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R.D. Leyva, Director of National Engagement

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 Fernández, Founder/CEO

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.



Daniel Velasco, Vice President of Strategy and Programs

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, Director of Greater Boston Programs

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, Chief of Staff

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.