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.

Connecting Social Justice to our Economic Future

Connecting Social Justice to our Economic Future PART III: Being Latino and Working in Education Today Interview By: R.D. Leyva

Teaching About Our History Can Create a More Equitable Future

Teaching About Our History Can Create a More Equitable Future PART II: Being Latino and Working in Education Today Interview By:

What It Means to be Latino and Working in Education Today: Part I

What It Means to be Latino and Working in Education Today: Part I Interview by R.D. Leyva Today marks the beginning

R.D. Leyva, Director of National Engagement

R.D. Leyva serves as the Director of National Engagement at Latinos for Education where he connects Latinos to professional development opportunities and leads communications and marketing. Prior to this role, he served as Director of Diversity and Leadership at Teach For America, where he supported the organization’s corps members and alumni of color across the country. He was responsible for building and developing a strong regional presence of alumni through their involvement with The Collective, Teach For America’s Alumni of Color Association. R.D. led efforts to create regional alumni advisory Collective boards in 32 regions across the country. He also supported national initiatives, including corps member and alumni summits and the annual School Leaders of Color Conference.  

R.D. began his professional career as a middle school math teacher in West Philadelphia while earning his teaching certification at The University of Pennsylvania. He is a native Texan and holds a B.S. in Interpersonal Communications from The University of Texas at Austin. He is also a graduate of the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Leaders Program and an inaugural Pahara-Aspen NextGen Fellow. As a proud Mexican and first-generation college graduate, R.D. is passionate about supporting an inclusive community of Latino leaders from diverse backgrounds.

Amanda Fernández, Founder/CEO

Amanda has 25 years of experience in the areas of recruiting, diversity, organization development, change management, strategic planning and Latino community relations. Prior to this, she was the Vice President of Latino Community Partnerships at Teach For America, where she developed relationships with national Latino serving organizations to advance recruitment of Latino teachers and support Latino alumni. Amanda was a Director at The Bridgespan Group where she served as an organizational consultant to youth and education clients in support of their strategic planning efforts. She also spent seven years at Deloitte, an international professional services firm, where she focused on human capital consulting projects and diversity program management for Deloitte staff nationally. Over the course of her professional career, Amanda has been a frequent speaker at conferences and events. She is a blogger on Huffington Post Latino Voices, a Senior Fellow at FutureEd, and she has been featured in Poder Magazine’s list of movers and shakers. In 2017, Amanda was appointed to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Achieve Mission and Roxbury Community College, as well as the advisory board for RISE Colorado and Innovare Social Innovation Partners. El Planeta named her one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in Massachusetts. Amanda holds an M.S. from Fordham University and lives in the Boston area with her spouse and two children.



Daniel Velasco, Vice President of Strategy and Programs

Dr. Daniel Velasco brings 12 years of experience in education, entrepreneurship, fundraising, and strategy. He spent five years at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education as founding Boston Executive Director and most recently as Regional Director overseeing turnaround at 14 schools across the northeast in the largest randomized control trial of secondary school reform in American history (Diplomas Now i3 Study). Dr. Velasco is program faculty at Harvard’s School Turnaround Leadership program since 2013. He started as a dual-immersion teacher with Teach For America and consulted on issues ranging from evaluation policy at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education to network learning and development at The Achievement Network. He’s served on various boards, including the TFA-New York Junior Board and the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Alumni Council. Dr. Velasco was honored in 2016 by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in recognition for national service. 

Originally from Peru, he was raised in Venezuela and came to the U.S. as a teenager. He earned a BA with Honors in Political Science from the University of Central Florida and is a graduate of the ICN Business School in France. He holds master’s degrees in Education Policy and Management from Harvard and in International Development and Social Change from Clark University. He earned multiple executive certifications including Strategic Planning and Scaling for Impact from Harvard Business School and Persuasive Communication from Johns Hopkins University. He holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Entrepreneurship from JHU with an emphasis on Human Capital Development.

Andy Canales, Executive Director of Greater Houston

Andy Canales is the Executive Director, Greater Houston at Latinos for Education. Previously, Andy led the Center for Social Measurement and Evaluation at Children at Risk, a statewide children’s research and advocacy organization in Texas. Before moving to Houston, Andy served as a founding director of the Commit Partnership in Dallas, the region’s collective impact organization, where he led the flagship initiative to improve early literacy outcomes for over low-income 8,000 children. Beforehand, Andy worked in corporate philanthropy and as a teacher in high-need communities in NYC and in Miami as a Teach For America corps member. 

Andy is a Harris County Leadership ISD Fellow and serves on the board of multiple organizations making a difference in the community. Andy holds a dual B.A. in Political Science and Religion from Pepperdine University and a Master’s of Science in Education from Hunter College. As the son of Salvadoran immigrants and the first one in his family to graduate from college, Andy is passionate about expanding educational equity.

José Coló, Director of Greater Boston Programs

José Coló serves as the Director of Greater Boston Programs at Latinos for Education where he oversees the planning and execution of local programs and services. José is a native of Oaxaca, Mexico. He received his B.A. in Political Science and Spanish Literature from Loyola Marymount and his Ed.M in International Education Policy from Harvard University.

José’s professional experiences as an educator began as a high school teacher in a high needs public school in West Side of Chicago, later serving as Dean of Instruction at Uplift Education High School in North Texas.

José has served as a leader in a number of non-profit organizations, including his role as Educational Director at the National Hispanic Institute. José joined the Latinos for Education team after working with the Boston Debate League where he designed curriculum to make policy more accessible for middle and high school students and teachers. 

Samantha Ader, Chief of Staff

Samantha Ader serves as Latinos for Education’s Chief of Staff. In this role, she manages the growing team’s internal operations for the organization to effectively work toward their mission. Samantha brings almost 10 years of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising and marketing. 

Prior to joining Latinos for Education, as Director of Development at Teach For America – South Carolina, she led private sector fundraising and co-led marketing and communications efforts to build the organization’s brand across the state of South Carolina. Additionally, Samantha helped launch InnovateSC, the organization’s initiative to bring greater access to quality STEM education for students in high-need schools. She has held professional roles with United Way and served as Assistant Director of Annual Giving at Butler University.  

She graduated from Indiana University as a Hudson and Holland Scholar and holds her B.A. in Communication and Culture. Samantha currently resides near Chicago, IL with her partner and daughter. As the granddaughter of Cuban immigrants, she is driven by her belief in the power of education and works to ensure all children have equitable access to high-quality educational opportunities.

Johana Muriel Grajales, Director of Greater Boston

Johana Muriel Grajales serves as the Director of Greater Boston at Latinos for Education. In this role, she ensures more Latino leaders are committed to help closing the education gaps facing the Latino community and garner the skills and connections necessary to fast-track their impact and leadership in the sector.  

Prior to Latinos for Education Johana spent six years at City Year where she worked on several 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 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. She 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.  

Johana’s career has been driven by the belief that if every person is given access to the supports and resources to fulfil their potential, we will be able to address the complex and diverse issues we face as a society.

Sylvia Zelaya, Manager of Greater Boston

Sylvia Zelaya is the Manager of Greater Boston. She joined Latinos for Education after working at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard for over 8 years. She was the outreach manager for the Strategic Data Project (SDP) Fellowship, where she managed and executed the recruitment and placement of SDP Data Fellows for partner agencies. Sylvia expanded the fellowship alumni network to develop long-lasting relationships with colleges, universities, nonprofits, and other leaders in the education sector. Prior to her outreach work, Sylvia also coordinated the data collection for several research projects on the topic of teacher effectiveness. She trained site coordinators on the effective administration of student surveys and student assessments. She also co-wrote a chapter on student data privacy for a video observation guide for teachers.   

Prior to this role, Sylvia served as a corps member with City Year New York where her work focused on supporting literacy-based in-school and after-school programs, youth leadership, and community transformation of the PS 57 school community in East Harlem. Sylvia earned a bachelor’s degree in Writing from Ithaca College and a master’s in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Sylvia was born and raised in the Bronx to proud Colombian parents and is passionate about learning, adult education, and educational equity for all.