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R.D. Leyva serves as the Vice President, Program Operations & Strategy at Latinos for Education. 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 oneTILT. 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 is the CEO and Founder of Latinos for Education, the first Latino-founded and led national organization dedicated to developing, placing, and connecting essential Latino leadership in the education sector, while mobilizing Latino voices to promote practices and policies that remove barriers to equitable educational opportunity. Under her leadership, the organization has grown from a Boston-based nonprofit to a national leader on education policy, advocacy and leadership development with a presence from coast to coast.
In 2023 she was appointed to serve on the Massachusetts Governor’s Latino Empowerment Council which will advise on strategies to expand economic opportunities for and improve the overall wellbeing of Massachusetts’ Latino community. Prior to this appointment, she served on the Governor’s transition team as the co-chair of the thriving youth and young adults committee.
Amanda previously served as a Trustee of the Board with the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. She is a 2020 recipient of the McNulty Prize Catalyst Fund and a Senior Fellow at FutureEd. Amanda has over 25 years of experience in the areas of recruiting, diversity, organization development, change management, strategic planning, and Latino community relations.
Samantha Ader serves as Latinos for Education’s Managing Director of People & Organization Effectiveness. 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.
Dr. Rick Rodriguez is the Managing Director of Programs & Alumni, where he leads program strategy, design, and implementation of efforts focused on expanding learning opportunities and leadership capacity for Latinos for Education’s network.
Prior to this role, he led efforts with Houston ISD, the largest district in Texas, where he launched multiple district-wide initiatives focused on building a “Grow Your Own” approach to diversifying teacher pipelines and ensuring the workforce best reflects students being served. These efforts have incorporated collaborative approaches to education strategies that center on the needs of students and families while engaging necessary internal and external stakeholders in the process.
As a first-generation Mexican-American, Rick acknowledges the challenges that our Latino students face in education. Barriers to success have further fueled his mission to ensure that the work is laser-focused on removing such education barriers for others. Rick is a strong believer in Latinos for Education’s “Work Con Ganas” value and is determined to lead efforts that bring about equitable education practices for students.
Rick is a graduate of United Way’s Project BluePrint, Leadership ISD’s Civic Voices Fellowship, and Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Emerging Leaders Institute. He currently serves as a member of Houston ISD’s District Advisory Committee. He holds a B.A. in Sociology from Texas A&M University – San Antonio, an M.S. in Human Resource Development, and an Ed.D in Professional Leadership K-12 from the University of Houston.
Claudia Ruiz is the Manager, Program Operations. Before making her way to Latinos for Education, Claudia was an Operations Specialist with YES Prep Public Schools driving operational efficiencies across the system. Prior to this Claudia was attending Bryn Mawr College where she earned a full-tuition scholarship to attend through the POSSE Foundation. While her time at Bryn Mawr, she was given the opportunity to conduct her own research on the role of college access programs in the college decision process decision for Latino students ultimately igniting her passion for educational advocacy work. Outside of her role with Latinos for Education, Claudia volunteers her time serving on the YES Prep Alumni Association Board and a DAP Volunteer with the POSSE Foundation. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and Mathematics from Bryn Mawr College.
As a second-generation Mexican American college graduate whose life has been shaped by the matriarch of the family, her grandmother, Claudia understands the barriers that have been overcome to get her here. Cognizant of the barriers to access an equitable education, Claudia is passionate about access to financial and digital literacy, especially for Latino students and families. Claudia’s favorite Latinos for Education value is “Rise as a Collective” because she strongly believes in the power of nuestra comunidad and that when we work together our community is a force to be reckoned with.
Elvis Jocol Lara is the Managing Director of National Marketing and Communications at Latinos for Education, the first Latino founded and led national organization solely dedicated to creating leadership pathways for emerging Latino education leaders and diversifying education nonprofit boards. He is also the Founder and President of Casa Guatemala, a cultural and educational non-profit organization serving the Latino community of Waltham, MA.
An experienced marketing professional, he brings a proven record of brand building and media success. Previously he served as Vice President of Digital Media at El Mundo Boston where he launched the Latino 30 under 30, a first of its kind multimedia initiative that honors Boston’s most influential young Latino leaders.
Previously he served as a Manager in Consumer and Market Knowledge at Procter and Gamble under the Gillette Brand. There he led the brand’s Hispanic and African American Consumer research.
In 2016 he received a Gold Award for Best Travel Section by the National Association of Hispanic Publications for his Travel Blog to Mexico City as part of the NBA Global Games. He has also been recognized for his service to the community by the Guatemalan Association of Massachusetts and received an official resolution from the office of the Mayor of Boston. He is a 2009 graduate of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and holds a bachelor’s degree in Management. A proud father and son of Guatemalan immigrants, Elvis strives to build a better future and greater opportunities for Latinx children across the country.
Manny Cruz is the Senior Policy Fellow at Latinos for Education where he previously served as the Massachusetts Advocacy Director from 2020-2022 and led the organization’s efforts to close the digital divide, scale up early college and was the senior policy advisor to the Educator Diversity Act Coalition. He is a public servant, entrepreneur, and community leader in the city of Salem and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Upon graduating from the Salem Public Schools, he attended Salem State University where he studied political science and later transferred to Northeastern University where completed his studies and graduated cum laude. Manny previously served as the legislative aide for former State Representative Juana Matias (D, Lawrence) where he specialized in education and immigration policy. Throughout his service in Representative Matias office, he also worked on constituent service related to housing, mass health, legal services, and provided emergency response to Merrimack Valley Columbia Gas Leaks.
In 2017, Manny became an elected member of the Salem School Committee where he now serves the students and families of the Salem Public School District. Manny is the first Afro-Latino of Dominican descent to serve on the Salem School Committee. He has been appointed to the Personnel, Policy, and Building and Grounds subcommittees, and also serves as the school committee’s liaison on student voice. His previous government and non-profit experience include serving as the Chair of the Governor’s Statewide Youth Council, a National Park Service Park Ranger at Salem Maritime National Historic Park, and co-ops at the Attorney General’s Office and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. On his personal time, Manny is a mentor for youth and is highly involved with youth-serving organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem and LEAP for Education. In 2019 Manny joined the Office of State Representative Paul F. Tucker (Vice-Chair, Salem), where he continued to build his policy expertise in the areas of Education and Immigration, and advanced key strategic initiatives in the city of Salem.
In 2022, he successfully campaigned in a 3-way democratic primary to join the Massachusetts House of Representatives and was elected as the first Afro-Latino State Representative for the 7th Essex District-Salem.
Karen Maldonado serves as Chief Program and Innovation Officer (CPIO) for Latinos for Education, the first Latino-founded and led national organization dedicated to creating pathways for Latinos in education. As CPIO, Karen directs and guides the overall vision, strategy, design, and evolution of all program areas nationally—and provides leadership around K-16 partnerships, fundraising, budget-setting, and organizational strategy.
Prior to serving as CPIO, Karen was Director of Education Reform for the Financial Oversight and Management Board of Puerto Rico (FOMB). Her role was to ensure the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) worked to implement system-wide best practices across every public school on the island. Karen’s work provided a transformation roadmap for better K-12 student outcomes, greater workforce participation and productivity. In April 2022, Karen launched the inaugural cohort of the Puerto Rico Education Leadership Development Program (PRELDP)—a collaborative learning opportunity, to support the improvement of the PRDE’s ability to develop action needed reform, particularly at the mid-career level.
Karen also served as an Executive Director for the New York City Department of Education; her most memorable experience was serving as founding principal of the first bilingual secondary school (English/Spanish for grades 6-12) in The Bronx, New York. Karen is a graduate of the inaugural cohort of Harvard’s Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) program, Fordham University (MS), City of New York at Hunter College (MA) and the State University of New York at Binghamton University (BA). She currently lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Rafael Reyes Orona serves as Latinos for Education’s Manager of Operations. In this role, he supports the Director of Operations in managing Latinos for Education’s national internal operations to ensure the organization is effectively working toward its mission. He is also a sitting member on Governor Polis’ HB19-1192 Commission, where he hopes to make recommendations for teaching and content standards that include the history, culture, and social contributions of Native Americans, Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, and LGBTQ+ individuals within these groups.
Prior to joining Latinos for Education, Rafael was the Manager of Operations and Partnerships at Climb Higher Colorado, where he focused on facilitating collaboration between policymakers, advocacy groups, education institutions, educators, and families, and students that resulted in collaborative, adaptive, and community-centered solutions to Colorado’s complex education challenges.
Rafael holds a B.A. in American Studies from Wesleyan University, where he focused his studies on the political, economic, and social history of North, Central, and South America and the implications that it has had and continues to have on current human relations, motivations, interactions, and politics.
Born and raised in Denver to a single, immigrant mother, he navigated both Denver Public Schools and private schools in Colorado and quickly became aware of the opportunity gap that exists between these two worlds. This has impassioned him to work hard and make sure that every student has all the resources, support, and education needed to achieve success–race, ethnicity, economic class, zip code, and opportunity notwithstanding.
Katie Caster is the Manager of Curriculum and Evaluation at Latinos for Education. She previously participated in Latinos for Education’s Aspiring Latino Leaders Fellowship from 2019-2020. Prior to joining Latinos for Education Katie was an urban educator with over fourteen years of experience in Special Education, STEAM and English as a Second Language (ESL). She has taught in a variety of districts including Los Angeles Unified (LAUSD), and Boston Public Schools. Besides being a classroom teacher, Katie has also been a special education coordinator for the Eliot Pearson Children’s School at Tufts University.
Katie currently holds a B.A. from Emerson College, in Writing, Literature and Publishing, and a Master’s degree in Special Education from California State Dominguez Hills. Additionally, she holds an Ed.S or Education Specialist degree from Bay Path University. Currently, she is a PhD Student and Instructor at Teachers College, Columbia University where her focus is on English Education and supporting pre-service and in-service teachers.
Katie was adopted from El Salvador and believes in leading with her identity, especially as it relates to challenging existing narratives around what it means to be an educator. She is also passionate on advancing efforts in areas of culturally responsive practice, and the recruitment and retention of educators of color.
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!
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 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 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 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 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.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 was born in Houston, Texas and currently works at the Arabic Immersion Magnet School as a Math Interventionist. Sergio attended Auburn University on a full scholarship where he discovered a passion for public policy and education; here he learned how to advocate for and connect immigrant families to government, legal, and educational resources. In 2014 he graduated from the Honors College at Auburn with a degree in Political Science with minors in Economics and Business. The son of two public-school educators, Sergio was inspired to join Teach for America in his hometown to support the growing communities of color there. He started his career at 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 Math Lead, Classroom Culture Model Teacher, and won a grant by the National Wildlife Federation to start the school’s first campus garden. Most recently, he joined the faculty at the Arabic Immersion Magnet School in HISD where he has served as 3rd grade Teacher and Chair. Soon, Sergio hopes to continue his education, connect with other leaders, and run for local office to do his part to close the achievement gap. Like his family, he believes that a greater education leads to greater opportunity and an ability to collectively respond to injustice.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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, 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 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.
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 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 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 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 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 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.
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 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 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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
“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!
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 is a proud son of two diasporas, born to a Puerto Rican father and an Ashkenazi Jewish mother raised in New York City. Early in his life, Joshua worked as a student advocate and was a member of the New York City Department of Education panel for educational policy in 2010. Joshua is a first-generation equal opportunity student receiving his Bachelor’s Degree from University at Buffalo. Joshua then went on to receive his Masters’s Degree in International Affairs from the New School in 2017.
Joshua went on to work for Samsung Electronics America. He created educational technology certificate programs for under-resourced communities for Samsung’s corporate responsibility division. Joshua then joined BrainCo, a brain-machine interface technology company. As the Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships, Joshua is a co-founding team member of NeuroMaker, the educational division of BrainCo. In addition, Joshua works directly with district leaders across the Eastern United States to develop STEM programs leveraging emerging technology. Joshua’s mission is to democratize STEM/CTE/CS, which calls for these solutions to be accessible, equitable, and inclusive throughout the country.
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 Solís-López is the Chief External Affairs 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 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. 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 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 is the Manager of Advocacy & Organizing, Massachusetts 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.
Shirley Cardona is a marketing executive with experience across consumer goods, travel and tourism, and edtech SaaS. She is currently Vice President of Marketing at Ellevation Education. Ellevation, now part of the Curriculum Associates family, is an edtech company that seeks to improve English Learner outcomes via web-based tools that help educators enhance instruction, improve collaboration, and increase productivity. A first-generation college grad who witnessed the power of education in her own life, Shirley is fiercely passionate about providing equitable learning opportunities that help all students reach their highest aspirations. Prior to Ellevation, Shirley led Brand and Digital Marketing at Curriculum Associates and served as Vice President at EF Go Ahead Tours and Tours for Girls Scouts. Shirley started her marketing career in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble. Shirley holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a B.A. in Sociology and Romance Languages from Harvard University. She has served as President of the Harvard Business School Latino Alumni Association and the Harvard Latino Alumni Alliance, which play a pivotal role in connecting alumni, current students, prospective students, and the administration to ensure that issues of relevance to the Latino community are at the forefront of the university’s agenda. She also currently serves as a director on the Harvard Business School Global Alumni and Harvard Alumni Association boards.
As an Associate Program Director for Raising A Reader Massachusetts (RAR-MA), Tasha Espéndez enjoys exchanging with families interactive storytelling practices to develop early literacy skills for kindergarten readiness. Prior to RAR-MA, Tasha was employed as a Project Manager for a retail loss prevention company. Tasha brings to the Latino Board Fellowship, years of cumulative experience in project/portfolio management, early literacy development, customer service, and community organizing. The foundation of college preparation from Upward Bound, Communication and Culture from Clark University and Transforming communities from American University and volunteering for Lawrence Communityworks led to an overall passion for social change with a focus of empowering families, promoting values based HR practices in the workforce and connecting neighbors in under-resourced communities. Some of her education related titles include Qniversity Fellow, Neighbor Circles Facilitation Trainer, ESL Adult Education Instructor, 3rd-5th grade Special Ed Paraprofessional, College Spanish Tutor and TRIO Youth Leader. Through her efforts with RAR-MA initiatives in the communities of Merrimack Valley, she was awarded by local congress the 2017 Unsung Heroine of Massachusetts Award and more recently she was one of the recipients from the Instituto Cultural de Puerto Rico Inc., of the 2021 Puerto Rican Pride Excellence Award. Tasha is excited to learn with her LBF peers on how to be an effective agent for change and to put in practice the learnings to elevate and increase retention of Latinx voices in educational leadership roles.
Brian Iveli González is a Mexican-American professional living in Boston who is currently the Vice President of Marketing at Sigo Seguros—an inclusive auto insurance company focused on providing affordable coverage for the Spanish-speaking community in Texas. For the past decade they have helped lead the growth, PR, and branding of emerging brands across Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the US. They earned their M.M. in opera performance from the Longy School of Music of Bard College,and a B.S. in vocal performance and an A.S. in graphic design from Southern Adventist University. Gonzalez is a passionate advocate and activist for LTBTQ+ and Latinx issues. In 2020 they launched the first-ever LGBTQ+ initiative for the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) at the local and national level, since then they have been serving as the Director for ALPFA Pride at the Boston chapter. In recognition for their work around LGBTQ+ Latinx professionals, they were awarded several recognitions including the 2021 Hispanic Business Leader Inclusivity Award, and the 2021 ALPFA Pride Award. They also represented the New England area Mexican Consulate at the 2021 Meeting for Mexican LGBTQ+ Communities Abroad hosted by the Mexican Government’s International Affairs department. Gonzalez is also an accomplished opera singer who has been praised for their vocal power and acting. Throughout their career they have premiered several roles including the world-premiere of Eugene in the Last Call with NANOWorks Opera, an LGBTQ+ themed opera, and the New England premiere of The Seagull as Medvedenko. Other major roles include Frederic from The Pirates of Penzance, and Alidoro from Orontea. As a first-generation college graduate, Gonzalez understands first hands the challenges and difficulties that face many students. They are excited to join the Latinos for Education Board Fellowship in order to help remove barriers, be a voice of change, and uplift our community.
Carlos is a financial services professional with experience in different fields such as, operations management, banking, trust operations and non-profit. He currently works as a Trade Settlement Specialist in the Trust & Estate Planning department at Nixon Peabody where he’s part of the back office team that handles Wealth management operations for high net worth clients. Carlos, is originally from El Salvador, whose family migrated to the United States in search of the so called “American Dream”. He is a big advocate for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion work and cares deeply for empowerment opportunities in our community, especially those underrepresent, POC communities. Carlos currently serves as the Director of Student Affairs for ALPFA Boston where he focuses on creating career development opportunities for Latinx student in the area and assisting all of our student chapters with their strategies. In addition, Carlos is a Certified Career Coach, a Northeastern university graduate and alumni of 2019 Aspiring Latino Leader Fellowship.
Benjamin Cabrera is currently the Math Director for the North Andover Public Schools in Massachusetts. Benjamin brings a decade of experience in education, beginning his teaching career in high school and middle school math classrooms before transitioning to a Professional Development Consulting role for Curriculum Associates, where he facilitated professional development for teachers all over the country. Benjamin has a masters degree in secondary education and a bachelors in Industrial Engineering. As a beneficiary of philanthropy, Benjamin and his family have begun to pay that gift forward by starting the “Cabrera Scholarship”; a scholarship directed at supporting BIPOC students who are searching for post-secondary financial assistance. Benjamin credits his success to the strength of his support systems and he aspires to build off the opportunities he has been granted to create more opportunities for all children to find their vision of success. A lifelong believer in the power of education to be one of the great equalizers of our society, Benjamin hopes to collaborate with like-minded colleagues as he expands his knowledge of the systems that create education structures in order to bring a voice of equity and a heart of inclusion into the evolution of America’s classrooms.
Gabriela serves as the President of the Equal Pay Group, a strategy consulting firm with core competencies in pay equity, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and talent management. As a dedicated advocate of equity and employment change, Gabriela has worked for various organizations, providing support in human resource management and development, workforce development, recruitment, data analysis, and operations management. Having worked for the third-largest staffing agency in the country, Gabriela has keen insight on the impact of organizational policies, compensation, and diversity as it relates to achieving an organization’s intended goals and objectives. Gabriela received her BA in Neuroscience from Emmanuel College as well as her Certification in Compensation Analysis through the Compensation Analyst Academy. She is a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Fellow at the D’Amore McKim School of Business at Northeastern University proactively seeking a Master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with a concentration in Human Resource: Corporate Renewal. Through the Latino Board Fellowship, she hopes to bring her experience partnering with school and business leaders to develop policies and practices that create a standard for diversity and equity.
Claudia Urrea is the Senior Associate Director for pK-12 at the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL). Claudia was born in Colombia, where she received an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from EAFIT University. In 1994, she joined MIT as a visiting research engineer at the Center for Educational Computing Initiatives and later as one of the last doctoral students of Seymour Papert. Claudia received her master’s degree in Educational Media and Technology from Boston University, and her doctorate degree from the MIT Media Laboratory. Her Ph.D. thesis studied the implications of one-to-one learning in a rural setting in Costa Rica. Claudia Urrea worked at the Interamerican Development Bank as a consultant in the education sector, and at One Laptop Per Child organization as Director of Learning. During the last five years, she has worked in different initiatives such as The Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education, The MIT Online Education Policy Initiative, and the MIT pK-12 Action Group and founded a STEAM camp (MIT’s learning approach to middle schools students and teachers in Hong Kong). For the past 25 years, Dr. Urrea has helped multiple governments and non-government agencies-to empower and support schools and communities of learners to evolve from traditional teaching methods into progressive learning environments.
Maria Vega-Viera is a beacon of light for her community. Her current progressive role at Lynn Community Health Care as a Practice Transformation Improvement Specialist, Coding Improvement Specialist, and onsite mentor for stakeholders in the healthcare industry, has allowed her to live her mission. Maria’s continued focus to tell the community story and fight for patients’ rights has been demonstrated during the past 20 years within the healthcare industry and it now carries forwarded demonstrated in her current roles as Co-Vice Chair and alumni from North Shore Community College and by serving the past 5 years as a Board Alumni Trustee. In addition, she also serves Lynn Hispanic Scholarship Fund as a current Board member providing strategic guidance and structure. As an active participant and mother of 4 young adults in her local community, she brings awareness to the front level where it is often missed in her diverse community. The light she shines is to make sure her community stays connected to the current issues and supports pathways to bridge the gaps of information. Maria strives for equity begins at an early age. Like many of you, her resources and access points were limited because they were not known. In 2016, she obtained a dual Associate’s degree in Business Management and Accounting from North Shore Community College followed by her Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration in 2020. She is currently focused on obtaining her Master of Science in Public Administration where she aims to continue to demonstrate that all is possible. Her desire to make sure the most underserved are treated with dignity and respect has pushed her to focus on self-improvement to be able to be the influencing voice for transparent action and meaningful change. .
Alicia Baturoni Cortez is a career STEM educator with 26 years experience creating engaging learning opportunities for students of all ages. All her professional experiences from Michigan public school teacher, to non-profit professional development provider, to NASA Education Programs Specialist have been dedicated to lighting a spark in students and educators. She uses the excitement of human spaceflight to inspire learners to be curious and pursue their passions. Alicia’s role in the Office of STEM Engagement at NASA Headquarters is to connect students and educators to the next era of human exploration as NASA works to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon to prepare for missions to Mars. She lives in Houston, TX with her husband and two sons..
Dr. Michelle Cantu-Wilson, Director of Teaching & Learning Initiatives and Special Projects at San Jacinto College, works as the district liaison to external partners in education. She is passionate student advocate who also served as a professor at San Jac. In this role, she worked collaboratively to create the San Jac 1st Gen mentoring program, a student athlete mentoring program, and Mosaic – a mentoring and bridge program for African American and Black-identifying students. Michelle also worked with colleagues to create the first college-wide autism awareness training for faculty and staff. Along with Dr. Daniel Villanueva from the University of Houston-Downtown, Michelle created and hosts Latinx Learners, a podcast which highlights first generation Latinx issues experienced by both students and professionals in higher education. Michelle is also a regular guest host for the EdUP Experience podcast along with Dr. Ed Sallustio. Previously, Michelle was a junior high campus administrator and teacher for Pasadena ISD for ten years. Michelle is the president-elect for the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education’s Gulf Coast Region. She holds a Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, a Master of Education degree from the University of Houston, a Bachelor of Arts in English degree from the University of Houston, and an Associate of Arts degree from Ranger College. Michelle is from Brownsville, Texas and was raised by her grandmother, Amelia. She is married to Brock, a musician, maker, and educator and has three children, Emma, Ava, and Easton.
Paola Gonzalez Fusilier is a first generation child of Mexican immigrants. From a very young age, her mother emphasized the power of of education the great equalizer and door to opportunity for her children. Paola is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas, BA in Communications and Philosophy and Dallas Theological Seminary, MA in Counseling. Paola is a licensed mental health professional who has dedicated her life and career to improving the lives of children and their families. Paola is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist at Clearhope Counseling and Wellness, the largest mental health provider in Pasadena. She is a trauma therapist, conference speaker, mental health professionals trainer, and coach. Over her career, she has served in various domestic violence agencies, community education organizations and non-profits in volunteer, administrative and clinical roles. Paola is married to Johnny and they have five children. As an adoptive mother, Paola is an advocate for adoption and foster care. Paola is an elected official in Harris County on the Pasadena Independent School District School Board. Pasadena ISD is one of the largest school districts in Texas with over 80% Latino students. Paola’s life experiences have allowed her a unique perspective on systemic inequities and challenges that many in her community face daily. She is passionate about healing, change, and growth for children, families and systems. Paola believes being a Latinos for Education Board Fellow will expand her experience and perspective as she serves in various community roles.
Ruth M. López, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies in the College of Education at the University of Houston. She earned a PhD in Educational Foundations, Policy, and Practice at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder) in 2015. She was previously a Senior Research Associate at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. Her research centers on examining the educational experiences, opportunities, and outcomes of students of color along the P-20 pipeline—specifically focusing on Latinx and immigrant students. In 2019, she was selected as a Faculty Fellow for the Association of Hispanics in Higher Education, and in 2021, she earned the University of Houston Teaching Excellence Award. Her work is informed by her lived experiences as the daughter of immigrants from El Salvador and Mexico, and from being a first-generation college graduate. She is also a mother and has two children. She is a volunteer at their dual language elementary school in the East End of Houston, Burnet Elementary. She decided to join the Latino Board Fellowship because she wants to contribute to educational nonprofits in a deep and transformative way. By becoming a board member in the future, she hopes she can expand the ways she contributes to the Latinx community. She also believes it important it is to be at the table and represent the perspectives of the communities that many educational nonprofits seek to serve.
Isabella Maldonado was born in New York City and raised in Brentwood, New York. Isabella is a first-generation college graduate and is passionate about improving educational outcomes in underserved communities. Isabella currently works for the Texas Education Agency as a Project Specialist, supporting district leaders in improving student outcomes across the state of Texas. She began her teaching career in Baltimore City Public Schools, and over the course of 15 years taught middle and high school Spanish in public, charter, and independent schools in Maryland, New York, and Texas. Motivated to extend her impact, Isabella began taking on leadership roles, including Technology Coach, Department Chair, Curriculum Coordinator, Instructional Coach, and DEIA and Hiring Committee Member before moving fully out of the classroom to work on teacher development and evaluation for YES Prep, KIPP Texas, and Southwest Schools. She was also an Adjunct Instructor for the Johns Hopkins University School of Education Master of Science in Education program. Isabella received her BA in Psychology and Spanish from Johns Hopkins University, and her MA in Teaching from Stony Brook University. Isabella applied to the Latinos for Education Board Fellowship because there are not enough people making decisions in education who share a culture, language, and identity with the communities they serve. She wants to help ensure that decisions are made with stakeholders, not for them. Outside of work, Isabella is a Zumba Instructor, loves to travel, and has a very inquisitive toddler. Isabella and her family live in the Houston area.
Amira Plascencia is currently a technical translator at Shell in Houston, Texas. Previously, she worked as a freelance translator for several organizations in the United States, Canada, and Latin America. Also, she has worked in academia as a professor of Translation Studies and Spanish Language. Amira has a Ph.D. in Spanish Language from the University of Houston, a Master’s in Latin American Literature from the University of Calgary, and a Bachelor’s in Spanish Literature and Linguistics from Tec de Monterrey. Amira comes from a family of educators in Mexico, and she firmly believes that everybody deserves equal opportunities to grow and thrive in life. In the last ten years, she has worked as a volunteer to mentor children in different programs, such as the Katy ISD’s KEYS Mentoring program and The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. Amira is enthusiastic about language and cultural understanding. She is looking forward to being part of the Latinos for Education Board Fellowship to collaborate with others to open spaces and bring more opportunities to the Latinx communities.
Mary Jane Sotelo is a Senior Treasury Officer at Fifth Third Bank working with Middle Market and Oil and Gas clients. She is part of the Fifth Third expansion team responsible for growing the Texas market. She has twenty plus years of banking experience and has worked with various industries including chemical midstream, healthcare, government public sector, technology and life science, franchise and real estate clients. Throughout her career she has covered the state including Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Rio Grande Valley and Houston. She started her career at JPMorgan Chase serving in a various positions including client services and treasury services sales. She is a member of the Association for Financial Professionals. Mary Jane attended the University of Houston. She is a high energy passionate person who is excited about being a part of Latino for Education. Mary Jane hopes to make an impact by collaborating with other professionals and sharing the same mission.
Dr. Michelle Tovar is the Director of Public Engagement at Holocaust Museum Houston and is responsible for expanding the museum’s engagement with new audiences, the public, students, and scholars. In this role, she conceptualizes and implements a broad range of public programs related to the museum’s exhibitions and enhances community partnerships with local and national organizations. Dr. Tovar maintains a genuine and profound commitment to diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion; and proactively ensures that the museum is a thought leader in social justice, human rights, genocide, and Holocaust education. She earned her MLA in History at the University of St. Thomas and her Ed.D. at the University of Houston in Curriculum and Instruction in K-12 Social Education, emphasizing Social Justice Education. She is a Smithsonian Latino Museum Studies alum, a Fulbright-Hays scholar, and currently serves as a Houston Coalition Against Hate board member. In 2020, Dr. Tovar was awarded the American Alliance of Museums Ed Com Award for Excellence in Practice. She is dedicated to the Latinx community and advocates providing representation in formal and informal learning environments. In joining the Board Fellowship, Tovar hopes to connect with other Latinx leaders who empower communities of color and are committed to transforming education.
Leticia de la Vara advises TNTP’s executive team on strategy, accountability, innovation, and the implementation of organization-wide initiatives. Leticia also oversees TNTP’s strategy to support local, state, and national policymakers to create real and lasting changes in education. Leticia de la Vara advises TNTP’s executive team on strategy, accountability, innovation, and the implementation of organization-wide initiatives. Leticia also oversees TNTP’s strategy to support local, state, and national policymakers to create real and lasting changes in education. Previously, as a Partner at TNTP, Leticia provided oversight and support for the development and growth of internal and external Public Affairs projects and policy advisement. Prior to TNTP, Leticia held leadership positions at Friendly House, UnidosUS, Expect More Arizona, and One Arizona. In those roles, Leticia worked with elected officials, community-based organizations, grassroots and grasstops leaders, business chambers, universities, and state and federal entities to meld policy with programs and enhance opportunities for historically marginalized communities. Leticia currently serves as a governing board member of the ACLU of Arizona, AZ Latino Leaders in Education, and as the Arizona representative of the national ACLU. Leticia was a recipient of the DHL Microbusiness Entrepreneurship Award, Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Award, the Valle del Sol/Univision Hispanic 40 Under 40 Award, the 2014 recipient of the Hispanic Leadership Institute’s Alumni Leadership Award, and a 2021 awardee of Valle del Sol’s Mom of the Year award, an annual recognition honoring women of diverse backgrounds for service to the community and for their exemplary roles as mothers. Leticia received their BS in nonprofit leadership and management from Arizona State University.
Dr. Julie Lara currently serves as the Director of the English Learner Support Division at the Texas Education Agency. In this role she oversees Bilingual Education and English as a Second Language policy and programmatic guidance for K-12 emergent bilingual students and their families. She is committed to elevating achievement and educational equity for over one million emergent bilingual students and their families. Prior to TEA, Julie has supported the education of culturally and linguistically diverse students in a variety of capacities: as a middle school special education teacher, teacher leader, teacher preparation supervisor and university professor. As a classroom teacher in an affluent suburban district, she witnessed first-hand the educational inequities experienced by students of color and their families, which prompted her to leave the classroom to pursue other leadership roles. Dr. Lara has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Maryland University College and a master’s in educational administration from Texas State University. She earned her doctorate in Special Education with a focus on multicultural education from the University of Texas at Austin – she is a proud Longhorn. Dr. Lara, a native Texan calls Corpus Christi her home. She is the oldest daughter of nine siblings and a first-generation college student. She lives in Austin with her four teenage children David, Adam, Michael, and Vivienne. My goals for joining this fellowship are to model for my children strong advocacy and activism, and ultimately to have a positive impact on the educational outcomes for the Latinx community.
Michelle Mercado, Vice President – Southwest, TNTP. Michelle Mercado oversees TNTP’s consulting work in Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, with a focus on helping educators, schools, and school systems expand access to opportunity for students. Previously, as a Partner, Michelle led TNTP’s academic strategy, leader and teacher recruitment, and development and effectiveness work in Memphis, Philadelphia, and Camden. She also supported numerous TNTP teacher training programs, including the Memphis Teacher Talent Initiative, Memphis Teaching Fellows, Nashville Teaching Fellows, and the NYC Teaching Fellows. Michelle began her career as a New York City Teaching Fellow and taught sixth grade in the Bronx, NY. Michelle also spent two years working as the Academic Director and teaching at Kibeta English Medium Primary School in Bukoba, Tanzania. She holds a BA in Political Science from Western Illinois University and an MA in the Science of Teaching from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education. She is a proud Latina, mother, and wife committed to ensuring education is an opportunity for students to achieve the goals they set for themselves.
Daniel Sanchez currently serves as a director on the boards of major media and telecommunications companies. He also is a member of the audit, finance, and nominating and governance committees of boards where he serves. Daniel trained as an attorney, and for over twenty years prior to his board work, kept a private general practice. In 2010, he obtained a graduate law degree in taxation, and in his final years of practice focused on trust and estate work. During that time, he served as a regular member of the Board of Ethics for the City of Stamford, Connecticut. Daniel received undergraduate degrees from University of Hartford in art history and philosophy; a J.D. law degree from Boston University; and an LLM law degree from Temple University. In his role on corporate boards, Daniel is intimately familiar with both the need for greater diversity, and the difficulty of matching qualified candidates to available seats. He joined the fellowship program to help address this problem at the level of education and preparedness.
Jennifer Welch’s parents moved to the US shortly before she was born, and she is the first in her family to complete college. Inspired by her parents’ example and her own experience, Jennifer has focused on ensuring that high school students have the tools they need to participate in building the future of our nation. For over twenty-five years, she has worked as a passionate history instructor in Passaic, an urban, immigrant community in New Jersey. As Early College Coordinator, she developed programs by which students earn college credits and participate in workplace internships; last year, the inaugural class of seven students graduated from high school having already earned their associate’s degree. She collaborates with teachers nationwide to promote the study of active citizenship, participating in the iCivics Educator Council and the National Constitution Center Teacher Advisory Council. Jennifer serves as the Vice-Chair of the Somerset County Democratic Committee – Hispanic Caucus. She is also the Investigations Chair of the National Policy and Compliance Board of her sorority, Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Señoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc., developing policies and managing risk for more than a thousand members. The immediate past Vice-President of the Brown University Latino Alumni Council, she continues to be involved in student recruitment, Latino student outreach, and alumni activities. Jennifer holds an undergraduate degree in American Civilizations from Brown University and an M.A. in Urban Education – ESL from New Jersey City University. She is currently pursuing graduate study in American History from Pace University.
Shelby has worked as a researcher, educator, and leader in the fields of higher education, community education, and K-12 education for the past fifteen years. Shelby has taught and served diverse communities, specializing in transformative pedagogy with underserved populations. Additionally, Shelby’s expertise as a leader lies in strategic planning, change management, community building, program development, policy development, and quality improvement. As the Director of Retention at Mount Wachusett Community College, Shelby designed and implemented a college-wide student retention plan amidst a crisis in student enrollment and worldwide pandemic. Additionally, she created the college’s “THRIVE Center” (Together Harnessing the Resources that Inspire a Valuable Education), a one-stop-shop for student success. In this role, Shelby also manages grants totaling over $3.5million. Shelby earned her PhD in Education from the University of Rhode Island, MBA from University of Massachusetts, and BA in Public and Community Service Studies from Providence College. As a first-generation student from an immigrant family, Shelby has experienced firsthand many of the challenges faced by underserved students. As an academic and leader, Shelby understands these same challenges are connected structural and institutional barriers and looks forward to sharing her ideas on how to eliminate barriers to create a more equitable education landscape for all students.
Erasmo Arturo Montalván is Director of Business Development at Pearson, the world’s largest ed tech company focusing on helping millions of people in over 100 countries make progress in their lives through learning.
Born in Central America, raised in South America, and educated in North America, Erasmo’s journey is unique and very different to the traditional linear path. He moved to the US not speaking English. He suffered from dyslexia and was clinically diagnosed with ADHD. In addition, Erasmo’s grandparents in Brazil and Honduras were illiterate, thus being an educator and fighting on behalf of Black and Brown families is more than a job, a title, or a passion project, it’s his calling.
From community college to earning two master’s degrees including a full scholarship to Harvard University, Erasmo has lived and worked as an educator in Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, Los Angeles, and Miami.
In his spare time, Erasmo loves to have fun and travel around the world searching for the perfect street taco.
Jessica Mandes is a proud “Newyorican”. New York is where her journey began but Worcester, Massachusetts is where she was raised and taught to become a leader. As a first generation college graduate, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Fitchburg State University. After earning her degree she moved to the Tampa, Florida area to teach fourth grade. Shortly after moving back home to Worcester, she earned her Masters Degree in Organizational Management from Endicott College; while simultaneously working on her Administrators licence through the Urban Principals Development Program with Teachers 21. Altogether, Jessica has taught for 11 years- across 2 states and three districts. Before working in an elementary school she was a tutor, a youth worker, youth program coordinator, a mentor, and founder of the 3D Boys. She has worked with children from kindergarten to 6th grade, over the span of more than 20 years. Her passion is working with at-risk youth to help shape their leadership for positive change. Currently, Jessica is a vice principal at a dual language immersion school in the Framingham Public School district and a board member of the Worcester Latino Dollars for Scholars. As a native spanish speaker, grounded in strong puertorican roots, she has leveraged language and biculturalism as a way to connect with her LatinX community. Her greatest pride is working with a diverse staff and having the ability to not only educate LatinX students but also provide opportunities for LatinX graduates and educators.
My name is (Norma) Vanessa Morales and I am in my tenth-year teaching at YES Prep Public Schools. I was born and raised in Houston, TX and love being able to make an impact in the educational sector in my hometown. I am Mexican American – my Mom was born in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico and my Dad’s family is of Mexican decent but has lived in Texas for several generations. I attended school in Houston ISD and graduated from Waltrip High School in 2008. I went on to attend Rice University, which was an incredibly life-changing experience. While there, I cofounded the Young Owls Leadership Program – a college readiness program geared toward helping soon to be first generation college students in the Houston area with the skills and resources necessary to apply to universities across the country. My college experience led me to develop a strong passion in education and I therefore joined Teach for America in 2012. I have been in the classroom teaching middle school math ever since. I also strive to make an impact outside of the classroom by serving as Curriculum Writer and Course Facilitator for the Math Leadership Team at YES Prep. I have served as Diversity Ambassador for my campus in years past and enjoy developing culturally responsive professional development and classroom lessons for the district. In my downtime, I enjoy travelling, playing with my dogs, country dancing, gardening, and going to Texans games.
“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!
David Henry serves as the Managing Director, National Development. In his role, he helps to develop and implement a comprehensive annual fundraising strategy – working to build and expand the network of philanthropic partners invested in Latinos for Education’s mission. Firmly rooted in his commitment to service and social justice, David has worked at various non-profit organizations striving to improve the lives of others and promote positive change.
Previously, David served as Managing Director, Individual Giving at Teach For America where he led individual fundraising across New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. In this role he worked to advance educational equity, opportunity, and access for marginalized students. In addition to his time at Teach For America, he brings over fifteen years of fundraising and leadership experience in organizations focused on education, vulnerable young people, anti-trafficking, and social entrepreneurship.
Originally from Texas, David comes from a proud Mexican family. He now lives in Connecticut with his wife, and their two young daughters. He is an alumnus of Fordham University. In his spare time, you can find David spending time with his family, planning the next family adventure, and sharing a meal.
Erica Romero serves as the Vice President of Education Policy and Advocacy at Latinos for Education in Washington, DC. Reporting to the Chief Policy and Advocacy Officer, she is responsible for providing thought leadership, policy analysis, policy development, and cultivating key partner relations with decision makers and influencers in the federal education space.
Previously, she served as Assistant Vice President for State Advocacy at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. In that role she advocated for policies that benefit Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Latino students in the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. She also worked in collaboration with HACU’s Government Relations Office in Washington, D.C., to promote similar federal policies. She also previously served as Vice President of External Relations at the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities.
She is a California native who has worked extensively with the California state legislature and with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. She earned a master’s degree in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. She has volunteered with the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project for over a decade. As the daughter of Mexican immigrants who grew up in East Oakland, she is passionate about ensuring true educational equity is available to all students.
Dominique Diggs is the Manager, People and Culture at Latinos for Education. In this role, Dominique plays an integral part in Latinos for Education’s growth and focuses on attracting and retaining top talent to create a positive, dynamic, authentic and high-performing organizational culture.
Before joining our team at L4E, Dominique was the Senior Manager of Operations and Development at a charter school located in Washington, DC. In that role, Dominique was a founding team member and was tasked with developing and implementing comprehensive operational, financial and talent/recruitment systems in order to maximize efficiency across all functions.
Prior to that role, Dominique worked in School Operations for two charter school networks (KIPP and Uncommon Schools). Throughout her time in the school operations field, she has been able to make tremendous strides towards advancing educational equity and opportunity for students of color in underrepresented communities. Dominique has always been passionate about diversity and equity and believes that L4E’s ‘Rise as a Collective’ value sets an important framework for the future of our society and the role that community should play in it.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English and Afro American Studies from Howard University and is originally from Miami, Florida. In her free time, she enjoys listening to live music, traveling the world with her best friends, reading novels from authors across the diaspora and discovering new foods at unique restaurants.
Mara Gilyard is the Family and Community Organizer for Greater Houston at Latinos for Education. In this role, she supports the development of local programs, advocacy strategy, and policy recommendations to advance the organization’s national principles and local advocacy efforts. Before joining Latinos for Education, Mara was a secondary school teacher in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area.
In her role as an educator, Mara created, developed, and implemented a research-based intervention curriculum to improve the reading fluency and comprehension of the English Learner student body. She also served in various building leadership teams and was a member of the Superintendent Advisory Committee, in which she used her voice and Latino perspective to advocate and represent the Latino students and families who made up over ninety percent of the district’s demographics.
Her passion for working and serving the Latino community is a result of her personal experiences as a Mexican immigrant and first-generation college graduate. Her work as a public education teacher inspired her journey toward advocating for educational equity. Her passion is rooted in the belief that all individuals deserve a quality education and an equitable environment in which they can succeed.
Mara holds a BS in Teaching and Learning from the University of Houston and is currently pursuing her MA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Her research and focus are on closing the literacy gap for Latino students and Latino English Language Learners.
Sandra Nuñez is the Director of Programs & Partnerships for Greater Houston at Latinos for Education where she leads local leadership programs, helps expand the organization’s partnerships, and supports external affairs in Houston. Sandra comes to Latinos For Education with 15 years of experience in education.
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, she began her career as a 2007 Teach For America corps member in the Rio Grande Valley where she taught 8th and 9th grade social studies. Most recently, she served as the Managing Director of College Access at EMERGE.
As a first-generation college student from a large immigrant family, she understands some of the barriers that Latino students face in accessing a quality education and is committed to expanding access to educational opportunities for all students. Sandra believes deeply in the limitless potential of children and in the power of education to transform communities.
Sandra lives in Houston with her partner, son, and two dogs. In her free time, she enjoys trying new restaurants with her family, traveling, cooking, and binge-watching television shows.
Elvira Salazar is the Director of Online Learning & Technology at Latinos for Education, where she leads the strategy, design, and implementation of online learning and development opportunities for Latinx leaders across the country.
She is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrant parents and has dedicated her career to education. Prior to joining Latinos for Education, Elvira was the Program Director for Secondary Science & Health in Galena Park ISD. She has served in various roles in public school districts in the Houston area, including Senior Manager of Design, Media, & Online Learning, Senior Education Technologist, Instructional Specialist, & Science Teacher. Elvira has a passion for developing people and designing systems that foster equitable education pathways for all children.
Elvira earned her B.S. in Biology and M.S.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Houston. Moreover, she holds a Certificate in School Management and Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Business School. Currently she is a doctoral student at Baylor University where her focus is on learning design and organizational change. Elvira lives in the greater Houston area with her spouse and two children. She is a fervent believer in the Latinos for Education value “Bridge Across Cultures” because she believes our common bond of humanity is a key lever to building coalitions and allyships that ensure every child has access to a high-quality education.
Aideé Batarse immigrated from Mexico to the United States as a teenager a few decades ago. She remembers, vividly, the first drive along I-10 with her parents; sharing their excitement and determination to have a better life, to be grateful, and to “aprovechar las oportunidades.” This mindset has kept Aideé grounded with a clear vision of “superación.” It was this mentality that fueled Aideé to pursue an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from the University of Houston.
Although she was successful working in the business world, she found that she was not impacting her community as much as she would’ve liked to. Her desire to help others achieve their goals and have a better life is the reason she decided to become a bilingual educator. This turned out to be one of the best decisions she has ever made. Despite the difficult journey, she finds being able to make an impact on educational environments extremely gratifying.
As an educator with 14 years of experience in Galena Park ISD, Aideé embodies lifelong learning, demonstrated by commitment to furthering her education. She received a Masters of Education from University of Texas at Tyler and is currently pursuing a Doctoral Degree from Universidad Guadalupe Victoria where she is completing her dissertation on The Barriers Currently Affecting School Engagement of Immigrant Families in Their Children’s Education.
As an immigrant herself, Aideé has great hopes to uncover some of the barriers our immigrant families face in order to achieve greater school participation, therefore, creating bridges in our educational system to better support our immigrant population has become one of her most important goals.
My name is Alexandra Tejeda Diaz and I am in my seventh year of teaching in the city of Boston. I was born and raised in Boston, MA and love making an impact in my hometown by working as an educator. After high school, I attended Boston College, which was an incredibly eye-opening and transformative experience. My time there led me to develop a strong passion for education and that led me back to my high school, Cristo Rey Boston, in 2016 to begin my career in education after graduation. I have been in the classroom teaching high school Spanish ever since, but am now working at Excel Academy Charter Public High School. I strive to make an impact in my students’ lives through my daily interactions with them and the curriculum I create for my classes. Outside of the classroom, I hope to explore different leadership opportunities in my community that continue to have a positive impact on the lives of my students. When I have downtime, I enjoy traveling, playing with my dogs, cooking, and trying new restaurants.
Alexandrea is a proud native of East Side San Jose where she lives with her two children, Adam Kingston and Amaya Crecencia, and their father. Due to her experience growing up in her community, Alexandrea wanted to help at-risk youth and aspired to be a lawyer after receiving her Bachelor in Criminal Justice Studies. While searching for a school to enroll her son in, she realized how politicized education was and sought better options than her school district provided.
In 2014, she became a founding parent of Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep and a parent leader in her community advocating for equity in education. Alexandrea received community organizing training and in October of 2014, along with other parents, held the first ever parent-led Mayoral candidates forum in San Jose.
In 2016, she co-chaired the largest parent-led candidates forum in San Jose hosting both city council and state Assembly hopefuls. Advocating for equity in education taught Alexandrea that the best way to realize her dream of helping at-risk children was to empower them before they became at-risk. This led to a change in career paths. Alexandrea is now a top performing fourth grade teacher at the very school that propelled this whole journey, Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep, where she is doing her part in eliminating the achievement gap and ending the school to prison pipeline.
Alexandrea continues to advocate for equity in education in her community and across the country and proudly tells anyone who will listen that the next generation of leaders are in her East Side San Jose classroom.
Alexis Becerra is a first generation Mexican American college graduate, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Wellness Counselor in San Mateo, CA. While working in a variety of clinical mental health positions in outpatient and school-based settings, she has dedicated much of her career to working with at-promise youth and their families.
Alexis is a strong believer in advocating and empowering youth and their families to use their voice when seeking and accessing support and resources. She is passionate about reducing the stigma in accessing mental health services and educating our adolescent population to make informed decisions in regards to healthy relationships, sex and education.
Alexis currently serves as Vice Chair for the First 5 San Mateo County Commission, a commission charged with strategic planning, guidance and oversight in supporting children between the ages of 0-5. She is a founding advisor of the Bring Change to Mind club which dedicates time to reducing teen mental health stigma and opening honest conversations on community wellness. She is also an active community educator and ambassador for One Love, an organization dedicated to promoting the understanding of knowing the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships in order to end relationship abuse.
Alexis holds a master’s degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy and a double bachelor’s degree in History and Sociology from California State University, Chico.
I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. My father is from Tula, Tamaulipas and my mother is from Cuidad Juarez, Chihuahua. I am first generation and the first to graduate with a bachelor’s degree/master’s degree within my immediate family. I had my daughter at a young age and have experienced what it is to persevere through the challenges life throws at us.
I am able to relate to my students and have made it a goal to always motivate my students to keep up with their education. I see it as a ticket to having options.
I currently work as a teacher specialist providing intervention to our Tier 3 and 504 Dyslexia students. I began teaching Elementary transitional students. I then moved on to work on my master’s and getting certified as a Dyslexia Practitioner.
I applied for the Latino Teacher Fellowship in 2021 and learned so much from it. It was wonderful to meet so many strong Latino educators and reminded me of my purpose in education. With that said I made it a goal to apply and participate in the Aspiring Latino Leader Fellowship Program. I am honored to be able to participate in the program.
Ana McCoy was born in Juarez, Mexico and immigrated to the United States with her mother just a few weeks after birth. Ana grew up in Roswell, New Mexico as an undocumented immigrant until she and her mother were naturalized during Ana’s senior year of high school, allowing her to attend college.
Education has always been an integral part of Ana’s upbringing and as a school leader, she strives to instill the same passion and love for education in others. Ana started her education career as a Teach For America corps member in Denver, Colorado where she was a 5th grade bilingual ELA teacher. Soon after, Ana moved to Austin, Texas and taught a 4th grade self-contained bilingual class with KIPP Austin, before finally settling down in Washington DC where she taught as a 3rd grade humanities teacher prior to joining the leadership team.
Ana is in her third year as an Assistant Principal with the Rocketship Public Schools network with aspirations to be a principal. She holds a bachelors degree in political science from the Univesity of New Mexico, a masters degree in teaching from the Relay Graduate School of Education, and a masters of education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Ana firmly believes in the power of community to transform lives and is looking forward to leveraging the skills, knowledge and perspectives from this fellowship to drive her work.
Aned Sanchez is the proud daughter of a single mom who immigrated to the United States from a small town in Jalisco, Mexico long before she was born. She saw in this country the opportunity she was never given as little girl in her town and took it without hesitation regardless of the hard life that was ahead of her.
When I was 12 years old, she brought me to this country to be a part of her journey and to completely change the trajectory of my life. During my high school years, I had one amazing teacher who saw the potential in me and challenged me to see it for myself. Unfortunately, not every student gets seen like I did and therefore potential remains unleashed.
In 2009 I joined Rocketship Public Schools as an Office Manger and have now taken a leap into a new role as the Associate Director of Schools Supports which will allow me to expand my impact and be able to serve all 13 schools here in California. It is my passion and journey to be a part of a movement that provides an opportunity to change the life of kids and the families that walk in to our schools every single day.
We all have a purpose in this world, and I firmly believe I am on the path I was meant to be as a Latina working alongside incredible educators who see the potential in the communities we serve.
Bianca Vasquez was born in and raised in Hollister, CA to Mexican immgrant parents. As the oldest of five girls, she received a Bachelor’s degree – from California Polytechnic State University.
Bianca is committed to makes sure students receive a high quality education by informing families about the choices they have in regards to their child’s education. Currently, Bianca serves as the California Associate Director of Family Recrutiment at Rocketship Public Schools and supports in enrolling about 1,580 new students every school year! She enjoys reading, organizing, and going on hikes with her love ones.
Dr. Carmina Mendoza is the Director for Community and Professional Development within the School of Education and Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University. She has more than 20 years of experience in the education field as a teacher, instructional coach, researcher, and professor of education.
Carmina has a strong background in K-12 teacher preparation and coaching. Her experience in professional development has focused on bilingual education, literacy, and language development. Her research and publications have explored the educational issues of Multilingual Learners, including effects of immigration in education.
Dr. Mendoza is a Santa Clara University alumna, earning her Masters of Arts in Educational Leadership in 2016. She also earned her doctorate degree (Ph.D.) from the University of California, Davis with an emphasis in Language, Literacy, and Culture. Carmina also holds a Master of Education degree and two Bachelor of Science Degrees (Economics and Marketing) from Arizona State University.
As a first-generation immigrant from Mexico, Dr. Mendoza is committed to providing equitable and liberating learning experiences to diverse student populations in the United States.
Cecilia is a Chicana Los Angeles native and Oakland lover, with over twenty years experience in the field of education, youth development, community organizing and advocacy efforts aimed at creating anti racist schools and developing and supporting teachers and students in increasing Black and Brown excellence in our schools.
Cecilia came to Oakland to attend the University of California, Berkeley to receive her Master’s Degree in Social Welfare in 2009 and the Principal Leadership Institute at Cal in 2018 to receive a Master’s in Educational Leadership.
She has served as school administrator, high school teacher, non profit director, social worker, and union organizer, who, examines and implement services and programs to support in addressing systematic biases and disparities that affect the educational outcomes of Black and Brown students in an effort to effecting organizational change, and collaborating with partners and staff to improve racial and educational equity for youth.
Currently, she serves as the Coordinator of Diversity & Inclusion at the Oakland Unified School District, focusing developing and advocating for system initiatives to increase employee diversity in schools and to reach parity in teacher and student populations. The district is committed to increasing the number of Latinos staff so that it resembles the student population; educators of color improve the educational success of ALL students.
Cecilia is also the proud mother of an energetic and caring son, Ollin, and a fun loving daughter, Sol, with whom she shares her passion for music and laughter.
Christopher Marroquin, a native to Boston, Massachusetts but rooted in a small town just outside of Boston — Chelsea, Massachusetts – finds his passion in education advocacy and nonprofit work. He finds his drive and passion for the work he does from the community he lives in – a predominately Latinx community – he finds he is rooted in the culture of his father who migrated here from El Salvador post war after serving his country.
Currently, Christopher is a Family Liaison in the Boston Public Schools working onsite in the only free, public Montessori school in the BPS network. He mainly focuses on student, family, and community engagement from an equitable lens; providing school-based, regional and community support and outreach to families around services; and participates in school-based team Instructional Focus understanding and access to families in their preferred method of communication and language.
Before this work, Christopher spent the last decade working for the East Boston Social Centers, where he left his tenure there as a Program Director. He had oversight of a large Out-of-School Time program serving approximately 600+ unique children annually, as well as working cross-departmentally to engage in best practices.
Through both his professional and personal relationships, Christopher continues to build upon his leadership in academia where priority is given to building capacity of all students and families. His work also focuses on liftin the voices of marginalized students and families, especially those in the BIPOC and English Language Learners community.
Dr. Yohana I. Quiroz was born in Honduras and was raised in el barrio de La Mission, a predominantly Latino neighborhood located in San Francisco, California. Dr. Quiróz is the Chief Operations Officer at Felton Institute in the San Francisco Bay Area.
She is an experienced senior executive with 25 years working with diverse, low-income at-promise clients with multiple barriers and abilities. In her role she is responsible for developing the vision, and managing publicly funded early care and education, early intervention & inclusion, family support, and community-based behavioral/mental health services via a two-generation, holistic, and culturally responsive approach.
Dr. Quiroz has been instrumental in leading strategic partnerships, agency-wide growth initiatives, program development, and expansion efforts, including new ECE co-development projects with affordable housing communities in three different San Francisco neighborhoods. She also helps set, and continuously align her organization around key strategic priorities, driven by an understanding of the needs of the communities they serve, the ever-changing non-profit landscape, the organizations’ internal core capabilities.
As a lifelong learner and advocate, Dr. Quiróz strives to ensure Felton’s collective work always centers on, celebrates, and uplifts the lived experiences of BIPOC children, youth, and their families, as well as the workforce that cares deeply for their lives and education.
Dr. Quiroz earned a doctorate in Educational Leadership in P-20 from San Francisco State University, a Master of Arts degree in Organization and Leadership in Education from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Child and Adolescent Development, with a concentration in Early Childhood Education from San Francisco State University.
Hector Sandoval is an assistant principal at Rocketship Rising Stars Academy in San Jose, CA. He was born in the California Central Valley, but moved around quite a bit growing up, living in various towns in the Central Valley, Mexico, and the San Francisco Bay Area. As a child, he had to become adept at meeting new people because of the frequent moving.
Eventually, things settled down and he earned his degree in Cognitive Science from UC Berkeley. Going through college really shed light on the inequities of our education system; Hector immediately fell behind in his classes even though the road to college had always been easy for him.
He realized that his primary and secondary education had no prepared him appropriately for college, but he found a way to succeed despite the odds. Now at Rocketship his mission each day is to ensure that all students are prepared and have the skills they need to be successful in anything they want to accomplish.
Jimmy Aguilar is from East Palo Alto, CA. As far as Jimmy can remember, his parents, both immigrants from Guanajuato, Mexico instilled the importance of education. This commitment led him to UC Santa Barbara where he graduated with majors in Spanish and Latin American Studies.
After graduating from UC Santa Barbara in 2014 he returned to his hometown to work at Aspire East Palo Alto Charter School, a TK-8 school. At EPACS he served in various roles. He taught 4th/5th grade and mentored three teacher candidates from the Stanford Teacher Education Program.
Recently, Jimmy has stepped into the Assistant Principal role focusing on schoolwide instructional practices. Jimmy is passionate about creating opportunities for students from underserved areas. He is energized by parent engagement, understands the value of community partnerships, and works closely to create the best academic experience possible.
In addition to his work, Jimmy strives to be a positive Latino role model to the students he serves. When not at school, Jimmy enjoys riding his mountain bike on the nearby trail and loves traveling to Mexico to visit extended family.
Juan Carlos Villasenor received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of California Berkeley in 2010. As an undergrad, Mr. Villasenor worked with various after school programs in the Berkeley and Oakland area.
In the summer of 2010 he joined Teach For America and started his teaching career at Voices College-Bound Language Academy. During the 2010-2011 school year Mr. Villasenor founded the 4th grade program at Voices.
In 2012, he was one of three founding middle school teachers at Voices, working to aid in the formation of a middle school vision, character development program, and Spanish and Social Studies curriculum.
In 2015 he was the founding Principal of Voices College-Bound Language Academy at Morgan Hill where he served for 6 years. He currently works as the Managing Director of Schools for the same organization he started his teaching career with.
I was born and raised in San Francisco, CA in the Mission District, el corazón de San Francisco, home to many Mexican and Central American immigrants. My parents immigrated from El Salvador and raised me with a strong sense of Latino culture.
I was the first in my family to attend college and I continue to inspire my family, students and future Latino Leaders. I started my career in education at ICA Cristo Rey, an allgirls Catholic High school, in the Mission district, dedicated giving a college prep education to low-income families who normally would not be able to afford to send their daughters to a private school. At ICA I was Student Activities Director, Head of Audio/Visual program, taught Spanish, Ethics and Morality and worked in fundraising and development.
For the past 2 years I have been working at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, CA as an instructional assistant in the school’s Special Education Department and this year will start my new role as the Family Engagement Coordinator. Being in a leadership position to advocate for families, I realize the importance of educating parents, especially parents who have just immigrated from Central and South America, on the educational journey of their children.
San Mateo Union High School district has seen an increase in families immigrating from Latin American countries so this work is more important than ever. I have a passion to support my community. I am driven seek opportunities to enhance the educational experience of each student at Hillsdale High School and empower our parents to take charge of their student’s educational experience.
Outside of work I enjoy spending time with my family, going to Giants games and watching movies.
Lupita, a proud product of East Side San Jose who continues to reside in the neighborhood with her daughter, Daveena, has taken her upbringing and experiences to pay it forward. She was raised by strong leaders. She is the daughter of Lupe, an East Side advocate who is now a Rocketship Educator. She is the daughter of Antonio, who comes from a strong line of Educators from Oaxaca and granddaughter to Avelino who was a former, but proud field worker who would share stories of his own experience,which she enjoyed listening to.
Lupita was influenced early on by her family and knew that her passion was to also advocate for the community she called home. When becoming a mother, her passion to advocate grew. Lupita felt it was important to focus on this goal so that she may be a resource to others by providing support and solutions.
Currently, Lupita serves her community as the proud Assistant Principal of Family Engagement and Administration and Founding OM at Rocketship Rising Stars Academy. She is also on the Parent Organizing Committee as a Parent Leader, where she continues to advocate for her daughter, students, and communities, focusing on equity, breaking cycles and closing the achievement gap.
She has her family and community to thank for her current success. In the future, she hopes to continue her work while using her identity as a Chicana in education to influence her community in seeking change and advocating for themselves and those like them.
My name is Maribel Aleman. I was born in Michoacan Mexico and migrated to the United States at the age of eight and settled with my family in San Jose California where I have now made it my home. I grew up in the East Side of San Jose where I later went on to attend San Jose State University where I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Child and Adolescent development.
I have since been a part of a Rocketship Public Schools where I have taught Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten for 5 years. Last year I became the proud Assistant Principal of Rocketship Rising Stars where I have been able to learn and put into practice my leadership skills but most importantly learn how to leverage my identity as a Latina leader in my community and in my professional role.
I am proud to continue to be a part of the Latinos for Education community as I have previously been a part of the Latinx Teacher Fellowship and now I get to work alongside amazing Latino leaders to continue to grow as a leader.
Vicky Diaz is a proud Nicarguence, Boricua, Chileana native of San Jose, CA. Vicky began her journey into education as a behavioral therapist working with students on the Autism spectrum in schools and at home. This sparked her love for education and passion for equity, she taught as a Special educator and school leader for 8 years.
While serving as a school leader, Vicky soon discovered another passion for mentoring teachers. After making the tough decision to leave the classroom, Vicky was able to intersect her love for education with her passion for coaching teachers working with the Crescendo Education Group, mentoring teachers across the country in equitable grading practices. Vicky is proud to be a part of the Talent Recruitment team for Rocketship Public Schools.
Cecilia Paz Aguilar is a Senior Manager with TNTP for the Southwest Region (LA, TX, AR, OK, AR, or NM), where she is committed to elevating and aligning the work to organizational and regional priorities.
She holds a BA in Psychology, an MBA/MA in Educational Leadership, and an Administrative Credential. Prior to pursuing a career in education, Cecilia completed a Public Policy fellowship in the Central Valley of California.
She was born and raised in Stockton, California – the city that plays a pivotal role in her personal identity. Over the last 19 years, she has served as a business manager, an educator (grades 6-12), an instructional coach, and a Founding Principal with experience in California, Louisiana, and Texas.
Claudia Hernandez is an Assistant Principal of Instruction at KIPP in Houston, Texas. She began her education career with Houston ISD. Her background in education includes elementary, middle school and high school experience. She has led diverse teams as a Grade Level Chair, Instructional Coach, Teacher Specialist, and Assistant Principal.
She received campus level recognition as Teacher of the Year in as well as Administrator of the Year. She also received district level recognition for her work when she was awarded the Ann Sledge Instructional Coach Excellence Award.
She attributes her success to her strong work ethic that was instilled by her immigrant parents. Claudia received her Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Our Lady of the Lake University and her Master’s in Educational Leadership from Concordia University.
This year I am honored to serve as the STEM Instructional Coach at KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy. I spent the last 8 years dedicated to STEM and Language education within the KIPP Texas-Houston network.
My education philosophy is that children of color deserve the opportunity to imitate and cultivate their potential for computer science and mathematics. Having been a KIPP student myself, I have grown up in the mission and vision of KIPP. But, I have now stepped into a place where I can shape that mission and vision and bring student voices to the table.
As a Queer Latinx educator, it has become important now more than ever for my people to see me and for my students to know they have permission to exist as freely as anyone else. No matter what bigotry and hatred comes our way, it is our responsibility to hold back the dark and fight back with love.
My abuela said, “Tienes que ser como la palma. No le hace que fuerte sopla el viento, la puede batir y pegar con granizo pero nunca la tumba. Tienes que ser como la palma: fuerte, firme, e inamovible.”
My name is Eduardo Garces. I am a person who has a passion for education and social work. Over the past 20 years I have been fortunate to work with youth, in several capacities. Early in my career I managed intervention programs for adjudicated and at-risk youth. I quickly learned access to services and education was life changing. My path allowed me to gain experiences as a Project Coordinator, Family Service Coordinator, University Recruiter, Academic Advisor, Teacher, College Counselor and a Director of College Counseling.
My leadership style is empathetic, communicative, and decisive. I value being open-minded, positive, and consistent. My desire to learn and participate in discussions that impact our community drives my interests in Latinos for Education. My current vision revolves around building a college-going culture, and it is to create and access opportunities that reinforce growth, strategic decision-making and matriculation for our youth.
I grew up in Fort Bend County, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston – Main Campus, earned a master’s degree from Texas Southern University, and am currently completing my doctoral degree in Education Administration at Texas Southern University.
Last, but certainly not least, I am the father of one. An incoming sixth grader with plenty of love and optimism.
Elvira Morin Bates was born in San Diego, which is located in South Texas. She was the first in her family to graduate from college from Texas A&M University- Kingsville with a bachelors in Kinesiology and Psychology.
She moved to Houston in 2008 where she took a teaching position as a Spanish teacher in Aldine ISD. She then pursued her masters in school counseling, at Lamar University, in Beaumont Texas. Elvira worked as a school counselor for 6 years and decided she would pursue a position as an administrator returning to Lamar to receive her certificate in administration. She has been the Assistant principal at Conley Elementary for 3 years and aspires to become a superintendent in the future.
Elvira has 3 daughters and is married to her husband who helps her juggle family and career. She looks forward to many more life experiences as she continues on her career path towards her goals. Her goal as an educator is to encourage education, advocate for her students to have a better future and have a passion to be a lifelong learner.
I was born in Raymondville, Texas, which is a town in south Texas. My father was born and raised in Raymondville, and my mother was born and raised in Montemorelos, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. I was raised in a Spanish speaking home during a time when parents were not teaching Latino children Spanish due to fear of mistreatment.
In the 1990’s it became an advantage to be bilingual, and I was hired as an adult probation officer primarily due to my bilingual abilities. I transitioned from adult probation to juvenile probation, and I realized that I could help prevent the recidivism of juvenile delinquency if I were in the education field.
I obtained my teaching certificate and principal certificate simultaneously in 2007. Since then, it has been my passion to help disadvantaged students. My purpose is to even the playing field so that they can compete with students who have more advantages and better opportunities.
My name is Javier Osornio, I am 32 years old, I was born and raised in a humble town called El Sitio, San Juan del Río Querétaro, Mexico. I was raised by my grandparents since my father worked more in the United States and my mother lived in a nearby town.
From my grandparents I learned to be a humble, kind, responsible, persevering, respectful and above all hard-working person. Since I can remember, from a very young age I was already behind a team of oxen working in agriculture with my grandfather helping him in the cornfields, helping him sow, cultivate, harvest among other things around the farm.
As a first-generation student, including being the first in both families to earn a master’s degree in Educational Leadership, trying to be a role model for my entire family and our communities has never been easy. I believe that we all have a purpose in life, and I firmly believe that education has been one of the best investments in my life allowing me to achieve my purpose in life.
I want to continue to be a role model, motivate and guide students on the right path to achieve their academic goals and educational success. I want to make a difference in their lives and their families, in our students and communities by helping our younger generations achieve their academic professional goals.
Most importantly, I want to remain focused on being an active contributor to ending educational inequalities and inequities.
Joel Muñoz is a Houston native and educator who was born to Mexican immigrant parents. He is a first generation college graduate and has a personal mission to provide equitable access to great education for all children.
He received a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Houston and has a master’s degree in educational leadership from Stephen F. Austin State University.
He is currently the Assistant Superintendent of School Administration at BakerRipley Community Schools and has 16 years of experience working in traditional and public charter schools (K-12) serving in roles such as teacher, dean of students, assistant principal, principal and head of schools. On his spare time, Joel enjoys rooting for the Astros, Rockets and Texans!
Dr. Jose Enrique “Kike” Lopez has been devoted to education for 22 years, 13 of which he has worked as a school administrator. Dr. “Kike” Lopez currently works as an assistant principal at Campbell Middle School in Cypress Fairbanks ISD.
Dr. Lopez was born and raised in the Coffee region of Colombia, South America, where he initially majored in communications and journalism at the Universidad de la Sabana, in Bogota, Colombia.
He has been married to his wife Betty, and has two children, Cynthia, 35, and Maximiliano, 30, both married. He also has two beautiful grandchildren: Eva 4 and Celine 2 years old.
“Kike” was a news reporter and did news broadcasting in radio and television. He then moved to corporate communications and was the communications and press director for two different Colombian state entities.
Dr. Lopez also worked as business promotion director at his hometown’s chamber of commerce in Colombia. He has always been and will continue to be what you can truly call a life-long learner. “Kike graduated from University of Houston with a doctoral degree in professional leadership and policy studies in education.
Recently, Jose attended the annual conference of the University Council in Educational Administration, UCEA-2021, at Columbus, Ohio, where he presented the findings of his research on the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in secondary Latino newcomers’ language and content learning.
Kathy Vergara serves as the Director of Multilingual Services in Klein ISD where she oversees Bilingual, Dual Language, and ESL programs for PK – 12. She has 14 years experience in education where she served as a bilingual paraprofessional, Bilingual Teacher, a Language Instructional Specialist, Instructional Officer, and now a Director.
She was born in Santiago de Chile and moved to New York City at the age of four where she started her journey in bilingual education as a student. Kathy moved to Houston in sixth grade and continued her education by graduating from the University of Houston-Downtown with a B.A. in Spanish.
She immediately entered the Texas A&M masters program in Educational Psychology, focusing on Bilingual and Dual Language education while attaining her teaching certification. After being in the classroom for several years as a bilingual teacher she returned to school for a second master’s from the University of St. Thomas focusing on Educational Leadership for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students.
Currently, Kathy is a doctoral candidate at the University of St. Thomas; in an Ethical Leadership/Social Justice doctoral program where she is focusing her dissertation on the mindset of leaders towards the continuous development of biliteracy for Latine Emergent Bilingual students.
When she is not in school as a student or working she is with her family which consists of her husband of almost 20 years and three children who are 17, 14, and 5 years old.
Kimberly Gallegos was born and raised in the suburbs of Houston. She graduated from Elkins High School in 2009 and attended Texas A&M University. Kimberly graduated college in 2013 with her Bachelor of Science in Recreation Parks and Tourism Sciences with an emphasis in Tourism Management.
She ultimately ended up planning and organizing events for The Woodlands Township until she landed a role as the Special Projects Coordinator for the then Talent team of YES Prep in 2016. Kimberly was a founding member of YES Preps’ Program Team where she was the Special Projects Coordinator and Executive Assistant to the Chief Program Officer (formerly Chief Talent Officer) until November of 2021.
Kimberly now is the Manager of Program Vendor Operations where she helps lead the efforts to make sure the Program team manages their budget, handles relations with external vendors, and leads program team procurement operations. She has also been a co-lead in the Latinx Leadership Summit since 2016 as well has helped to plan the additional student affinity summits that YES Prep holds (Brotherhood/Sister, AAPI, Pride +).
In February of 2021 Kimberly welcomed her son, Elijah, who has absolutely become her latest obsession. She enjoys football season, spending time with her family as often as she can, and watching a ridiculous amount of reality TV.
Laura Matias Segovia immigrated to the United States in the pursuit of the “American Dream” when she was 6 years old. Raised in Houston Texas, Laura became the first in her family to graduate from college and obtain a degree.
The hurdles and achievements she encountered growing up as a bilingual student in Aldine ISD developed a passion in her for teaching and helping others grow. After obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree from Sam Houston State University in Interdisciplinary Studies, she accepted her first teaching job as a 1 st grade Bilingual Teacher at Johnson Elementary in Aldine ISD.
Three years later, Laura saw the need of building teacher capacity to further assist students’ needs which is why she continued growing as a learner and leader and obtained her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of St. Thomas. It was not long that she was able to serve as the Bilingual Skills Specialist and Campus Testing Liaison at her former campus for a year and a half.
Giving back to the community that gave her an opportunity to succeed in life was one of the promises she made to herself as she furthered her career. Laura is starting her 7 th year in education and is proudly serving as the Assistant Principal at Eckert Elementary in Aldine ISD; the school where she once attended as a fifth-grade student. She continues being an advocate for the Emergent Bilingual students and the Hispanic community.
She acknowledges that together and with support “Si Se Puede” and we can “Be Someone” in life. Con la actitud correcta y determinación se pueden lograr cosas maravillosas y cumplir cualquier meta que se propongan.
Liliana serves as Program Manager in Research & Innovation at SHPE. Based in Houston, Liliana is currently leading the nationwide Equipando Padres program, designed to support parents of first generation to college engineering students.
A lifetime learner who values resourcefulness and creating opportunities, Liliana’s experience lies in support services for K-12 education systems, community school models, and interagency partnerships. She holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Texas-Permian Basin and a Bachelor of History- Mexican-American Studies from the University of Houston.
Liliana is passionate about serving through assets-based engagement and has dedicated her life to what she learned best from her parents- providing respectful kindness.
Lora Meza is currently a Curriculum Instructional Specialist for Social Studies teachers at Bleyl Middle School for the Cy-Fair ISD in Houston, Texas. Before being a Curriculum Instructional Specialist, Lora was a U.S History teacher for 17 years in a Title I school in Houston ISD. Not only was she a teacher but she was also the Department Chair, member of the Campus Improvement Committee, and a lead teacher for 8th grade Social Studies.
Lora has also coached girls’ volleyball, boys’ basketball and supervised model union. She strongly believes that teamwork makes all the difference in performance. Lora is from a small town in South Texas where she prides herself in her roots and contributes her success to her parents and families’ values and struggles. Her parents instilled a strong belief of a good education in order to better her circumstances. She believes that hard work truly pays off.
Lora graduated from Baylor University in Waco, Texas in 2003 with a Bachelors in Education. She then received her Master of Education in 2011 from the University of Houston main campus. Lora is currently earning her Principal Certification at the University of Arlington in Texas.
Mercedes McMillan is a Houston “native,” who immigrated from Mexico at the age of 2. As the daughter of immigrants, she has always been taught to value and understand the importance of education.
She consciously attended Salem College in Winston‐Salem, NC which traces back to 1772 and is the oldest educational institution for girls and women in America and has a proud history of fostering independence and rigorous education for women.
As a first‐generation High School Graduate from YES Prep Southeast and College graduate, she is driven about providing opportunities for students who come from the same underserved communities and strongly believes that it takes a village to raise a child, but nothing is impossible when you set your mind to it.
Mercedes started with YES Prep Public Schools in 2015, after previously working in the Corporate Profit Legal field for 4 years and realizing that her calling and passion was in giving back to the community. She is determined in creating similar positive opportunities for others like she had, if not better.
In her time at YES Prep Public Schools, she has taken on many roles and has been a part of the change in Houston in various capacities; she currently serves as the Director of Program Initiatives in the District Office.
She is a proud wife, and mother and she and her husband Scoe love exploring and spending time with their amazing three children Lynn, Mia and Scoe who also attend YES Prep Public Schools like she once did.
Italia Cea grew up with value given to speaking multiple languages and expressing her culture. She came to the United States in 1993 as part of the studied abroad program from the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. She did not see those same values when she came to the United States. Because she believes she can make a change in the lives of teachers, students, parents, and colleagues. And encouraged by one of her professor she applied to the ACP program and worked as Bilingual teacher during a time when the Bilingual program was not 100% established.
Italia started her professional path in education as a 4th grade Bilingual teacher in August of 1994 in Oleson Elementary in Aldine ISD. She continued her educational carrer in Aldine ISD but she moved to Anderson Acdemy in 1997 to be part of the district Fine Arts Magnet program. While there she developed an interest into the Montessori philosophy and few years later she transitioned into one of the 1st to 3rd Bilingual Montessori classrooms.
In 2004 she moved to Reece Academy were she met her educational leadership mentor. During her seven years in Reece Acdemy Italia Cea was offer opportunities to growth professionally, she served as the campus LPAC Administrtor, Skills Specialist, RTI Interventionist, Dyslexia Coordinator, Family & Community Liason, Testing Coordinator, and Assitant Principal.
She wanted to make a difference and become a better support to teachers and students but not only in her school. Therefore, in 2011 she transitioned as the EC-2nd grade Bilingual and ESL Program Director. Position that gave her the opportunity to work side by side with district teachers, students, and families.
After eight years in that position Italia took the opportunity to open the Literacy department in Aldine ISD and be part of developing and growing educators to deliver effective education, and ensures they can adapt to the changing needs of students and families.
I was born in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico. In the pursuit of a better life, my parents crossed the Mexico/USA border with a little girl in their arms. We settled in Houston, Texas. I was raised in The Northside of Houston; a neighborhood of working class mostly immigrant and Chicano families.
I attended public schools my entire youth. First in the Historic Houston Heights and then in The Northside of Houston. The Heights neighborhood had many apartment complexes where lower income families settled for semi-affordable living in the 90s. Eventually that changed, and my parents bought a house in The Northside with my mom’s savings from driving kids in the neighborhood to school and Tupperware sales.
My journey through education ultimately shaped me. I felt cheated throughout most of my life. Cheated for not having access to a better education. As I have grown, I’ve realized that my experience not only shaped me into the resilient and resourceful adult that I am (still becoming) but it has also given me the ability to connect with families. I ultimately aspire to be the adult that I needed when I was growing up.
Currently I serve as the Wraparound Specialist at Braeburn Elementary in the Gulfton Community of Houston. In my role I serve as the bridge from need to opportunity.
My name is Rubi Platero. I am a proud Houston native and first-generation graduate. I currently work in the Business Office at Harris County Department of Education providing excellent financial services to our divisions and students. I hold a Master and bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from UTRGV and UHD.
I am passionate about opening doors and removing obstacles that prevent low-income, first-generation students from enrolling in selective colleges. With the understanding that their attitude will decide their level of success in life, I want to motivate Latino and other minority kids to have a strong conviction in achieving their academic and professional goals.
Ruth Stephen is originally from the Dominican Republic. She received all of her primary and secondary education on her native island. She graduated with a bachelor of arts in Spanish literature from the University of Houston main campus and received her teaching certification soon after graduation.
She has worked in public education since 2000 and has served as a paraprofessional, and classroom teacher. After seven years in the classroom, she realized she could influence students on a larger platform and received her Masters and Principal Certification in 2010 from Lamar University. Later moving to the positions of ESL coordinator, academic achievement specialist, and now an Assitant Principal.
As an immigrant and former ESL student, she understands the needs and lack of systemic and cultural knowledge that affect many immigrant families. She uses her Latinx identity to influence all students and families, especially those from minoritized groups.
She is currently pursuing an Ed.D. from the University of Houston main campus. Her goal is to continue to strive for inclusivity, cultural diversity, and student achievement by influencing and working with staff, parents, and students to become part of the larger school community and allowing them to contribute their own assets to enhance students’ access to a healthy environment and an effective education.
Sandra Carrizales is a native of Mexico. At the age of eight, she and her family immigrated to the United States and have called Houston home ever since. Her enthusiasm for learning and servant heart led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in bilingual education at the University of Houston.
After earning her degree, in 2006, Sandra could not begin her teaching career due to her undocumented status. However, in 2012, when the US passed an immigration policy named Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), her teaching dream came true.
Sandra began her career as a substitute teacher in Cy-Fair ISD and later as an elementary-level classroom teacher in Spring Branch ISD. She has gained administrator and leadership experiences as a reading interventionist, literacy instructional specialist, and most recently, cohort leader for the Texas Reading Academies.
In cooperation with school leadership, she is currently responsible for driving and enhancing continuous academic achievement as the literacy multi-classroom leader at Buffalo Creek Elementary. Sandra supports the campus goals by planning with primary teachers, guiding them through coaching and feedback cycles, and by providing targeted intervention for students.
She is grateful for the support of her husband; they are the parents of three bilingual children who attend public schools. Her hobbies include reading, dancing, and enjoying the outdoors. Sandra is an active change agent in the lives of Latinx children. She is committed to empowering families, so that together, they can help all children achieve their goals and dreams.
Sara Deniz migrated to Houston, Texas, from Jalisco, Mexico, twenty-six years ago with her parents and sister. Her parents believed she and her sister would have better educational opportunities in this country. Although the move was exciting it took time to get used to the culture, language, classmates, and teachers. She attended middle school and high school in Galena Park ISD.
In 2006, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Houston Clear Lake. After working as a bilingual teacher for 4 years she returned to school. She earned her Master of Education in Bilingual and Dual Language Education, from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX.
This prepared her to pursue and obtain a district-level position as an Elementary Bilingual / ESL Specialist. She completed the Principal Program at Lamar University in the fall of 2021 and is currently working on her certification exams.
She is employed by Galena Park ISD in the Bilingual/ESL Department. She provides support to teachers, instructional coaches, and campus administrators. She models components of the dual language program such as English Language Development (ELD), the bridge, and balanced literacy pieces in language arts. She also provides professional development focusing on language acquisition strategies for K-12 bilingual/ESL teachers. She builds capacity in her district by utilizing research-based strategies that help support language learners in the K – 5th grade classroom. Additionally, she works closely with the Language Arts Department to design and align the state standards, and create district assessments in Spanish.
Her mission is to equip teachers with the necessary instructional tools. Consequently, preparing their students to be balanced bilinguals, advance them academically, and prepare them to compete in our ever-changing global society. She plans to become a campus administrator soon and make a more significant positive impact on teachers, staff, parents, students, and the community.
Claudia Pacheco-Gonzalez, a Boston, MA native born to Puerto Rican parents is a first generation graduate. Having worked in customer service roles for most of her life, she knew her passion was teaching and making a difference. She enrolled in community college and began her journey towards earning her Bachelor of Arts in education graduating in 2022 from Grand Canyon University.
During the pandemic she began working as a paraprofessional for Boston Public Schools. Seeing the amount of work and advocacy that needed to be done, she later enrolled at Boston University, to pursue her Masters of Arts in Leadership, Policy Advocacy for Early Childhood Education.
Cynthia Rivas Mendes is a firm advocate who believes in giving a voice to the voiceless – focusing on people who have been systemically and personally marginalized. Cynthia is the daughter of Puerto Rican and Dominican parents. She believes that her family narrative is a huge contribution to who she is and what she brings to the space she takes up.
Cynthia is a member of the Brockton School Committee serving in her 2nd term. She believes in writing and rewriting policies that best serve and meet all people. She graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and did her Masters at Boston University. After nine years in the classroom, Cynthia will be working for Boston Public Schools this year as a a New Teacher Developer.
Ellie Lupafya was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts. First generation American, she was born to Cuban immigrant parents. She is a proud graduate of the Worcester Public Schools and specifically North High school class of 1996. Upon graduation Ellie attended and graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a BA in Spanish and Latin american studies.
After graduation she went back to her roots at North High School where she was hired as a Spanish teacher and worked in that role for 8 years. During this time Ellie obtained two masters degrees in both Criminal Justice and School administration. She was then promoted to Assistant Principal and served in that role until 2021.
In 2021 Ellie took on the role as Principal of the first Dual Language school in Worcester La Familia where she worked tirelessly to get the school up and running. Currently Ellie has returned back to North High school and back to her role as Assistant Principal. She is actively involved in supporting the hispanic families in her community as well as educating them on options after graduation.
Ferny Reyes was born in Houston, TX and spent most of his childhood in the Rio Grande Valley living as a part of an extended immigrant family. He spent a lot of time growing up wondering why his schooling seemed to allow for unequal opportunities based on family and class.
After graduating from Yale University, Ferny entered education as a high school history teacher at YES Prep in Houston. Afterwards, Ferny served as a teacher, curriculum leader, and consultant for 12 years at high-performing charter schools, nationally-recognize non-profit institutes, and College Board. His work has been primarily focused on social studies pedagogy, assessment theory, and curriculum implementation. These experiences motivated Ferny to attend the Harvard Graduate School of Education to do academic research and to learn best practices to further implement in his work.
Currently, Ferny serves as the Director of Data and Assessment at Excel Academy Charter schools, where he is focused on efforts to develop systems for academic accountability and assessment to support teachers and administrators in providing rigorous and culturally affirming curricular experiences. Ferny is passionate about the inequities in the system that are compounded by students receiving instruction and support that is not rigorous enough and does not open doors of opportunities to them.
Dr. Gladys Valle currently serves as the English Learner Department Head at Everett High School in Everett, MA. As a first-generation college student, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Stetson University in 2014.
Throughout her undergraduate experience, she volunteered through AmeriCorps and the Bonner Foundation. Within this network, she learned about City Year and committed to serving in Boston. She was placed in a third-grade ESL classroom, where she quickly felt connected and at home. Shortly after her City Year, Gladys decided to pursue a career as an ESL teacher.
She received a Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language from Simmons University in 2017. At that time, she had taught 3rd and 8th grade ESL and began to transition to teaching high school. She quickly became aware of the challenges that uniquely impacted high school students and felt the urgency to address prevalent issues.
Gladys decided to pursue leadership opportunities as an Instructional Coach and, currently, a Department Head. Further, she earned a Doctor of Education from Northeastern University in 2022, where she focused on the social-emotional needs of English Learners to improve student outcomes. As a first-generation Puerto Rican, Gladys is passionate about elevating the experiences of all Latino students, their families, and the larger community.
Janice Reeves-Rivera grew up in Puerto Rico. She is currently the District Instructional World Language Coach at Cambridge Public Schools, where she supports teachers and students across the district to engage in positive and productive learning environments. She is also a member of the Education of Colors Coalition Leadership Team, co-chair of the Latinx Educator Resource group and founding member of the Educators of Color Mentorship Program in her district.
After completing her BA in Political Science at the University of Puerto Rico, Janice moved to the US to pursue a Master’s degree in Linguistics at Boston University , where she also trained to be a medical and legal interpreter. Later on, she completed an MA from Universidad de Alcalá de Henares on Teaching Spanish as a Second Language. Janice has been an educator in urban schools for over a decade, and within various teaching and leadership roles.
After 4 years as School Administration Manager at a dual immersion school in Cambridge, she became the first 12th grade teacher at the only public dual immersion high school in New England, at Boston Public Schools. Her initiatives included co-developing curriculum and training students for a new Medical Terminology & Interpreting professional pathways program. Following the threads of the things that she cares about, Janice’s path has centered on increasing opportunity and access for people of color in general, and students of color in particular.
My name is Jennifer Valencia, and I am a Colombian American who was born and raised in the city of Boston. I was raised by Colombian parents who migrated to the US and cultivated a home for three other children in an urban, Latino-centered neighborhood called East Boston.
I attended Boston Community Leadership Academy and completed my undergraduate studies at the College of the Holy Cross where I received my bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Environmental Studies. Through my experiences in school, I sparked a great interest in understanding maternal health, environmental health, and gender studies through Latin America. I had the opportunity to travel within Latin America and the Caribbean islands to understand how intersectionality played a key role in the lives of women and children.
After college, I began to work at Mothers for Justice and Equality as a Bilingual Family Advocate where I worked closely with various Latino communities in Boston by advocating and supporting their needs through mentoring services and group support sessions. Within my time at MJE, I found passion in mentoring youth and young parents. From a Bilingual Family Advocate to a Youth Development Program Coordinator, I sought out to develop holistic and bilingual services for all youth and adults.
I am interested in continuing seeking solutions to better the quality of life for Latino families. I continue to spark interest in continuing advocacy work to center the voices of Latino children, young adults, women, and families in this country and all over the world.
Kelly Garcia has been an extraordinary educator, Chairwoman of the Chelsea School Committee and community organizer. In 2015, Kelly was selected to join the Teach For America corps, where she began her tenure as a Special Education Teacher teaching grades 9-12.
To further her impact in fighting for education equality, Kelly joined Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), where she served as a mentor for young women and men who aspired to become elected officials and create change within their communities. She was heavily involved in LEE’s efforts, as she traveled to Baltimore, Colorado, LA, New York, and Philadelphia, to deepen her skill sets in community organizing, & political involvement.
Following her involvement with LEE, Kelly beat a Chelsea School Committee incumbent of 10 years, by being elected by her beloved community to serve as the youngest School Committee official ever elected in her district, while also attending graduate classes at Boston University. While on the board, Kelly drafted and proposed a Safe-Haven Resolution that would protect undocumented students. Kelly’s proposal was passed unanimously and is now a policy effective across the district.
At 23, shortly after receiving her Master’s Degree from Boston University, she was then elected as the youngest and only Latina Vice Chairwoman to the board, and now serves as the Chairwoman. Kelly was a key stakeholder in organizing a city-wide donation drive for Hurricane Maria. Alongside her team, they were able to send over 300,000 pounds of food, clothes, and medical resources to Puerto Rico.
Most recently, Kelly was involved in the distribution of over 3,000 chromebooks and hotspots to students in Chelsea during the school closure because of the COVID 19pandemic. Kelly takes pride in her involvement in the community, serving as a champion for her students, and most importantly, being a Latina. Kelly states, “My Puerto Rican roots fuel my fire and desire to continue the fight.”
I am a first generation Cuban-Mexican American. My grandmother was a teacher in Cuba and my mother was a social worker in East Boston. I blended the careers and became a school adjustment counselor for Haverhill Public Schools. My passion has always been to work for districts with high Latino populations and to help all students achieve academic success.
Previously, I worked for Lynn Public Schools as an ESL Assessment Specialist. After obtaining my graduate degree in counseling, I moved to California and became a school counselor at Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter School.
In Los Angeles I had the privilege of not only working with a diverse student population, but also a diverse faculty. I still follow a few of my Los Angeles colleagues and it makes me ecstatic to see that many of my Latinx colleagues have stepped into leadership roles.
After my first daughter was born, I decided to move back to Massachusetts to be closer to family. I worked in Lawrence as a School Counselor in grades PK-8. Last year I accepted a position as a middle school adjustment counselor for Haverhill Public Schools.
In preparation to move into a leadership role, I have successfully completed the Lynch Leadership Micro Academy offered through Boston College. The academy taught me leadership skills and gave me the tools needed to increase opportunities and outcomes for all students.
A first generation Puerto Rican, Maribel grew up at the intersection of multilingualism and special education, engaging with extended family in Puerto Rico, monolingual peers in the suburbs of CT and family members with various communication impairments. As a young child Maribel taught herself the American Sign Language alphabet in attempts to better communicate with her deaf aunts and uncles.
Maribel received her Masters degree in Speech Pathology from the University of Connecticut and has been working as a bilingual speech language pathologist in Boston Public Schools for 19 years.
Throughout her career Maribel has been an advocate for bilingual students with communication impairments and specifically differentiating between a language difference versus disorder. This year she will be starting a new chapter as the multilingual speech pathology department liaison, providing coaching and support for her peers.
My name is Ralph Toribio. I was born in Bronx, NY but was raised in Providence, RI with both my parents and 3 female siblings. As a Dominican-American and a product of Providence Public Schools, I am proud to have attended school in a challenging low-incoming urban community.
I currently work as an Elementary School Counselor for the Providence Public School Department. Working for a Dual-Language Elementary School, I identify myself as an advocate for multilingual students and multilingualism, Before my employment, I gained a Master of Education in School Counseling from Providence College. I have also obtained my bachelor’s degree in Human Science and Service from the University of Rhode Island.
I currently serve in the United States Air Force Reserve, in the rank of Technical Sergeant at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, MA. My prior work includes working as an Employment Specialist at the Providence Center, providing employment and mental health services to individuals in need.
Right out of college in 2008, I was employed as an Academic Advisor for Onward We Learn, formally known as the College Crusade of Rhode Island, where I served for 7 years, providing urban city middle and high school students with different core offerings so to obtain an opportunity for post-secondary education.
I love working directly with students and their families, especially students who can relate to someone who followed a similar educational path and can also relate culturally.
Rosa is a Salem State University graduate earning a bachelor’s and masters in social work. Rosa also holds an LCSW and is a License Clinical Social Worker. She is a firstgeneration college graduate and an American citizen in her family.
Her family migrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic when she was a young girl. She was raised by a single mother of three and is inspired by her family’s hard work. Rosa has a passion for social justice, policy, advocacy, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Rosa is part of the Salem Equity Task Force within her hometown community of Salem, Massachusetts. She was also selected as a recipient of the 29 Who Shines 2022 award, which was selected by Salem State University and the Department of Secondary Education.
Rosa is currently a District Director in the Massachusetts legislature and hopes to obtain a law degree to continue to support vulnerable communities.
Dr. Frank Rojas is a purpose-driven leader committed to helping people and organizations grow into their purpose. His passion is providing access to learners in post-secondary higher education. He has global experience enabling universities across the globe to meet the needs of marginalized learners.
Dr. Rojas has an extensive background in start-up and turn-around organizations. He is experienced in impacting top-line revenue by developing and executing go-to-market strategies focusing on people and processes. Dr. Rojas has a systematic approach to helping up-in-coming leaders reach their full potential. His leadership style is adaptable and proven in multi-national organizations, with sensitivity to organizational and social differences while delivering results.
Dr. Rojas has earned a Ph.D. in Organizational Development and Change and a Master’s in Organization Leadership through the Fielding Graduate University. Dr. Rojas has also earned an Executive MBA through Pepperdine University and holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration through DeVry University.
Dr. Rojas has experience in serving on non-profit, missionally oriented boards. Most recently, he has served on the Executive Council for the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego with positions on the Finance Committee, Leadership and Congregational Development Taskforce, and Strategic Taskforce. In addition, Dr. Rojas also served as the Bishop’s Warden at Saint Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church in Temecula, California.
For self-care, Dr. Rojas is an avid motorcycle enthusiast. Fun fact – Dr. Rojas rode his Harley with his daughter from Murrieta, CA, to Brevard, NC, in the summer of 2019 while completing his dissertation.
Cynthia Paris is a highly experienced transformational leader. She has over 25 years of experience in education, with a focus on working with multilingual students and improving outcomes for children. Cynthia worked the last four-plus years in Lawrence Public Schools as Superintendent, following her appointment by state Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, and currently works as a consultant.
She arrived in Lawrence from Newton Public Schools, where she was Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education. Prior to that she worked in Boston Public Schools for 17 years, serving as a bilingual speech-language pathologist before becoming a principal, leading her second school out of turnaround status.
Paris holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from the University of Massachusetts at Boston, was an Academy Fellow at the Lynch Leadership Academy at Boston College in 2012, and served as a Teaching Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s School Leadership Program in 2013-14. She is excited to join the fellowship in the effort to learn how to continue to influence excellent outcomes for high needs Latino students.
Nancy Jimenez Zigler is the Director of Programs and Partnerships at the Jandon Center for Community Engagement, based in Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. At Smith, she also teaches as a university lecturer, and runs several skill-building social-justice oriented fellowships.
Nancy has a B.A. in Chemistry and a B.B.A. in Finance from Texas A&M, as well as a M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh, where she taught university courses in journalism, literature, composition, and creative writing for three years via a fully funded Teaching Assistantship.
Prior to working at Smith, Nancy worked at NASA, Union Pacific Railroad, the EPA, and research labs across the country. Nancy is passionate about art, literature, and writing, and has published 15+ works online and in print, most recently receiving the Winter Story Award from the Master’s Review.
Nancy is invested in participating in the Latino Board Fellowship because she believes that young Latine students deserve to chase their dreams instead of their realities. Most importantly, she is a mother to an joyous 4-year old son, and lives with her husband in Westfield, Massachusetts.
Dr. Rubén Carmona has more than 20 years of educational leadership experience in the field. Prior to joining the Salem Public Schools, Dr. Carmona was a school principal in Salem and Lowell and most recently a Regional Academic Director in Boston Public Schools.
His commitment to building inclusive and diverse communities of practice and excellence has had a transformational impact in the schools and districts he has worked for. His talent for supporting and empowering teams to restore dignity and purpose continues to be his greatest commitment to his work.
Dr. Carmona received his ED. D. from Boston College, a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and a Masters of Educational Leadership from Salem State University and a BA in Modern Languages and linguistics from Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia. He was nominated as an Influence 100 Fellow as well as ASCD emerging leader.
Myra Majewski has a decorated career in higher education administration, where she is known for her resourcefulness, engagement, and linking people and ideas to generate win-win solutions. Her professional experience is multipronged and includes human resources management, clinical leadership, and volunteering at cultural institutions.
She is currently the Director of the Harvard Dental Center where she serves as a member of the Center’s leadership team. Prior to this, she held roles in human resources at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Myra credits her mentors and a few key colleagues (ranging from staff to faculty to students) who, throughout her career, helped shape her confidence in many areas (including the unknown).
Her workplace philosophy is to trust/empower others to do their roles and practice a “sum of all parts” approach. She received a B.A. in English Literature from Boston University and an A.L.M. in Management/Organizational Behavior from the Harvard University Extension School.
Originally from South Texas and now a New Englander for 25+ years, Myra has long been interested in bridging knowledge and equity gaps (from preschool to graduate school) and also spreading the gospel of lifelong learning and perseverance. Moreover, she embraces a Pan-Latin approach—recognizing the parallels and incongruities within our familia—believing that a united front on key issues will improve educational quality, accessibility, and progression for current generations and beyond.
Joining the fellowship continues her lifelong obligation to serve others and rise above adversity, which was instilled by her mother (Janie), a retired educator in K-12 and higher-ed. When time allows, she enjoys spending time with her son (Hunter), husband (Andy), and mother-in-law (Jane), and also being a career advisor to personal and professional contacts.
Marina Pastrana Ríos is a social-impact entrepreneur with fifteen years of experience in diverse industries, including higher education, food and beverage, social-impact start-ups, and plastics manufacturing. She is the founder of the Montserrat Coalition at Boston College, a program that supports and serves first-generation and low-income students. Marina is the Chief Revenue Officer of OTW Safety, a safety barricade manufacturer founded in SLC, Utah. OTW Safety focuses on designing and manufacturing construction, event, and pedestrian safety barricades.
She holds a BA in business administration with a minor in Latin American studies from Boston College. She also holds a Master in Theological Studies focused on Business Ethics from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. She is passionate about workplace safety, workers’ rights, social justice, and supporting and uplifting the Latino community in Boston’s Roxbury & Dorchester neighborhoods.
Maria Isabel Gariepy is a passionate leader in the fields of DEIJ (diversity, equity, inclusion and justice) currently serving as Chief Diversity & Equity Officer at Worcester State University. She has worked in Massachusetts public higher education for a decade, with a previous tenure at Mount Wachusett Community College, and in corporate HR and compliance roles prior at Fresenius Medical Care, Morgan Stanley and Washington Mutual (now Chase).
Born and raised in Barranquilla, Colombia, and residing in Central Massachusetts for 15 years, Maria Isabel is a certified MCAD trainer and presently enrolled in an Executive Leadership Institute program. She holds a MBA from Fitchburg State University, and a Bachelor of Science in Finance and International Relations from San Martin University in Colombia. She serves as Vice Chair of the ACE Women’s Network Massachusetts chapter, and served as Vice President for NEACOL (New England Association for Colombian Children) until recently.
By joining the Latino Board Fellowship, she hopes to further the impact, define and influence strategy level work and fiduciary responsibilities of boards as it relates to matters of equity, access and belonging for BIPOC and other historically marginalized populations, particularly those who share the Latinx lived experience in Massachusetts. ¡Aquí Estamos!
With over 17 years of progressive leadership experience in the field of Human Resources and D.E.I, María Fernanda Cantón has a wealth of experience in the public, private and not-for profit sectors. She currently serves as Chief of Human Resources at a multi-site, community health center in the North Shore area where she leads in strategic human resources management, seeking to maximize the organization’s talent to fulfill its mission of providing exceptional care to all.
Prior to that role, María Fernanda led the Human Resources function at a multi-state, education tech company whose stated mission is to radically improve education for every student. Overall María Fernanda’s established human resources career has been focused on supporting organizations, large and small to maximize their People talent for the pursuit of their organizational visions. This was definitely the case during the over 10 years she served the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in a variety of Human Resources and Equal Employment Opportunity roles, all which were focused on creating fair and equitable employment practices where all employees were set up for success.
Born and raised in Cali, Colombia, María Fernanda moved to the United States and attended Suffolk University where she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and International Affairs and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. Her passion for Human Resources led her to obtain a certificate in Strategic Human Resources Leadership from Cornell University and to her enrollment in the Institute for Non-Profit Management Leadership Program. Throughout her career, María Fernanda has always been passionate about serving the public and is continuously engaged in several community service activities which allow her to put her leadership skills, sense of purpose and passion to help others into action.
Bruno has recently accepted a position as an AML Guidance Manager for Citizens Financial Group where he will be working in the Anti-Money Laundering Compliance department ensuring the business units maintain the guidelines and standards set forth by the department. He has previously worked in the AML compliance space for the last 8 years, most recently at MineralTree, Inc. where he started and helped maintain their AML compliance program; and State Street Corporation where he started as a Sanctions Compliance Analyst in 2017.
Bruno earned and MBA from Southern New Hampshire University in 2018 and has recently been accepted by the New England Law School for the fall of 23 for their JD program. Bruno moved to Boston, MA from Brazil in 1997 and attended the Boston Public School system from the 4th-12th grade and hopes to use his experience as a Latino student growing through the public school system as a way to help current and future students have a more equitable education.
Dr. Isabel Martinez is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Cultures, Societies and Global Studies and Director of Latinx, Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Northeastern University. She obtained her Ph.D. in Sociology and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including the Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson National Foundation Fellowship, the John Jay Distinguished Teaching and Distinguished Service to Students awards, the 2020/2015 Kwando Kinshasa Excellence in Mentoring Awards and the 2018 New York State Youth Leadership Council Outstanding Educator award.
Her manuscript, Becoming Transnational Youth Workers: Independent Mexican Teenage Migrants and Pathways of Survival and Social Mobility highlights findings from research examining the life courses of unaccompanied, out-of-school Mexican immigrant youths living in New York City and she is currently the lead editor of a forthcoming monograph, Beyond Digital Fronteras: Rehumanizing Latinx Education that focuses on the use of digital tools in HSI and Latinx Studies classrooms.
She is the founding director of the Unaccompanied Latin American Minor Project (U-LAMP), a research and service project that supports immigrant youths pursuing legal status and Latinx undergraduate students who assist on their cases. She is a founding member of John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Immigrant Student Success Center, the first college-level immigrant student center in New York City. She is excited to learn more about and lend her expertise in thinking about ways to support the schooling of Latinx immigrant youths in Massachusetts.
Tiffany Echevarria supports the work of Collective Action for Youth as the Executive Director by providing leadership and strategic direction. In this role, she is eager to work shoulder to shoulder with youth to create better solutions for the community.
Tiffany’s background includes implementation, evaluation and continuous quality improvement for youth programming. She is an experienced facilitator who regularly brings people together to dialogue around race and diversity.
Tiffany has a Bachelor’s Degree from Texas Southern University and a Master’s of Public Policy and Administration from University of St. Thomas. She is a proud Black and Puerto Rican woman. Tiffany believes Black Lives Matter, Love is Love, and Women’s Rights are Human’s Rights. Tiffany leads with empathy, respect, humility, and considers herself a lifelong learner. Through the Latino Board Fellowship, Tiffany is elated to support better educational outcomes for Houston’s Latino youth.
Robert is currently the Director of Grants Management and Evaluation at The Brown Foundation, where he oversees both the technical components of grantmaking at the Foundation and the analysis of grant reporting and programmatic results. Previously, Robert managed grants reporting, program and administrative duties on the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation.
For over 10 years, Robert’s career has been devoted to serving Houstonians and Texans at-large. Robert began at BakerRipley helping Houston Independent School District families with children in Head Start programs. He then helped connect families to schools by managing a database and creating and operating a successful call center reaching tens of thousands of families in Houston, San Antonio, and Austin at Families Empowered.
A native Californian, and son of a Mexican immigrant parent, Robert was the first in his family to go to college, attaining his BA in Psychology at UC Berkeley and a MA in International Educational Development from Teachers College, Columbia University. Robert is grateful for being part of the board fellowship and hopes that he can continue making a positive impact in the lives of Latino students and families as a result.
Natalia Fernández has been transforming the educational policy landscape in Texas in the areas of school discipline and mental health since 2008. As the daughter of two immigrant parents, she was inspired to work in education policy after watching her parents navigate the challenges of supporting their children in the education system.
Natalia has create policy change and implementation across the state in her role as an executive coach and consultant for district Superintendents. Prior to that, Natalia served as a Chief of Student Support Services where she created new district policies to end corporal punishment, transformed school policing, and establish critical mental health partnerships that lowered exclusionary discipline.
Natalia also served as the founding Director of the System of Care program in Spring Branch ISD. In this role she successfully supported the district in a 42% reduction in exclusionary discipline over 5 years through the creation of a district-wide network of mental health and substance use intervention programs. She also successfully redesigned the district’s elementary Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP) to be the first restorative and therapeutic-based alternative program in the state.
Prior her policy work Natalia served as a Spanish Teacher and Teacher Leadership Development Coach. Natalia lives in Houston with her partner Luis and two children Camila and Lucas who inspire her to continue her work to ensure equity and access for all Latinx children across our city.
Dr. Ana Treviño-Godfrey is the Director of Prelude Music Classes for Children and co-founder and Director of Education of The Prelude Music Foundation. She is passionate about music, music-making, and education. Ana graduated from Rice University (DMA, MM) and The Cleveland Institute of Music (BM). She performed opera and early music in the US and abroad. Her love of music led her to co-found Mercury Chamber Orchestra. Ana is a “Good Reasons to Lead” fellow with Good Reason Houston.
In 2011, Ana stopped performing to focus on her vocation: to serve children and their families through music education. She believes music is the great equalizer that builds bridges where barriers exist. Ana co-founded the Prelude Music Foundation, a non-profit bringing Music Together® to marginalized communities in Houston. The foundation serves over 2,000 students in Title 1 schools, Casa de Esperanza de Los Niños, and families at the Ronald McDonald House, supporting children’s cognitive, emotional, physical, social, and language development through the power of music.
Partnered with like-minded organizations like the Houston Symphony, Ana believes music education can change lives, help us heal, and bring us peace. Ana is a presenter at early childhood conferences and has taught at Rice University, Houston Community College, and Interlochen Arts Camp. In addition, she is a Music Together teacher trainer. Ana wants to make a meaningful impact on the Latinx community and is thrilled to be a fellow with Latinos for Education. She looks forward to working con ganas to improve education for Latinos.
Pedro Sepulveda is currently a Sr Network Operations Engineer at Lumen Technology based from Houston, Texas. Previously, he has worked as a Subject Matter Expert in multiple voice communications solutions across the global landscape.
Pedro has a B.S. in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Houston – Downtown. He attended additional educational efforts in the Computational and Applied Mathematics department at Rice University.
He has volunteered as a parent, community member and stakeholder to a variety of educational outreach programs such as Houston Real Men Read and the Read Houston Read programs with Houston ISD for over 25 years. Pedro is looking forward to being part of the Latinos for Education Board Fellowship to collaborate with others in furthering the endeavors of our Latinx community.
Felicia has worked for over 20 years in college access, leadership development, and strategic planning for higher education institutions and non-profit organizations. Entering her 8th year at EMERGE, Felicia is currently serving as the Managing Director for Development, where she is responsible for managing a growing development team.
Felicia previously served as the Managing Director of Program Strategy for two years before becoming Managing Director of College Success, where she was responsible for developing the philosophies and structures needed to support EMERGE students through college graduation.
Before her tenure with EMERGE, Felicia served as the Associate Director for the Center for Civic Leadership at Rice University, where she supported the development and execution of domestic leadership programs that challenged high-achieving students at the undergraduate level.
Felicia has served on the Rice Alumni Board of Directors, as well as the Advisory Board for the Center for Teaching Excellence at Rice University. She has an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Rice University and a master’s degree in Organizational Development from St. Edward’s University in Austin.
Felicia, born to a mother of Mexican descent who faced a tumultuous and discriminatory historical period in South Texas, is honored to be part of the Latino Board Fellowship to utilize her voice and skills to advance educational equity and economic opportunity for Latino communities. She lives by the words of Delores Huerta, who has reminded us that “every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.”
Bilma is an associate at a litigation boutique in Houston, Texas specializing in commercial litigation. Born in the East End of Houston and raised in an immigrant community, Bilma is acutely aware of and passionate in addressing educational inequity in minority communities.
Bilma also taught middle school English Language Arts in the Gulfton community in Southwest Houston before law school. She joined the fellowship to re-enter the education world and continue the fight in supporting our Latino communities.
José Eduardo Sánchez is the co-founder and co-director of Tecolotl, a grassroots consulting and capacity-building collective led by and for immigrant, queer, and trans people of color. Tecolotl cultivates multilingual spaces and processes that bring people together across languages in order to transform their communities.
José Eduardo has spent the last 12 years collaborating with communities to create, transform, and reclaim public space – as a community organizer, language worker, and socially engaged artist. He is a national leader in immigrant worker organizing and grassroots campaigns and has held leadership roles at some of the most innovative worker centers and advocacy nonprofits across the US, including the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) and Young Invincibles. José Eduardo’s and organizing and advocacy has resulted in successful policies and programs to tackle issues including wage theft, student debt, immigrant detention and deportation, and health disparities.
José Eduardo also specializes in the creation of multilingual spaces and works with local, national, and international organizations as an interpreter, translator, trainer and language justice consultant. José Eduardo’s creative practice explores the relationships between language, memory, and space. They are a 2023 Stove Works Artist-in-Residence, a former Art & Social Engagement Fellow at Project Row Houses – UH KGMCA, a Greensboro Justice Fund Fellow at the Highlander Center, and Desert Nights, Rising Star Fellow at ASU’s Piper Center for Creative Writing. José Eduardo is originally from Guanajuato, Mexico and now calls Houston, Texas home.
Angelica is a Senior Program Officer at Schusterman Family Philanthropies, where she manages the teacher workforce portfolio. Her work is focused on expanding high-quality preparation routes and strengthening pathways into the profession for aspiring Black and Latino teachers.
Before joining Schusterman, Angelica served as a Capital Commitment Fellow in DC Public Schools and middle school ELA teacher, grade-level chair, and assistant principal at YES Prep Public Schools in Houston. She began her career as a 2007 Teach For America corps member in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where she taught elementary bilingual reading.
Angelica holds a BA from the University of Michigan, an MPH from Harvard, and an MBA from UC Berkeley. As a Latino Board Fellow, she hopes to bring together her experience in K12 school systems and education philanthropy to support organizations in developing and scaling program models that center the unique assets and needs of Latino students.
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Chris Espinoza is the Manager of Programs and Alumni Experience at Latinos for Education where he leads the implementation of our leadership development programs and supports our Fellow and Alumni experience.
As a first-generation Mexican American, Chris has dedicated his career to expanding educational opportunities for students of all backgrounds, particularly first-generation college students. Chris has worked at colleges and universities across the Greater Boston area, including MIT, Bridgewater State University, Boston College, and the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. Most recently, he worked as the College and Career Navigator for EdNavigator, a nonprofit organization that partners with leading employers to connect busy families with expert education advisors who provide ongoing, personalized education support. Chris holds a B.S. in Psychology and English from Bridgewater State University and an M.A. in Higher Education Administration from Boston College. Chris is driven by his experience trying to navigate the education system and a desire to make the process easier for future students and families. Chris believes deeply in elevating student voices and empowering students to lead from their identity to achieve their goals.
Juanluis Montero is the Manager, Graphic and Web Designer for Latinos for Education, where he brings over 30 years of experience to support the marketing and communication efforts. Prior to joining the organization, he served as a pivotal member of the senior management team at El Mundo Boston, where he oversaw overall communications operations strategy while managing diverse business procedures and functions.
In addition to his work in graphic design and marketing, Juanluis is an experienced Information Technology advisor and consultant for several local companies in the Greater Boston and northern Massachusetts areas. He has assisted with system, data, security, and storage management.
Juanluis is a hardworking and inspiring leader with exceptional interpersonal skills, excellent business acumen, and an ambitious self-driven work ethic. He earned a BA in Graphic Arts and Advertising from the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo, and he lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Mónica and their four children.
He is a Dominican immigrant of Afro-Latino heritage, who takes pride in his family roots. He is deeply committed to working hard and helping Latinos create a brighter future for themselves and their loved ones.
Sarah Montero serves as an Executive Assistant at Latinos for Education. In her role, she provides executive-level support to the Chief Development Officer and the External Affairs team, ensuring that their work runs smoothly and efficiently.
Sarah is a first-generation graduate and daughter of Mexican immigrants who was born and raised in Southeast Houston, Texas. She is a product of the public school system and earned her bachelor’s degree in history and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Houston.
As an undergraduate student, Sarah served as the Program Manager for a grown-your-own alternative teaching certification program, which aimed to prepare culturally and equity-focused educators. Her passion for education and social justice led her to become a Teaching Fellow, where she taught 8th and 9th grade ELA with Breakthrough Houston. Her teaching pedagogy is rooted in abolitionist teaching and restorative justice, focusing on empowering her students to become critical thinkers and agents of change.
In addition to her work in education, Sarah has a background in the nonprofit and higher education sector. She has worked on various projects aimed at promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion, and ensuring that marginalized communities have access to resources and opportunities. She is committed to ensuring that all educators and students have the resources they need to succeed, and that the histories and experiences of marginalized communities are not erased.
Born in Puerto Rico, Migdalia moved stateside at the age of 3 and was raised by a strong, hardworking mother who passed on her work ethic, taught her resilience, and ensured she remained connected to her Puerto Rican heritage. That resilience paired with a determination to go to college led to Migdalia serving 8 years in the CT Army National Guard, which remains the most empowering experience of her life.
The 24-year career that followed resulted in a series of experiences that continue to inform the leader she has become and her approach to business.
She spent the first 17 years of her career as a consultant in the private sector: 9+ years with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and 7+ years with AIRINC, a leader in global mobility. Her time in these organizations taught her how to pick apart any process or stated business need to ensure the long term needs of the organization are being addressed in a way that aligns with Leadership’s long-term vision.
Wanting to translate this skill set into a role that would benefit her community, Migdalia spent the next 7 years of her career serving in the non-profit and government sectors: 2+ years as COO of the Association of Latino Professionals for America, Inc. and 5+ years in State Government as CoS and then COO for the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. These roles provided Migdalia insight into what truly makes an organization resilient and successful, even in the midst of chaos. Leadership with a clear vision combined with the appropriate company culture has the capacity to create the space for employees and thus the organization to flourish.
Migdalia is excited to join Latinos for Education and work with this incredible team to effect change for the Latino Community in the years to come.
Katherine serves as the Program Executive Assistant. In her role, she directly supports the Chief Program and Innovation Officer while providing logistical support to program implementation.
Prior to serving as an Executive Assistant, Katherine was the Coordinator of Volunteers at a refugee resettlement agency where she managed the allocation of resources under the US Office of Refugee Resettlement in Washington DC.
Katherine earned a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies: Place, Power, and Identity at Loyola University in Baltimore City. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Sociology at George Washington University in Washington DC.