About RD Leyva

R.D. serves as the Program Director at L4E. He leads the talent work to connect L4E members to high-impact roles, professional development opportunities and other Latino leaders across the country. He lives in Washington, DC.

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R.D. Leyva, Chief of Staff

R.D. Leyva serves as the Chief of Staff at Latinos for Education. He supports the CEO and leadership team, providing tactical oversight and support across the organization and through special projects. He joined the team in 2016 and served as the Director of National Engagement, where he connected a national network of Latinos to professional development opportunities, resources, and one another.

Previously, he was the 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. R.D. is a graduate of the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Leaders Program and an inaugural Pahara-Aspen NextGen Fellow. He also serves as a board member for oneTILTAs a proud Mexican and first-generation college graduate, R.D. is passionate about supporting an inclusive community of Latino leaders from diverse backgrounds. 

Amanda Fernández, CEO/Founder

Amanda is a social entrepreneur and CEO/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.

Lorena Lopera, Executive Director of Massachusetts

Lorena Lopera is Executive Director, Massachusetts at Latinos for Education.

Throughout her career, Lorena dedicated over 10 years leveraging relationships to resource quality educational opportunities for youth and families. Previously, Lorena served as Director of Development at Building Excellent Schools (BES), a national organization focused on school leadership formation. Prior to her work with BES, Lorena worked as Chief of Staff at City Year, Miami. There she oversaw finances, personnel and operations for an organization providing academic support to over 5,000 children across Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Beforehand, Lorena worked on cultivating corporate philanthropy and individual donors with the Posse Foundation and Epiphany School.

Lorena graduated from Boston College with a B.A. in Hispanic Studies. She is a first-generation immigrant from Colombia who knows every child is capable of success when provided with support and opportunities. Lorena believes patience, cooperation, hard work and a passion to provide quality education for youth and families helps build strong communities and future opportunities. Lorena lives in Boston with her spouse and two children. 

Daniel Velasco, Chief Operating Officer

Dr. Daniel Velasco is Chief Operating Officer at Latinos for Education, where he brings deep experience in education, entrepreneurship, fundraising, and strategy. He was previously Chief Growth & Impact Officer and originally joined as VP of Strategy and Programs in 2017 after five years at Johns Hopkins as Boston Executive Director and later Regional Director overseeing 14 schools across the northeast in the largest randomized control trial of school reform in American history (Diplomas Now i3 Study). Dr. Velasco was program faculty at Harvard’s School Turnaround Leadership program for 6 years. He started as a teacher with Teach For America and consults on issues including evaluation, teacher retention, and adult learning and development. He serves on the boards of the National Center for Teacher Residencies, Rocketship Public Schools, and the Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network. Dr. Velasco was honored 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 earned a master’s degree in Social Change from Clark University before going on to Harvard, where he received master’s degree in Education Policy and Management. He holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Entrepreneurship from Johns Hopkins University with an emphasis on Human Capital Development and lives in Jacksonville, FL since 2018. 

Andy Canales, Executive Director of Texas

Andy Canales is the Executive Director, Texas at Latinos for Education. Previously, Andy worked as a director at various nonprofit organizations serving students and families. Prior to working in the education nonprofit sector, Andy began his career in education as a teacher in low-income communities in Miami and New York City.  

He serves on the Board of Directors of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, TEACH, University of Houston-Downtown Advisory Board of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Latino Texas PAC, which he chairs. He’s a Senior American Leadership Forum Fellow (Class XLVII), 2018 Harris County Leadership ISD Fellow, and a 2020 Houston Business Journal 40 under 40 honoree.  

With over 50 appearances on local, statewide, and national media, including ABC13 Houston, the Houston Business Journal, Houston Chronicle, Fox26 Houston, NBC News, Univision, Telemundo, Texas Tribune, and USA Today, he is a sought-after commentator on education and civic issues important to Latino students and families.  

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, the first one in his family to graduate from college, and former educator, Andy is passionate about expanding educational equity.  

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, Director of Operations

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 its mission. Samantha brings 10 years of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, and marketing. She also serves as a Board of Education member for her local school district. 

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 impact across the state of South Carolina. 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 with her partner and two children. 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, Director of National Strategy and Innovation

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 Vieira, Manager of National Programs

Sylvia Vieira is the Manager of National Programs. 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.  

Lorena Lopera, Executive Director of New England

Lorena Lopera is Executive Director, New England at Latinos for Education. 

Throughout her career, Lorena has dedicated over 10 years leveraging relationships to resource quality educational opportunities for youth and families. Previously, Lorena served as Director of Development at BES, a national organization focused on school leadership formation. Prior to her work with BES, Lorena worked as Chief of Staff at City Year, Miami. There she oversaw finances, personnel and operations for an organization providing academic support to over 5,000 children across Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Beforehand, Lorena worked on cultivating corporate philanthropy and individual donors with the Posse Foundation and Epiphany School. She started her career in education working as a community organizer at Sociedad Latina in Mission Hill.   

Lorena graduated from Boston College with a B.A. in Hispanic Studies. She is a first-generation immigrant from Colombia who knows how much hard work, resilience, and support goes into simply finding the right opportunities for success. Through this work, Lorena wants to ensure that students, educators, and families can move beyond fighting for access and focus on creating impact. She is a proud Boston Public Schools Parent and current Co-Chair of the Hurley K-8 School Site Council. She currently serves on the board for EdVestorsLorena believes patience, cooperation, hard work and a passion to provide quality education for youth and families help build strong communities and future opportunities. Lorena lives in Boston with her spouse and two children.  

Maritza Acosta

Maritza Acosta, a Houston, Texas native, graduated from the University of Houston-Main Campus in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies and Minor in Teaching and Learning. She received her teaching certification in EC-6 Generalist, and taught Pre-k, Kindergarten, Early Childhood Science, and Fifth Grade Science. After being in the classroom for 4 years, she decided her interests in education lied more heavily on one-to-one relationships with both students and families. She felt there was a need for more targeted conversations and assistance per student and family in her classroom, so she enrolled in the Counseling program at the University of Houston-Main Campus. In 2017 she graduated with a Master of Counseling in Education, and started her career as a college counselor for YES Prep. She decided to focus on college counseling because she saw a need for college going identities within minorities. Moving forward she hopes to increase the number of minorities enrolling in higher education by using her identity as a Latinx female who has earned a Master’s degree to influence other minorities. Si se puede!

Andrés Aguilar

My name is Andrew Rodolfo Aguilar, but I prefer to be called Andrés. My grandparents, who immigrated to San Jose, California from Michoacan, Mexico, called me Andrés as I was growing up. I am the grandson and son of Mexican immigrants. I was born in San Jose, California in 1989 and I lived in the Bay Area up until I completed my undergraduate program at Saint Mary’s College of California. As an undergraduate student, I became an advocate for social transformation and had the opportunity to work in Head Start classrooms with the nonprofit, Jumpstart. Student activism and work in early education helped me unpack my own experiences in education as a Latino male and helped me decide to become an educator. After earning a degree in English/Women’s Studies, I was accepted into a post-graduate service program called Lasallian Volunteers. With Lasallian Volunteers I served in an upstate New York school for court adjudicated boys and young men as a recreation coordinator. I enjoyed my work with the students outside of the classroom, but I wanted to teach, so I volunteered in their classrooms. While serving in New York, I applied to be a Teach For America Corps Member and was accepted into the TFA Phoenix Corps of 2012. I served two years as a middle school English teacher in Mesa, Arizona before accepting a founding 4th grade Humanities position in the city where I was born. I am now in my eighth year with Rocketship Public Schools and my sixth year of school leadership.

Irma Ayala-Nicholas

Irma Ayala-Nicholas is a Houston native and education advocate. Irma has grounded her personal mission around improving access to a great education for all children. She attended Boston University and has an MSed from the University of Pennsylvania. Irma is currently a Senior Manager for TNTP’s workforce team. Leading the staffing and recruiting strategy for a range of far reaching education consulting projects in the Southwest region.

Rosa Baeza

Rosa Baeza was born and raised in Santa Ana, CA to Mexican immigrant parents. As one of seven children, Rosa is the first in her family to receive a Bachelor’s degree – from the University of California, Berkeley. Rosa is committed to ensuring students and families have the support to access high quality education. Currently, Rosa serves as the National Associate Director of Development at Rocketship Public Schools and supports fundraising across the network. As a first-generation college student, Rosa is active in providing mentoring and support services to first-generation college students in the Bay Area, by volunteering with community organizations -TRENZA and the Oakland Promise.

Judith Blanco

Judith Blanco is in her eighth year as the Assistant Principal of East Boston High School for Boston Public Schools (BPS). Judy’s current efforts include working collaboratively with a range of educators to provide research-based professional development for curriculum design, teaching, and learning, implementing the teacher evaluation process and program assessments, and developing coherent practices for school improvement. Previously, Judy worked for five years as the District Instructional Coach for High Schools in BPS. Her work focused on facilitating the high school principal instructional rounds network, providing direct support to high schools, and leading district professional development. Her teaching experience includes six years as a Bilingual/ESL teacher in BPS. Judy has a passion for increasing equity, furthering student achievement, building an inclusive and culturally responsive school culture, and honoring the cultural wealth of students, families, and the community. She received her BA in English Literature from Rutgers University and her MA in Applied Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts. Judy was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and immigrated to the United States with her family as a young child.

Aixa Borrero-Sanchez

Aixa Borrero-Sanchez moved from Puerto Rico to Boston, MA to pursue a career in speech-language pathology at Boston University after studying special education at the University of Puerto Rico. Language acquisition, second language learning, assessment and working with students with disabilities have been her passion. Her experience encompasses clinical, hospital and school settings with children ages 0-21 years. As a bilingual/bicultural educator, she has been part of various appointed Task Forces that focus on English Language Learners who have disabilities. She has been an Adjunct Professor for Lesley University and a member of the Massachusetts Board of registration for Speech-Language Pathology-Audiology. She has worked in Boston Public Schools since 1993 as a bilingual speech-language pathologist and supervisor. Currently, she is the Assistant Director for Related Services in the Office of Special Education.

Augustina Brooks

Dr. Tina Brooks grew up in Houston’s East End. She benefited from Houston ISD’s minority to majority transfer program and attended area Gifted and Talented (Vanguard) educational programs. With the support of dedicated teachers and her high school counselor, she was encouraged to participate in programs that would provide leadership development, academic enhancement, and workforce skills. She is an alumnus of Houston’s National Hispanic Institute, gaining a variety of experiences that supported her early passion for legislative change in education. As a first-generation college student at Tufts University, she relied heavily on the continued support of her high school teachers. The journey from Houston to Boston served as a learning experience in a variety of ways and often challenged her family dynamics. Dr. Brooks would later graduate from the University of St. Thomas in Houston with a degree in Environmental Science and Sociology. She obtained her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Houston- Clear Lake. She attended Texas Tech University, where she obtained her Ph. D. in Human Development and Family Studies. Her dissertation, entitled Learning begins at home: the role of Hispanic mothers as their child’s first teacher serves as a constant reminder of her dedication to using her voice to inform those who teach and lead in spaces with a predominately Hispanic student population of the role that culture plays in the parent-child relationship and unique cultural values which drive maternal teaching practices.

Angela Cala Mendez

Angela Cala migrated to the U.S. twenty years ago with her husband and the dream to build a family with better opportunities. That move required a change of career, language, culture, and lifestyle that she embraced with passion and hope. Twenty years later, Angela serves as Program Director of Multilingual Curriculum for the Aldine Independent School District in Houston, TX. She had previously led in Education as a campus administrator, bilingual skills specialist, and bilingual teacher. She received a master’s degree in Bilingual and ESL education after completing her alternative certification program. Angela’s passion for education started the minute she entered a classroom and began serving bilingual students and families in Houston. She accepted the challenge that this career represented as the needs of these families, mostly immigrants, required more people who could advocate for them. This need is still latent today. Latino families continue to arrive to this country with dreams like the one Angela had. She wants to keep leading the way to help children gain equal opportunities to succeed. She wants to continue preparing to grow as a Latina leader in education in the U.S. and learn better ways to help her community blossom. Angela joined the 2021 Aspiring Latino Leaders Fellowship cohort to continue building her dream.

Christopher Castro

Christopher Castro is originally from Kansas City, Missouri. He grew up the second oldest of four led by a single mother early in life. He had a sparse relationship in childhood with his father and his Mexican family, but felt a deep connection with that part of his identity from an early age. He always felt different. He moved across the state to rural Missouri in a stepfamily in the 1.5 version (High School). He attended the University of Missouri due to the immense dedication of my family and friends. Without the resources provided through relationships, college would have been a struggle. However, he graduated from the University of Missouri in 2011 and joined Teach For America after feeling the need to have a stable career and make an impact. He moved to Phoenix and taught 7th and 8th grade students at Phoenix Collegiate Academy. There he learned more about his Mexican heritage through his relationships with his students and their families. After a stint to be near family in New England, he moved to San Jose as the Business Operations Manager at Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep. Through relationships with his colleagues and families, he continues to explore his Mexican roots. He comes to accept his childhood is unique and oftentimes out of one’s control, much like every child. What you choose to learn is up to you.

Leydi Cottrill

Leydi Cottrill was born in Guatemala and came to the United States at the age of seven. She was the first in her family to attend college and continues to be a role model for her family and peers. Leydi currently works as the Associate Director of Student Information Systems for Rocketship Public Schools where she manages a team across multiple regions for the network. She started almost 10 years ago as the founding Office Manager for Rocketship Brilliant Minds and moved up within the network to her current position. Prior to this role, Leydi worked for Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada for six years where she developed and managed the Immigration Program services of Northern Nevada. Being in a leadership position to advocate for families, she realized the importance of educating them on their immigration rights and helping them in their path to legalizing their status and/or achieving citizenship. The program was so successful that in 2008 it was recognized as the Best New Immigration Program by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. Leydi’s passion to support her community drives her to continuously seek opportunities to enhance her understanding on how to empower families to own their student’s educational narratives via the student information systems backend work with her team across all regions. She also enjoys gardening, watching movies and spending time with her family, friends and four dogs.

Ivanna Crippa

Ivanna is the daughter of two loving Argentinean parents raised in Pasadena, Texas. Leaving an opportunity dessert was made possible because of the love and encouragement of her parents, una comunidad de apoyo that she found in educators at The University of Texas at Austin, and appetite for growth, opportunity, and search for equity. Not knowing how she was going to use her two degrees of Latin American Studies and Psychology that combined her passion for dismantling systems of oppression and developing strengths in people, she landed back in Pasadena serving as a College Adviser with for the National College Advising Corps. There she was tasked to create a college going culture by collaborating with counselors, teachers, and students. Shortly after her two years of service, she transitioned to working with Breakthrough Central Texas, where a twelve-year commitment is made to students and families (6th grade to college graduation). As an Associate Director, she able to start blossoming her leadership skills by leading a team of talented changemakers, build deeper connections with students and families, and ultimately prepare our communities to thrive academically in high school and in college. At Breakthrough, her community poured so much into her and made her realize that the academic needs of our students is part of the story and she was limited on how much she was able to serve. Ivanna decided to pursue a Master’s in Educational Psychology to provide healing, trauma-informed care, and whole human approach to her work. Ivanna is now eagerly working towards her LPC by serving as a counselor with IDEA Public Schools.

Frangie Cruz

Frangie Cruz is currently the school Principal of Ingalls Elementary School, a K-5 school in Lynn, Massachusetts. Ms. Cruz’s journey to the Lynn Public Schools began in Bridgeport, CT, where she served as a school counselor and led turnaround work district wide. She transitioned to Massachusetts, first developing and refining strategy around family and community partnerships with Mass Insight Education before transitioning to the Boston Public Schools. In Boston, Ms. Cruz served as the Director of Operations and Academic Advancement at the Mario Umana Academy, a K-8 dual language school. There, Ms. Cruz led a number of progressive initiatives, most pointedly those directly impacting improvement with instruction and school culture. Her success while at The Umana played a role in her acceptance to the highly regarded Lynch Leadership Academy for the 2020-21 school year. Mr. Cruz holds a holds a Bachelor Degree in Political Science from the University of Hartford, and Masters in Education Psychology from the University of Connecticut. Ms. Cruz is a proud Puertorriqueña fully fluent in Spanish.s.

Niurka De Jesus

Niurka De Jesus was born and raised in Dorchester, MA, to Dominican parents. Niurka completed her elementary and secondary education in Boston Public Schools. She holds a BA from Boston College (’07) and a MSW from Boston College Graduate School of Social Work (‘16). Niurka’s passion in social work is focused on education and empowerment. Niurka is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker that is dedicated to fostering trauma-informed spaces, promoting safety, adequately supporting survivors of trauma, and justice. Niurka is a Transformational Social Worker for BPS, and a Personal Stylist. Niurka is honored to have the privilege to accompany others on their journey to creatively explore opportunities for healing/wellness and empowerment. She is looking forward to building a legacy of empowerment, love and joy.

Bianca De La Vega

Bianca De La Vega is an ESL/Bilingual Coach at Lamar Consolidated Independent School District. As a daughter of Mexican immigrants, preserving the Spanish language and cultural values has always been a priority. Her educational experiences as a young English Learner in schools has always been a motivating factor to advocate for all students in the position she was once in. Bianca earned a Bachelor of Science in Teaching and Learning with an emphasis in Bilingual Education in 2013, from the University of Houston. After working as a Bilingual Teacher for 4 years, she returned to school to receive her Master of Education in Special Populations. This prepared her to pursue a position in which she could continue to advocate for English Learners and their families, while also supporting teacher in doing the same with their classroom students. Her purpose as an educator is to create an environment in which all students and their parents can be proud of where they come from. Her goal is to always advocate for these families so that they are able to view their cultural experiences and identities as a superpower.

Michael Diaz

Michael Diaz was born in Holyoke, MA, and raised across the river in Chicopee. He has spent his professional career working to build stronger schools as a teacher, teacher leader, and systems level leader in both traditional public and public charter schools. When he arrived at Harvard, Michael was interested in improving health outcomes for low-income children and families of color. However, he also became acutely aware of the lack of access and opportunity that he experienced in his K-12 schooling as a first-generation college student of color. After graduating from college, Michael joined Teach For America and taught middle school science in Long Beach, CA. He was later the founding science teacher at KIPP DC: Key Academy, before returning to Southern California to continue his work as a teacher leader. Michael decided to devote himself to educational equity work and seeking to expand his impact, he joined Achievement First as the Science Achievement Director and worked across schools to develop a science program curriculum used not only at Achievement First middle and high schools, but in many other classrooms and schools across the country. Michael later became the Senior Director of STEM, managing across the math and science programs, and is now the Vice President of High School Great Teaching, where he leads the vision for the academic program for all content areas across the seven high schools of Achievement First. He is also the father of two magnificent children and husband of another lifelong educator.

Sara Escamilla Guerra

Sara Guerra is a proud San Jose, CA native and currently resides there with her husband, four children, and black lab mix rescue dog. Sara has been in the non-profit sector for 17 years, and started her career in education in 2014 as a founding school leader with Rocketship Public Schools. Her experience at Rocketship illuminated the devastating inequities that exist for families of color and the lack of access to information and resources to support their children’s education. This ignated Sara’s passion for parent engagement and supporting families in realizing their power and voice. As the Director of School Communities, Sara developed and oversees implementation of Rocketship’s parent engagement vision and has led the organization to incredible success in various metrics such as increase in Parent Partnership Hours, Home Visits, Enrollment retention, to name a few.

Maria Estrada

Maria Estrada was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts to Puerto Rican parents. The oldest of four, she comes from a family of educators. As a product of the Boston Public Schools (BPS), she has dedicated the last sixteen years to improving the educational experience of BPS students while ensuring students have a voice and are included in decision making. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Community Planning from UMass Boston and a Master’s in Public Policy from Tufts University. When she is not advocating for young people, Maria enjoys long hikes with her family and teaching salsa dance classes to family, friends and her community. As Student Engagement Manager, Maria is responsible for developing, leading and managing the BPS’ strategic efforts to increase student engagement, voice and leadership through school-based and district programs and initiatives. This work recognizes students’ investment in their schools and education and their impact on school improvement. Maria’s role brings true student involvement to the Boston Public Schools through nurturing rapid growth in student leaders’ skills and dedication, and by providing training and support to teachers and staff on student engagement at the school-based and district levels. Maria has demonstrated her commitment to youth development, student engagement and public policy and continues to advocate to ensure young people have access, support and receive the quality education they deserve.

Jade Franco

Jade Franco is a proud Afro-Latina & Dominican who grew up in the city of Boston. After graduating from Boston Latin Academy, one of three selective public exam high schools in Boston, she enrolled at Stonehill College for her Bachelors. At Stonehill, she designed her own major under the Multidisciplinary Studies track to combine her passions for Political Science and Business Administration. Jade’s career has centered on serving youth pursuing education and career pathways. From Summer Search, to Sociedad Latina, and Boston University, she has mentored Latino and other underrepresented youth across the city to pursue, afford and graduate from college. Starting on September 2021, Jade will be transitioning to The Boston Foundation as their next Program Officer for Education and Career initiatives, where she will be overseeing the city-wide Success Boston network which administers grants to local nonprofits and trains their staff to provide effective college success coaching to Boston’s youth.

Sergio Gallardo

Sergio Gallardo was born and raised in Houston, Texas before attending Auburn University on a full-ride scholarship. It was here that he discovered a passion for public policy and education, and constantly sought opportunities to connect citizens as well as immigrants to government, legal, and financial resources. In 2014 he graduated from the Honors College majoring in Political Science with double minors in Economics and Business. The son of two public-school educators, Sergio was inspired to join Teach for America – Houston and started his career at James DeAnda Elementary where he was part of a team that helped turn-around the campus into a leading school for Houston ISD. During his time there he: taught 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grades, served as a Classroom Culture Model Teacher, Math lead, won a $1,500 grant by the National Wildlife Federation to start a campus garden and the campus won all 6 TEA distinctions three years in a row. Most recently, he joined the faculty at the Arabic Immersion Magnet School in Houston where he has worked as a 3rd grade Teacher, Grade Chair, and Math Interventionist. In the near future, Sergio seeks to continue his education, connect with other leaders, and run for local office to do his part to close the achievement gap. He believes, much like his parents, that education can form opportunity and a collective response to injustice.

Natalie Garcia

Natalie Garcia was born and raised in Houston, Texas as a first generation American with a Mexican mother, Cuban father, and an Argentina stepfather. Natalie have had the privilege to be surrounded by different latinx cultures and is proud to say that they all have a place as part of her identity. At the end of her senior year Natalie was awarded a scholarship to attend Texas Christian University. After completing her undergraduate studies at TCU, Natalie joined Teacher For America as 2012 Corps Member. Natalie started her career in education as a teacher for Houston Independent School District in a 5th grade bilingual classroom. Natalie credits her first class of students for beginning to shine a light on the importance of having an education that looked like them, that could communicate with their parents in the native language, and one who understood the struggle of balancing multiple cultures on an everyday basis. Natalie understood the personal responsibility she had to represent her students and their families in every room/ decision she could. In 2015 Natalie made the move to YES Prep Public Schools where she started as an 8th grade math and Algebra I teacher and later also taught Freshman Seminar. In 2015 Natalie completed her master’s in education from Johns Hopkins University. Natalie moved out of the classroom and became an administrator at Brays Oaks as a Dean of Students, Natalie is currently leading the Culture Team as the Director of Student Support for the Brays Oaks campus.

Lety Gomez

Lety Gómez is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants and was the first in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree in accounting. She was born and raised in East San Jose, CA. She is married with three children and has a grandson. Fr. Mateo Sheedy was her pastor when she was a teen and he instilled in her his passion for social justice, but for many years it was kept unlit. Lety wanted her children to have a better experience in school than she did, so she moved trying to find a better school for her children. Unfortunately, her two oldest children were also failed by the system. Lety was tired of waiting for the system to improve, so in 2014 Lety worked with parents from East San Jose to bring a new high-quality school to their community. Her youngest daughter attended Rocketship Fuerza. Thanks to the Rocketship organizer at the time, Lety received training to use her voice for social justice and learned about community organizing. In 2014, she chaired the first parent-led Mayoral candidates forum in San Jose, where she realized the power parents have to create change in their communities. In 2020 Lety moved to Texas, where she continues to advocate for equity in public education. Lety now works for Rocketship Public Schools Texas as their Senior Education Organizer. Lety serves on the Board of the Fort Worth Chapter for the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas and is also on their Education Committee.

Sabrina Grille

Sabrina was born and raised in Miami to Cuban and Dominican immigrants. Since 2018, she has served as a 12th-grade Program Manager at EMERGE in the Houston Independent School District. Her passion for education equity and own experiences as a first-generation college graduate drove her to this role. Sabrina’s professional journey began as an AmeriCorps member in the Harris County Department of Education. She has also worked with various education nonprofits including Jumpstart and Harlem RBI in New York, Yspaniola, Inc. in the Dominican Republic, and, most recently, Mission Squash. Sabrina graduated from Boston University in 2011 with a Bachelor’s in Latin American Studies and Spanish. She later pursued a Master’s at Teachers College, Columbia University in International Educational Development with a concentration in Latin American and Latino education. Sabrina enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with family, especially with her daughter, Sofia.

Angelina Guerra

Marina Guerra was born and raised in Kansas City, MO. The daughter of a single mother who prioritized education and was determine for her daughter to have access to the type of quality education that was not available in the city’s unaccredited public schools. Marina went on to earn an undergraduate degree in Neuroscience from Texas Christian University, she planned make an impact through research. However, she was recruited by Teach for America and worked as a corps member serving at Dallas CAN Academy teaching high school science in an alternative school setting. Recognizing her work in education was unfinished she transitioned to Dallas ISD and served as a high school biology teacher. Realizing that strong leadership was key to ensuring strong outcomes for students; she joined Teaching Trust’s Aspiring Education Leaders program, earning her master’s in educational leadership from Southern Methodist University. Marina then served as a campus instructional coach at a high school supporting math and science teachers. For the last 4 years she has served as an assistant principal at Thomas J. Rusk Middle School, part of the Dallas ISD ACE initiative. Through her and her team’s work at Rusk, they were able to take the school from IR 2 status to a B-rated campus and dramatically shift the campus culture. Marina recently transitioned to a new role as the administrator for Emmett J. Conrad Global Studies H-Tech, a program that provides students the opportunity to earn a associate degree tuition free while in high school.

Yajaira Jaimes

I was born in Compton, Ca. I moved up to the San Jose area in my teens due to my parents’ work. My parents migrated from Michoacan Mx. to provide a better life for their children. I graduated from high school in 2000, after I attended community college for psychology education. After I started working to help support my family after a tragic accident that left my father quadraplegic. I attended a medical assistant program that I completed with honors and knowledge of phlebotomy as well. After being a stay at home mom for 13 years to my 5 children there were some life changes and became a single mom. I was introduced to Rocketship, where some of my children attended and I have been working for the past 7 years. Working at Rocketship has helped me find myself and use my experience to advocate for our families and their past experiences. Rocketship has given me the opportunity and knowledge on how to support rising leaders under my management.

Luzdivina Lozano

In her most current role as Managing Director of Principal Preparation, National Director of Leadership Coaching, Luzdivina has led the alignment and development of DLDs and RDICs across the district as they build the capacity of the current and future school leaders in their region. In addition, she has served as a resource for multiple teams and regions who have leveraged her experience and resources in support of their leaders. Before joining the national Principal Preparation team, Luzdivina served the Rio Grande Valley as a Sr. Director of Leader Development for six years, coaching their Principals in Residence as they prepared to launch the newest schools in the region. In addition, she served as VP of Instruction, a unique role which allowed her to lead the aligned development for all regional instructional and leadership coaches in the region as they built capacity in their school leadership teams. Aside from her experience coaching leaders, Luzdivina has had the opportunity to serve in different capacities aimed at improving student outcomes at IDEA, including founding teacher, Assistant Principal, Founding Principal and Successor principal. She also had the privilege of being selected as one of 23 leaders, the only Latina, from across the country to found a KIPP School. Luzdivina grew up in the small town of Rio Grande City. Having shared a similar learning experience as that of so many students in underserved communities, she became the first person in her family to go to college. She equipped herself with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work so that she could support underserved children through their families, but after serving only 1 year as a social worker, she quickly realized the inequities she faced in school were still at play. She realized the best way to change the system was to understand it, then use that understanding to lead the transformation of it from the inside out. In her free time, Luzdivina enjoys reading and spending quality time with her husband of 21 years, daughters Isabella, a junior at UTRGV, and Delailah, a Senior who will be attending UT Austin in the Fall and her six pugs.

Dakota Luis

Dakota Luis was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. She is the youngest of three siblings. Her family originated from Costa Rica and Jamaica. In 2011 she earned a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations and Advertisement, along with Dance. Dakota is currently going into year 6, as an 8th grade educator, at the Community Charter School of Cambridge. Before joining CCSC, Dakota earned her Master’s in Education through a teacher residency program. Dakota identifies as Afro-Latina. She believes it is very important that all aspects of the Latin community are identified and have a voice, no matter the diaspora. Dakota utilizes her classroom to help the youth identify and unpack current events, and history. She believes it is the truest way to form community and give back, while providing understanding.

Adriana Escamilla

Adriana is the Literacy Coach at Putnam Avenue Upper School in Cambridge Public Schools. In this role, Adriana collaborates with the ELA teachers and interventionists, school leadership, and the district ELA department to support the students’ literacy education. Growing up, Adriana’s father, a second generation Mexican American immigrant and first generation college student, instilled in her the importance of education both through his beliefs and also through his experiences as a teacher in Chicago. Inspired by her father’s journey as an educator, Adriana started her own teaching career as an ESL teacher in Houston as a 2007 Teach For America corps member. While teaching Reading and Composition at Golder College Prep in Chicago, Adriana realized that her true passion in education is in literacy instruction. She earned her Master of Education in Language, Literacy, and Culture at the University of Illinois at Chicago in order to pursue opportunities in literacy leadership. Adriana relocated to Boston and worked as a founding School Director at the 9th Grade Academy in Lawrence and as a Dean of Instruction at UP Academy Boston before assuming her current position with Cambridge Public Schools. At the core of Adriana’s beliefs on education is Frederick Douglass’ quote, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” She is enthusiastically committed to doing her part as a literacy educator and leader to make this a reality for all students.

Judith Loredo

Judith Loredo is a Mexican background educator and doctoral degree candidate with 20 years of experience in the field of education. She has worked as a foreign language teacher of Spanish & Japanese, Dual Language Coordinator for the largest Middle School in Houston ISD, School Counselor, District level Multilingual Specialist (ESL/bilingual teacher coach), and Sr. CTE Advisor. In her current job, she works with school administrators, counselors, teachers, and students to ensure that every student has a personal graduation plan (PGP) and follows a career pathway in their desired endorsement to have a plan for postsecondary career success. She wants to inspire Latino and other minority students to have a solid conviction to achieve their educational and career goals, knowing that their attitude will determine their altitude in life.

Claudia Lozano

Latinx advocate and native in the Spanish language. University of Texas-Pan American 2008 alum, and currently an Algebra II teacher at YES Prep Public Schools. I have 13 years of experience helping charter schools reach academic goals by ensuring students are on track to be college ready in Mathematics. I have worked at IDEA Public Schools, KIPP, and YES Prep Public Schools. I am the daughter of two immigrants from Nuevo Leon, Mexico. I am a mother of four amazing kids—my eldest daughter is an Aggie alum married to another wonderful Aggie alum, my son is at Saint John’s University at Minnesota studying Chemistry, my third just graduated as the Valedictorian of her class at YES Prep North Forest and will be attending Yale University on a full scholarship, and lastly, my little 5-year-old daughter just started Kindergarten. I decided to become a teacher after being an effective substitute teacher for 2 years. Building relationships with students is my favorite part of the job because it allows me to learn from them. My passion lies in teaching mathematics with conceptual understanding where mistakes are embraced and used to develop a growth mindset. Mathematics curriculum and instruction with cultural relevance is my strongest interest. My heart is at its fullest when students can see that they are in a similar situation as I once was and that I turned out to be a successful Hispanic woman–they see hope. I am an educational leader to help change the status quo of Latinas and the marginalized underserved!

Lilian Macias

Lilian Macias is a Houston “native”, who immigrated from Guatemala at the age of 4. As the daughter of immigrants, she has always been taught to value her education. She attended the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. Lilian has also received a Master of Arts in Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education. As a first-generation high school and college graduate, she is passionate about providing opportunities for students who come from the same underserved communities and believes that it takes a village to raise a child. Lilian started with YES Prep North Central in 2007, as a YES Corp member. After receiving her Bachelor’s, she moved to YES Prep Brays Oaks where she taught 6th/7th ELA, served as the 6th Grade Level Chair, and Middle School Dean of Students. She transitioned to the Director of Student Support role at YES Prep North Central for 3 years. Lilian has also served as the School Director for Credit Recovery 3 years and has been a co-lead for the Latinx Leadership Summits for YES Prep Public Schools for 6 years. She is currently at YES Prep Thrive, the district’s DEAP school, as the Director of Thrive/Principal of Thrive. She currently resides in the Spring/Klein area with her husband Luis and their three kids: six-year-old LJ, four-year-old Lilah and one-year-old Leon, and their dog Max.

Hope Martinez

Hope Martinez was born and raised in rural Ohio. During high school and college, she volunteered and worked at the Region IV Migrant School, a summer school to provide additional academic support to children of migrant workers, as a way to learn more about her Mexican heritage and her grandfather’s experiences as a migrant in his childhood. She studied International Relations at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. Hope studied abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico and after college, accepted a job in Oaxaca in the international education sector. After returning to the U.S., she joined Teach for America where she was placed in Houston, TX as a bilingual elementary teacher. Hope is now in her ninth year in education and has experience at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. She brings over five years of experience as a school administrator and her areas of expertise are coaching, professional development, blended learning, and supporting English Language Learners. She has been selected for a number of speaking opportunities, including presenting at the Association of Latino Administrators & Superintendents Education Summit and the Teacher for America Entrepreneurs United Conference. She holds a Masters in Educational Leadership from the University of Houston and is certified as a Texas Principal. She now lives and works in the Spring Branch community and serves as the Director of Academics at YES Prep Northbrook Middle School where she is passionate about coaching & developing adults so they can show up as the best version of themselves in supporting students.

Juan Mateos

Growing up in the majestic city of Oxnard, California, Juan saw too many of his fellow classmates, friends, brothers, and sisters tyrannized by the unjust destiny of demographics and low expectations. When Juan was accepted to Stanford University, he committed himself to building a career that ensured that the potential he saw in his community and those like it would be nurtured and ignited. After graduation, Juan joined Teach for America and taught at a traditional district school in San Jose for three years. In 2011, he joined Rocketship Public Schools at the Mateo Sheedy campus as a 4th grade teacher and had the opportunity to found Rocketship Fuerza as an assistant principal. For five years, Juan had the honor and privilege of serving as the proud principal of Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep which was recognized as a California Distinguished School in 2019. Each day, Juan is humbled by students’ commitment to learn, to take on new challenges and to make themselves, their families and their community proud. As a first-generation immigrant from México, Juan draws his inspiration from working alongside a collective of parents, teachers and school leaders who fully expect our Rocketeers to be the future doctors, lawyers, engineers, mayors and teachers who will transform our communities. Currently, Juan serves his community as a Director of Schools in the Bay Area where his twin loves of teaching and learning are only eclipsed by his infatuation with futbol, Oxnard, and Valentina hot sauce.

Rolando Merchán Morales

Born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia where I completed my studies as a civil engineer, I started my career in education in 2004 when I moved to Houston. I went through an alternative certification program with Pasadena ISD in partnership with Saint Thomas University and began teaching 4th grade. As I engaged in research for my masters in bilingual education, I centered on dual language education and for my doctoral dissertation addressed teachers’ language ideologies and the development of biliteracy. I have participated in different committees with TEA, including the Dual Language Guidance Committee and a couple of Proclamations for language arts and mathematics, and different item revision and range finder committees for reading and writing. I became a DL Spanish coach for my campus and served as the instructional coach and program manager as it transitioned from a 50/50 to an 80/20 model. In 2013, I became the district instructional specialist for Bilingual/ ESL 4-6 and DL for K-8. In 2019, I assume the role of district Coordinator for Bilingual/ ESL and DL, and in August 2021 I was named Director of the Multilingual Department at Pasadena ISD. I identify as an advocate for multilingual students and multilingualism, centered around the implementation of effective and responsive instructional practices for multilingual learners.

Jacqueline Moreno

Jacqueline Moreno, a Greater Houston Area, Texas native, graduated from University of Houston- Clear Lake in 1995 with a BS in Education. After earning her Bachelor’s Degree, Moreno joined the Galena Park ISD team as a 4th grade teacher. Since then she taught for 10 years in the classroom and moved to a central office position in 2005. In 2006, she earned her Masters in Educational Leadership and in 2009 she earned her superintendent’s certification. Over the years, she has served Galena Park as teacher, curriculum specialist, coordinator and director, thus dedicating half of her life to elementary education. Currently she serves as Director for Elementary Math and Science. As a district leader, she works to ensure the learning community has access to the resources, curriculum, assessments and professional learning they need to be successful. She works alongside teachers, administrators and staff members collaboratively to provide productive, safe learning environments. She is passionate about students reaching their full potential through utilizing tools such as social emotional learning, technology, STEM and opportunity. Moreno is 1 of 10 children born to Mexican immigrants and the first in her family to earn a college degree. Her parents taught her to take great pride in her work and the values instilled in her heart from her Mexican heritage.

Alma Notaro

Alma is currently the Literacy Coach at Fitchburg High School, where she works to promote literacy and equity for all students. She also works on the schools’ Instructional Leadership Team, and serves as a mentor to Step Up students and families. Born in the Dominican Republic, Alma Notaro immigrated to New York City at a young age. Raised by a family of educators and writers, Alma carries the passion for pedagogy and literature in her blood. At the age of thirteen, she translated her father’s book Azucar, Cayo y Puerto (Sugar, Cape, and Port), which is now published under the mentorship of Rhinna Espaillat. A natural born linguist, she studied at the University of Rochester, where she earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English with a minor in Psychology. She went on to work for YouthNet in Worcester, MA as a Team Leader and School Liaison. She began her teaching career in Worcester Public Schools, and went on to serve as the Founding English teacher for the Academy of Health, Science, and Technology, a subset of Worcester East Middle School that catered to hands-on; project-based; heterogeneous learning. At Worcester East, Alma also served as the English Department Head for several years. Firm in her commitment to education and literature, Alma earned a Master’s of Arts in Teaching with a concentration in English from Western New England University.

Viviane Oliveira

Vivi Oliveira grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In hopes of learning English, she did her Senior Year in Michigan as an exchange student and during a college tour with the Senior Class decided to apply. Passionate about educational access after graduating college she returned to Sao Paulo and worked for three years as a College Counselor managing the U.S. State Department Opportunity Funds Grant supporting high achieving low income students in Brazil to apply and pursue their undergrad in the U.S. In 2017 due to funding issues she traveled to 11 Countries in 11 months supporting nonprofits in whatever need they had at the time, from writing curriculum to painting walls. Upon return she landed in Houston to be with family and await a work permission visa. When granted permission she was employed at YES Prep Public Schools to project manage for the Chief of Staff and has been a part of the change in Houston ever since. A sports lover, passionate about photography and telling stories, with a constant desire to impact people’s lives.

Ana Orozco Hernandez

Ana was born in San Jose de Los Orozcos, San Luis Potosí México. Migrated to the Unites Stated at the age of three months. Ana is the first generation in her family to graduate and attend college and receive a B.S in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Houston Downton. Ana has been an educator in the grades of kinder and 2nd grade. Fifteen years later received her master’s in education, Bilingual Diagnostician from St. Thomas University of Houston. Currently holds a position as a Bilingual Diagnostician from Houston Independent School District. Ana has participated in many parents’ advocacy meeting in the community in which expose parents with children with special needs of their rights as parents and as students. Continues to learn about many ways to help Hispanic families who have a lack of knowledge in the field of special ed.

Alma Portillo Cuellar

Alma Natalia was born and raised in Juarez Mexico. She migrated to the USA in 2003 to pursue her B.A. in Kinesiology with a minor in Education at Huston-Tillotson University. During these years, she discovered her passion for education, advocacy, and service for the minoritized, overlooked, and underserved populations. Natalia received her Master of Education in Multicultural Special Education from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011. After graduation, Natalia worked in the non-profit sector for 2 years serving as Bilingual Programs Specialist, Bilingual Program Coordinator and providing computer literacy to mainly minoritized adults. In 2013, Natalia moved to Houston, Texas to work in public education. She worked as a bilingual math teacher for the first 5 years where she dedicated herself to building relationships with parents and students. For the past 3 years, Natalia has worked in Special Education as a co-teacher. This year, she will be starting her second year with Yes Prep Charter Schools. Natalia prides herself with having strong classroom management and believes that rapport and communication are the key to successfully transforming the lives of those who she serves. She has also served as a Teach Like a Champion ambassador, a Bilingual Substitute Teacher, a Bilingual Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Texas at Austin, Learning Coach, mentored restorative groups, and participated in culture committees. Natalia is a 2021 Latinix Teacher Fellowship Fellow. Natalia is passionate about helping others, advocacy, and fighting against injustice. She wants to use her influence and platform to create better opportunities for the community she serves.

Jennifer Reed

Jennifer Reed is the Director of Clinical Services for Dallas ISD’s Mental Health Services Department. She is a first-generation college graduate and reflects her family’s South Texas Latino roots in her hard work, dedication, and passion. She has bachelor’s degrees from The University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree from The University of North Texas. Jennifer has served in Dallas area public schools for over 14 years as a teacher, counselor, at-risk facilitator, and coordinator of administrative services and special programs. She is also a Licensed Professional Counselor working with Spanish-speaking families and adolescents experiencing a variety of concerns. A voracious proponent of the benefits of education and training, Jennifer believes that schools provide opportunity, access, and support to enable all students to create their life pathway. In her current role as Director in Mental Health Services, Jennifer advances equity in access to high quality mental health care for all students, especially students of color and in underserved communities. She is proud to serve and reflect her community.

Judith Rodriguez

Judith Rodriguez began her career in education as a paraprofessional while attending college. After graduating from University of Houston-Downtown, she served as a bilingual classroom teacher for the first ten years of her career. Judith decided to return to school and obtain a graduate degree in dual language and bilingual education from University of St. Thomas so that she could best meet the needs of her students. After completing her graduate degree, she was inspired to share her passion for teaching with her colleagues and became and instructional coach. Judith is currently serving teachers and students as a curriculum and instruction specialist. She absolutely loves being a teacher of teachers as well as working with passionate educators who want to master their craft. Outside of work, Judith likes to spend quality time with her husband and their two sons. She enjoys going on bike rides with them and reading picture books. Her favorite picture book is Dreamers/Soñadores by Yuyi Morales.

Soniris Rosas

Soniris was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is a proud “Boricua” living in Texas since 2007. She is a proud alumna from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2006. She majored in Biology and minored in Education with an Academic Scholarship. Soniris spent time researching, and studying extremophiles in Las Salinas, Cabo Rojo under the supervision of Dr. Rafael Montalvo which led to publish 2 scientific papers in IJSEM as an undergraduate student. She began her teaching career in PR where she taught 7th grade Life Science and 4th-5th grade Environmental Science at Casa Pueblo in Adjuntas, PR. Soniris recently completed her Master’s in Science in Education with a concentration in Teacher Leadership from Walden University. She currently works as a coordinator at Career Institutes (CI) in Dallas ISD where they offer access to learning opportunities in different CTE programs or pathways including Health Science, Aviation, Construction, Electrical Technology, Architecture/Interior Design, HVAC, Plumbing, Manufacturing and Cybersecurity serving 8 high schools in the southwest of the city. The majority of the CI students are from communities of color particularly, 78% Hispanic/Latinx and about 50% are emergent bilinguals. Soniris is passionate about equity, bilingual education as well as college and career readiness.

Alberto Perez

Albert Perez currently serves as Interim Principal at Rocketship Rising Stars Academy in the Seven Trees Community. Albert was a founding member of the Rising Stars team and taught several grades before rising to Assistant Principal. Albert was raised in the El Pueblo Housing Projects of Pittsburg, California. One of Lillie Pinero’s three sons, he was raised to be a proud Boricua. He has always embraced his afro-latino roots, intertwining his family’s island ways with the hip hop culture of the Bay Area. It was in Pittsburg that Albert found his passion for creating change through social action and education. Albert graduated from San Jose State with a BA in Sociology with a community change focus. During his time at SJSU he was apart of a student organization that led Measure D, a measure to increase the minimum wage in San Jose.

Andrea Navarro Keenan

Andrea was born in Mexico City and immigrated to Boston in 1994. She was raised by her mother and extended family and is a proud first-gen college student, graduating from Bowdoin College in 2010 with a double major in French and Anthropology. Through a fellowship awarded by Bowdoin’s French department, she moved to France to teach English for two years at the Universite de Nantes. Thinking she was going to become a French teacher, she returned to Boston to take her MTEL exams and begin a position as a long-term substitute teacher. Through a stroke of luck (or fate) she found a job posting at an Educational Opportunity Center (A Federal TRIO program) and very quickly, Andrea found a passion for helping people achieve their own educational dreams. At the ASA College Planning Center, Andrea served as Bilingual Education Advisor and manager of the Center’s Satellite EOC in Chelsea, for five years. In 2017, she made the move to an in-school setting at Excel Academy Charter High School in East Boston, where she is currently Director of College and Career Counseling as well as coordinator of the school’s immigration advocacy initiatives. Andrea is also working toward her Master’s in Public Policy with a focus on Education Policy from UMASS Dartmouth. She hopes to continue to champion educational access for immigrants in and around the East Boston community.

Janine Ramirez

Janine Ramirez is an education advocate with over a decade of experience and a track record of collaborating with community stakeholders to bring educational opportunities to underserved communities. As Sr. Director of External Affairs for Rocketship Public Schools in the South Bay, Janine Ramirez is responsible for regional leadership, strategy and vision setting for its largent region where half of its schools reside. Janine is responsible for navigating external politics, elevating awareness in the region, showcasing Rocketship’s impact externally while fostering collaboration with external stakeholders. Prior to joining Rocketship, Janine served as Regional Director for the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), advocating for high quality public schools in an increasingly hostile environment. During this role Janine led the Charter Community of Silicon Valley, supported statewide policy efforts and represented charter schools in various public hearings. Before that, Janine served as Executive Director of Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) for 7 years, creating partnerships among parents, students, and educators to further students’ academic achievement impacting nearly 2,500 students annually. Janine is committed to civic engagement in her personal time also. Janine served on the board of Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley (LCSV) for 6 years, serving as President in 2017. She is a proud alumni of the Latino Board Leadership Academy (LBLA), Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), Latino Leadership Alliance (LLA) and Leadership San Jose fellow of 2020 through Silicon Valley Organization (SVO). Janine was named 40 under 40 in 2018 by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Ruby Rivera

A graduate of Sam Houston High School, Ms. Rivera, a native Houstonian, was the first in her family to graduate from a four-year university, The University of Texas at Austin. A featured speaker at various conferences, Ruby Rivera continues to emphasize the importance of higher education to students of all ethnic backgrounds and the value of increased minority enrollment to Texas colleges and universities. Originally from Houston Texas, Ruby Rivera was raised in Houston’s Northside community. Born of Puerto Rican and Guatemalan descent, she was the first in her family to get accepted and attend a four-year university. Ruby attended and graduated from The University of Texas at Austin. Ruby has always had a personal commitment to increase minority enrollment at colleges and universities. Ruby Rivera has advanced her career in college access and has worked and spearheaded both the Texas A&M and The University of Texas System efforts to increase minority enrollment in Texas. Currently, Ruby Rivera is part of the Houston Independent School District College Readiness Team and serves as a College Readiness Senior Manager. Ruby has a passion for helping youth and the community via the arts and created the Texas Salsa Congress (TSC). The TSC is the longest-running salsa congress in the United States fully produced and owned by a woman. In 2010, Ruby was bestowed with a city proclamation by Mayor Bill White, declaring August 4th “Ruby Rivera Salsa Appreciation Day”. In 2015, Mayor Annise Parker also declared “Texas Salsa Congress Day” for Houston, Texas.

Elizabeth Rodriguez

Elizabeth Rodriguez is a proud native Houstonian that grew up in a Mexican household to immigrant parents. She is the first person in her family to attend college and graduate from college. She graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Political Science and History. Upon graduating, Elizabeth joined Teach for America- Houston where she taught elementary bilingual education for six years at Elmore Elementary in Houston ISD. During her time as a teacher, Elizabeth served as a campus mentor, literacy specialist, grade level chair, and was awarded the Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award in 2018. Elizabeth now serves as a Literacy Specialist at YES Prep Public Schools. In this role, she supports emergent bilingual and students with learning disabilities by coaching teachers and providing students with 1:1 intervention support. Elizabeth is a 2020 Good Reason Houston Community Design Fellow, a 2019 Teach Plus Texas Policy Fellow and a 2020 TFA Aspiring School Leader Cohort member. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Bilingual and ESL Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. Elizabeth has a passion for bilingual education and supporting teachers so that everyone student has access to great education.

Lourdes Rodriguez

Lourdes was born and raised in San Antonio, TX and is a first generation Mexican-American college graduate. She graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) in 2010, with a B.A. in Psychology. After graduating, she started her journey in Teach For America and moved to Houston where she taught elementary and middle school science, served as a teacher leader, and obtained her M.Ed. with an emphasis on Behavior Analysis. While teaching, Lourdes noticed a need and developed a passion for restructuring discipline frameworks within schools to better support learners struggling with maladaptive behaviors. She currently works as a Teacher Behavior Specialist for the Houston Independent School District where she coaches teachers and school leaders in implementing behavioral interventions and providing safe spaces for learners.

Martha Sandoval

Martha was born and raised in Veracruz, Mexico. She first came to the United States at the age of 19 as an Au Pair to learn English. After one year living in Pennsylvania, she returned to her home country and graduated from the University of Veracruz where she obtained her B.A. in International Business. During her college years, Martha had different roles including, administrative assistant, recreation manager, supervisor, and volunteer work at the admission office. A few years after moving permanently to the U.S., Martha started a position as Director’s Assistant in a Spanish Immersion after-school program in Cambridge, MA. During this time, she had the opportunity to mainly engage with Latinx youth and families. Two years later, she became the Community Schools Director at the M.L. King School where she planned and executed enrichment programs for students K-5 as well as social events for the community. Martha relocated to the South Shore three years ago and is now the Director of the Community Schools in the Milton Public Schools District where she continues to promote the importance of Out of School Time programming for youth.

Joseph Sara

Part of Gardner Pilot Academy’s leadership community for past 11 years in the role of Assistant Principal. Prior to working at GPA, worked at another BPS therapeutic K -5 base program supporting students/families learning and health needs. Prior to working within BPS schools, worked at a community base health center for over 10 years with families/students that were managing the many psycho-social stressors which impacted their daily lives. In all these settings some of our guiding questions have been to understand and respond to the barriers that prevent students/families from accessing services and supports needed to learn and grow. Father of two sons ages 17 and 20 years old. My mother is from Colombia and my father from Palestine and had the opportunity to live with both maternal and paternal grandparents during my childhood and adolescence. Music is a great source of comfort, inspiration and expression for someone who cannot sing or play an instrument…Cooking is the other form of expression that attempts to reach the heart and the belly.

Armando Segura

Armando Segura was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, and has lived in the United States for the past 24 years. Armando started his journey in education as a graduate student in New Hampshire were he taught for 10 years before moving to Massachusetts to do graduate work in leadership and become a school administrator. In Boston, MA, Armando has engaged in teacher development in the area of secondary mathematics education and instructional coaching. The student body in Boston includes 42.5% Hispanic students who bring to the school district the asset of being bilingual, biliterate and multicultural. Serving as an educator in Boston’s community of learners Armando’s mission is driven by the notion that education is a gateway to freedom and effective education is about the actions we take to promote behaviors that bring equity of opportunity and equity of access to the students as well as the actions we take to disrupt the behaviors that create inequality in our community.

Carlos Sotelo

Motivated to honor his parents’ legacy of crossing borders in pursuit of education opportunities for their children, Carlos is deeply proud of his Mexican immigrant heritage. He draws his passion to drive educational equity by closing gaps in postsecondary education outcomes from his experience growing up low-income and undocumented in Pasadena, TX. After studying public policy at Princeton, Carlos began his career in the college access and success field with Houston ISD and KIPP Texas Public Schools as an adviser to empower students in their educational journeys. As a Senior Manager in the HISD College Readiness Department, he oversees programming that support immigrant and Latinx seniors and families through the ALAS/Wings advising team and Dreamers committee, as well as aligning a team of managers and advisors that support over 2500 seniors at 17 high schools. Outside of work, his community efforts have included serving on the Alexander Hamilton Scholars Alumni Board, raising money for LGBT+ nonprofits with Bunnies on the Bayou, helping Hispanic entrepreneurs with BakerRipley, and helping shape more inclusive social entrepreneurship ecosystem with Impact Hub Houston.

Ivan Tamayo

Iván J Tamayo is a specialist in the Family and Community Engagement department in Aldine ISD in Houston, TX. In his role, he oversees Adult Education and ensures that parents and families in the community have options to build their capacity to participate in their children’s education. Iván describes himself as an immigrant, educator, and a proud life-long English learner who advocates for newcomers students and their families; he believes that these communities have an extraordinary heritage and culture to learn from. As an educator, he has served in different capacities, bilingual teacher, bilingual skills specialist, Assistant Principal, and is currently entering his 16th year in education. Iván was born in Cuautla Morelos México; he received his bachelor degree in accounting from the Universidad del Tepeyac in Mexico City. He holds two Masters, one in Business Administration from the Universidad Chapultepec and his second in Education Administration from Sam Houston State University. Iván is a current student at Texas A&M at Kingsville, where he is enrolled in a Doctoral Program in Bilingual Education.

Emy Tomita

Emy Tomita was born in Sao Paulo, Brazi, where her grandparents immigrated from Japan looking for a better future. She came to the United States at the age of twenty-two as an exchange student. After being exposed to Bilingual Education through her Latino friends, she decided to stay in Houston, TX, as an international student, and obtain a Master’s in Education with a focus in Bilingual Education at University of Houston-Main Campus. While a graduate student at UH, she earned a teaching fellowship on campus and volunteered in public schools to experience bilingual education in public schools. After graduation and recognition of her Brazilian teaching credentials, Emy worked as a 4th grade bilingual teacher, 5th and 6th grade resource teacher, and school librarian while advocating for her Latino and/or Special Education students for equitable service access. Currently, Emy works for Aldine Independent School District as a Bilingual District Literacy Coach supporting thirteen elementary schools and is pursuing an Ed.D in Bilingual Education in order to promote the expansion of dual language programs as a way to preserve heritage language and culture.

Jennifer Torres-Price

“Be Somebody who makes everybody feel like somebody.” (Kid President) My Goal as Principal at Eckert Elementary is to ensure every student walks out of our front doors feeling like they can conquer the world and do anything they put their mind to. I was once that same student walking the halls of Aldine schools. I attended Aldine Schools my entire educational career, from elementary school to high school. I am a proud graduate of MacArthur High School. (Go Generals!) I attended LoneStar College for 2 years and received my Associates of Science Degree. I was also a proud recipient of the Aldine Homegrown Scholarship, which allowed me to transfer to the University of Houston Main Campus and graduate with my Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. I then attended Sam Houston State University and received my Master’s Degree in Educational Administration. I have worked in Aldine since 1998 where I started at Reece Academy as a Paraprofessional. I was a teacher at Harris Academy and a Skills Specialist at Gray Elementary. I was an Assistant Principal at Goodman for 6 years and 1 year at Gray Elementary. I was fortunate to become the Principal of Carroll Elementary in August 2017. In May of 2020, I was happy to be named the new Principal at Eckert Elementary. I want students to come to school and have the BEST elementary experience through academic learning, extracurricular activities, and supportive interactions from all educators they encounter. I focus on teaching the whole child through community support, parent workshops, and student involvement throughout the school. At any Aldine Campus, you can trust that students learn, students have many experiences, and most importantly, they are loved! I am honored and proud to start this new journey at Eckert Elementary, where students SOAR ABOVE THE REST!

Juan Toscano

Mr. Toscano has 13 years of experience in the field of education and many more in leadership positions in manufacturing. He joined Aldine ISD in 2007 as a fourth-grade teacher at Magrill Elementary. During his time at Magrill, he worked as a first and fourth-grade bilingual teacher, and Skills Specialist. Mr. Toscano was selected by his peers as the Campus Teacher of the Year 2012-13. In 2015 Mr. Toscano moved to Klein ISD as a district-level Specialist for the Multilingual Department where he was part of the design team for their Two-Way Dual Language program and supported multiple campuses in their efforts to better serve their English learners. In 2019 Toscano returned to Aldine ISD as the Assistant Principal at Keeble Primary. In July 2021 Mr. Toscano was named Principal at de Santiago Primary, where he wants to continue making an important contribution to the development of our community through high quality Early Childhood instruction. Mr. Toscano received his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the Monterrey Institute of Technology. He also holds a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Texas at Tyler.

Joshua Varela

Joshua is a proud son of two diasporas, born to a Puerto Rican father and an Ashkenazi Jewish mother born and raised in New York City. Early in his life, Joshua worked as a student advocate and was a member of the panel for educational policy for the New York City dept of education in 2010. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree from University at Buffalo in 2014, Joshua worked in technology for Samsung Electronics America. Joshua created educational technology certificate programs for under-resourced communities for Samsung’s corporate responsibility division during this time. After receiving his Master’s Degree from the New School in 2017, Joshua moved to Boston and started working for BrainCo, a brain-computer interface company. As the Associate Director of strategic partnership, Joshua is a co-founder of NeuroMaker, the educational technology division of BrainCo.As a Co-founder of NeuroMaker, Joshua works with district leaders across the United States to develop STEM programs leveraging emerging technology. Technology is everywhere but does not include everyone; Joshua’s mission is to democratize STEM/CS, which calls for STEM to be accessible and equitable throughout districts.

Justin Vigil

Justin Vigil grew up in Houston, TX and graduated from Texas A&M University as a first-generation college student. After graduation from college, he became the Homeless Program Coordinator at Prevent Blindness Texas ensuring homeless individuals in Houston had access to eye exams and glasses to better their lives. Justin has a passion for educational equity to ensure students from underserved communities have access to get the education they deserve and guidance they need to live choice filled lives. Justin leads so students and families see someone who looks like him be successful every day. Justin has spent over a decade working in education at YES Prep Public Schools. Justin has led as a Registrar, Director of Campus Operations, Director of School Operations and mostly recently as the Managing Director of School Operations. Justin has a passion for ensuring that operational systems ensure excellence for schools and districts to increase student achievement outcomes. Next month, Justin will join the KIPP Colorado team as the inaugural Chief of Staff to work with the CEO and Executive Team to advance KIPP Colorado in their next phase of strategy and growth.

Adriana Solis-López, Chief Development Officer

Adriana Solís-López is the Chief Development Officer at Latinos for Education. In her role, Adriana leads the development function for the organization, including development strategy and operations, and builds partnerships to advance Latinos for Education’s mission. 

Adriana has dedicated her career to social justice work and has worked in various local and international nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area for over ten years. In these last 12 years, she has worked in organizations focused on education, youth development, immigrant rights, workforce development, peacekeeping and environmental justice. Most recently, Adriana was the Vice President of Development at College Track, a national nonprofit focusing on college access and persistence, where she led of team of mission-support and external development professionals and secured an eight-figure investment, the largest gift in the organization’s history. 

Originally from Southeast Los Angeles, Adriana is proud to come from a family of hardworking immigrant parents and a Spanish-speaking household. She is a first-generation college graduate and obtained her B.A. in History at the University of California, Berkeley. She later went on to pursue her Masters in Public Policy, with a focus on education, at Mills College. In her spare time, Adriana enjoys exploring the great outdoors with her family. 

Sandra Rodriguez, Advocacy Director, Greater Houston

Sandra Rodríguez is the Advocacy Director at Latinos for Education where she leads the organization’s efforts to elevate Latino voices in decision making to increase educational outcomes. She previously served in the Houston Mayor’s Anti-Gang Office and Houston Health Department overseeing program planning.  

Her experience connecting community members to critical resources drives her work outside of the office. She obtained her bachelor’s from Springfield College School of Human Services as a single mother and currently serves as the President of the Gulfton Super Neighborhood Council, is a Fellow of the American Leadership Forum Class XLVIII, and is a member of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. 

Armando X. Orduña, Ed.D., Managing Director of Programs and Partnerships, Houston

Armando X. Orduña, Ed.D. is a career educator with over 23 years’ experience in the K-12 field in both formal and informal educational settings. His background is anchored in the intersectionality of STEAM access for immigrant-origin youth & families and the role practical STEAM learning plays in foreign language acquisition. He previously served as Director of Outreach Programs for Children’s Museum Houston where he led a department of educators in the export of multilingual family and Out-of-School Learning throughout Greater Houston. Prior to this, he served as a secondary Science teacher in urban, Title I public schools.

A list of his professional appointments include inaugural Houston board fellow with Latinos for Education; board member of Connect Community—Purpose Built Communities, a Houston nonprofit focused on serving the unique needs of immigrant and refugee families; board president of the Emmy Saenz Foundation, a Texas nonprofit providing material support to Spinal Cord Injury survivors; inaugural member of the Teacher Advisory Council for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; curriculum writer for Twin Cities Public Television, and board member of the East Education Project. In 2012, Armando received the Commitment to Excellence Award, President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. 

Ciro Valiente, Marketing Manager

Ciro Valiente is the Manager of Marketing and Communications at Latinos for Education, where he brings over 10 years of experience in communications, video production, broadcasting and marketing. He was previously News Producer at Telemundo New England, where he won two New England Emmy Awards, becoming the first Latino to win for Outstanding Live News Producer.  

Since arriving in the United States in 2014, Ciro has worked for multiple media outlets in Boston and Washington, D.C., and has served as a game broadcaster for the Boston Red Sox Spanish Network on over 50 games.  

In July 2017, he became the youngest member of the Board of Directors of First Literacy, a non-profit organization founded in 1988 by a group of corporate and community leaders, including former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn and former Boston Globe publisher William O. Taylor. In over 33 years, First Literacy has helped over 45,000 adults to improve their lives through education. 

Originally from Venezuela, he earned a BS in Mass Media & Communications from the Universidad Santa María in Caracas. Ciro lives in Massachusetts with his spouse and two daughters. As a proud Venezuelan immigrant, he is passionate about working hard to help Latinos to build a better future for them and their families. 

Victoria Torres, Advocacy Organizer, Massachusetts

Victoria Torres is the Policy and Advocacy Assistant for the New England region at Latinos for Education. She holds a BS in Political Communications and a BA in Writing, Literature and Publishing from Emerson College where she conducted research on digital organizing, and political rhetoric. While at Emerson, Victoria served as the Communications Manager of the Emerson Engagement Lab—a research-based design lab focused on improving civic engagement through media and technology—and completed The Washington Center program, where she interned at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Washington, DC. Victoria got her start in organizing as a Policy Fellow in the Office of State Representative Juana Matias and a Communications Fellow for the Setti Warren for Governor campaign. 

Victoria’s experiences as a first-generation Venezuelan immigrant led her to her work in policy and media, allowing her to see first-hand the power that rhetoric and mobilization could have on social movements. She is passionate about equipping individuals and communities with the tools to participate in the political process, as well as the intersections between media, technology and civic engagement. 

Carla Rivera-Cruz, Director of Alumni and Network Engagement


Carla Rivera-Cruz is the Director of Alumni and Network Engagement at Latinos for Education. Carla began her work in the K-16 ecosystem as a substitute teacher, which is when her passion for education as a social justice movement was sparked. Since then, she has dedicated nearly two decades to supporting students and educators.  

Most recently, Carla led a team of Success Coaches for ReUp Education, an organization dedicated to supporting adults in completing their college degrees. Prior to that, she served as an elected member of the Creighton Elementary School District in Phoenix, Arizona, the owner of a K-12 education consulting company, an instructional coach with Teach For America, and a Quality Schools Trainer with the Arizona Charter Schools Association. She also has experience teaching Spanish and Social Entrepreneurship. 

Her father served in the United States Air Force, making her early childhood a multi-cultural journey beginning in Spain, making stops in Upstate New York and Panamá, and eventually settling in the state of Florida. There, she earned a BS in Psychology from the University of Florida and an MS in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Central Florida, graduating with honors from both institutions. She is also a Teach For America alumna (D.C. Region, 2011). As a proud Puerto Rican who owes her success to countless mentors who believed in her potential, she is passionate about being able to pay it forward to her community through her work.