only a brief time working at Boston Prep, Giovany realized that his true passion lies in mentoring and educating minority students. Six years later, Giovany continues to work at Boston Prep now as the Director of Technology, an advisor, a varsity soccer and baseball coach, and as a mentor for many students. Giovany’s future plans include earnings a Master’s in Education and using that degree, along with his experiences at Boston Prep and Roxbury Prep to open a school. In his spare time, when Giovany is not mentoring and educating students, he enjoys video games, reading, and spending time with his wife and two dogs.
Jorge is currently the Director of College Counseling and serving as part of the administrative team at KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate in Lynn, Massachusetts. As a firm believer that the purest form of education is the intersection between the cognitive and emotional, Jorge has spent the last 8 years supporting scholars from underserved communities in their path to learning the skills necessary to become change agents. Prior to joining the KIPP team and family three years ago, Jorge spent a year counseling some of NYC’s toughest middle and high-school students at Williamsburg Charter High School and the Alternate Learning Center at M.S. 145. During his first two years after graduating , Jorge dedicated his time to closing the resource and opportunity gap for undocumented and immigrant students while working as a counselor at RISE, Inc. in California. During his time at RISE, Jorge co-founded the DIAS program, the equivalent of a college-access diversity and academic support program aimed at providing high school students with the opportunity to engage in conversations on social agency, diversity, and inclusion. Jorge received his B.A. in Chicano/a Studies from the University of California – Los Angeles and an M.A. in Applied Psychology from New York University. Next year, he will continue his work as Director of College Counseling at KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate and cannot wait to continue pushing for equity in college access! Outside of school, Jorge enjoys watching movies and spending time with his partner Matt and their Shih Tzu, Zac.
Leidy V. Quiceno was born in Colombia and raised in Boston, MA. She is passionate about civil, racial, and educational rights. She has a BA in Criminal Justice (magna cum laude); is a member of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society (Alpha Phi Sigma); and has earned a Graduate Certificate in Gender, Leadership, and Public Policy from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. As a former teacher turned Student Advocate, she currently works to racially, politically and academically empower “at-promise” urban high school youth of color. She also works as a Research Assistant for UMass Boston’s Latino Student Success Initiative (LSSI) and the Latinx Leadership Opportunity Program (LLOP). Her 2016 LSSI research project shed light on the personal, academic, and professional experiences of Latinx transfer students from Bunker Hill Community College, whom expressed the many barriers (language, racial, cultural, and financial) they face on a day-to-day basis as non-traditional first generation students. Her presentation at the Annual Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) conference, sought to communicate how educators and higher educational institutions can listen to the voices and narratives of vulnerable and marginalized populations in order to best support such students to achieve academic success. As a graduate student, Leidy Quiceno focuses on the School-to-prison pipeline and educational reform through the use of Transnational, Cultural, and Community Studies (TCCS). She aspires to continue working with Black and Latinx communities as an educator, leader, youth mentor, and advocate.
For the past ten years, Vivian has empowered youth and their families to advocate for their needs and the needs of their communities. Her primary objective has always been to encourage all of her students to thrive. She was born and raised in South Boston and attended Boston Public Schools from elementary to high school. Currently, Vivian works for Tenacity as the Site Director at the Mario Umana Academy in East Boston, where she manages extended learning time programs for 84 middle school students. Prior to working at Tenacity, she completed her Master’s Degree in Social Work at Simmons College, where she provided individual therapy and psychosocial assessments to adults at an outpatient mental health clinic in South Boston during her field placement. In between finishing her undergraduate studies in Social Work from Salem State University and her Master’s Degree, Vivian worked for two years for Sociedad Latina as an Education Coordinator, overseeing afterschool and summertime programming, and for the Phillips Brooks House Association, a student-run, non-profit organization affiliated with Harvard College, as a summer Director of Programs, supporting college-aged directors of summer camps for low-income youth in Boston. She currently lives in South Boston.
Originally from Colombia, Estefania immigrated to Hartford, CT with her family where she was an undocumented student in the public school system throughout much of her childhood. As a first-generation college student, Estefania attended Boston University, School of Education. While an undergraduate student, Estefania taught English as a Second Language and GED prep classes to undocumented immigrants and refugee families in Chelsea, MA with the Intergenerational Literacy Project. Estefania graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Secondary Social Studies Education and a minor in sociology and was awarded the Scarlet Key Award for Leadership and Community Service. She returned to Hartford, CT where she taught in turnaround schools in the very community she grew up in. While a full-time middle school studies teacher, Estefania was involved in establishing athletic programs, piloting new parent and student engagement initiatives, and wrote culturally responsive curriculum for Hartford Public Schools.
Estefania holds a Master of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Learning and Teaching Program focused in Instructional Leadership. Estefania was nominated and selected by her peers and faculty for the prestigious Intellectual Contribution & Faculty Tribute Award. Estefania is currently the K-8 History and Social Studies District Instructional Coach for Cambridge Public Schools. She is dedicated to increasing the numbers of teachers of color in the classroom and supporting all teachers in using critical pedagogy, Ethnic Studies, restorative justice, community activism, and a decolonizing curriculum to empower students. She sees education as liberation.
Elena Sicairos is from Boston, Massachusetts and attended and graduated from the Boston Public Schools system, where she went on to Clark University for undergraduate education She graduated from UMass Boston with her M.Ed. in School Counseling. Her interests in working and supporting students has led her in and out of schools in various capacities. This includes working as a Teacher Assistant in a Latino summer program called the TAG Program at UMass Boston, to individualized instruction at a high school, interning in a guidance department, and advising students from grades six through twelve. She has worked at the Steppingstone Foundation since 2012 and is currently the Director of Student Support Services where works closely with the Vice President of Programs, managing the department, supporting a team of five Advisors, program oversight, and data-driven decision making.
Elysa grew up in rural Vermont with Dominican and American parents, graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Geography, and moved to Boston soon after to work at Match Charter Public High School as a tutor in the Match Corps. She spent a second year at Match coaching first-year tutors and managing multilingual community outreach and student recruitment for the founding of the Match Community Day Charter School. After Match, Elysa worked in KIPP Massachusetts’ regional office on board management, school operations, and staff recruitment, and supported start-up operations for KIPP Academy Boston Middle School. In 2012, she returned to instruction as the founding English Language Learner Specialist at KIPP Academy Boston where she built the English Language Education program and taught and co-taught 5th and 6th grade students. Elysa is currently a Program Manager at Empower Schools, an education nonprofit committed to partnering with communities to develop systems of highly autonomous and accountable district schools that best serve the needs of students. She is also leveraging her English Language Education experience as an independent consultant by providing professional development to general education teachers to increase their understanding of English as a Second Language and Sheltered English Immersion. Elysa speaks Spanish and French, enjoys many kinds of exercise (but especially dancing), and runs a book club focused on social justice topics.
Francina G. Victoria currently serves as the Program Manager for the BPS Teaching Fellowship in collaboration with TNTP. Ms. Victoria holds a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and a Masters of Arts in Economic and Social Development of Regions, both from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She has a passion for education and breaking down the barriers that impede students from having quality teachers.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Ms. Victoria and her family immigrated to the United States over a decade ago and has since resided in the City of Lawrence. Pursuing her passion for sustainability and community growth, Ms. Victoria has been greatly involved with various community agencies and groups that empower and embrace the cultivation of potential within our community.
Andrea is an Engagement Manager with Mass Insight Education (MIE), a Boston-based non-profit committed to transforming public schools into high-performing organizations and closing the achievement gaps. As an Engagement Manager Andrea serves on the organization’s senior leadership team, responsible for leading large consulting projects in multiple districts and state education agencies across the country. Andrea oversees projects in Boston, MA with Boston Public Schools, in Lexington, KY with Fayette County Public Schools, in Austin, TX with the Texas Education Agency, and in Baton Rouge, LA with East Baton Rouge Parish School System. Andrea has also led various school improvement initiatives in Providence, RI, and school design strategy in Aurora, CO. In each engagement, Andrea collaborates closely with district and community stakeholders to design and implement academic and organizational change initiatives to strengthen school and district performance on behalf of all students. Prior to joining MIE, Andrea worked with TNTP to design and improve teacher recruitment, selection, preparation, development, and evaluation strategies for sites across the country. Prior to her national work, Andrea managed TNTP’s new teacher training and support for teaching fellows in Chicago Public Schools. Andrea also taught bilingual 4th grade at some of the most under-performing schools in Austin, Texas. She received the district’s Teacher of Promise award for an outstanding first-year teacher and ensured 100% of her students met or exceeded grade level expectations on state tests. Andrea received a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame.
Dr. Daniel Velasco brings over 11 years of experience in the areas of education, entrepreneurship, and strategy. He spent five years at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education as founding Boston Executive Director and most recently as Regional Director overseeing program implementation at 14 schools across the northeast in the largest randomized control trial of secondary school reform in American history (Diplomas Now i3 Study). Dr. Velasco serves as teaching facilitator and program faculty at Harvard’s School Turnaround Leadership program since 2013. He was a founding dual-immersion teacher with Teach For America (Voices Academies) and consulted on issues ranging from evaluation policy at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education to network learning and development at The Achievement Network. He serves on the TFA-New York Junior Board and the Harvard Graduate School of Education Alumni Council. Dr. Velasco was honored in 2016 for his volunteer service by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio as part of the fourth annual Mayor and County Recognition Day for National Service.
Originally from Peru, Dr. Velasco 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 in International Development and Social Change from Clark University. He earned multiple executive certifications including Strategic Planning and Scaling for Impact from Harvard Business School and Persuasive Communication from the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Velasco earned a doctorate at JHU in Educational Leadership and Entrepreneurship with an emphasis on Human Capital Development.
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 Chief of Staff. In this role, she manages the team’s internal operations in order for the organization to effectively work toward our mission. 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.