Richard A. Carranza
Superintendent of Schools, Houston ISD
Since taking the helm of Houston ISD, Superintendent Richard A. Carranza has advocated a community schools approach while advancing the district’s commitment to diversity and equity, educating the whole child, and creating a world-class district of students who fulfill HISD’s Global Graduate profile. Carranza is a lifelong educator who was a bilingual teacher, principal, and administrator in Las Vegas and Tucson before leading San Francisco USD. He is immediate past chairman of the Board of Directors for the Council of the Great City Schools. Carranza earned a bachelor of arts in Secondary Education from the University of Arizona and a master of education with distinction in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University and is pursuing his doctorate of education. He is also an accomplished mariachi musician.
Luis R. Torres, PhD
Associate Dean for Research & Strategic Partnerships at University of Houston
Dr. Torres is Associate Professor, Associate Dean for Research and Strategic Partnerships, and Director of the Center for Drug and Social Policy Research in the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston. He is also Thrust Lead for Transnational Flows of People (Policy) in the BTI Institute, a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence for Borders, Trade, and Immigration Research at the University of Houston. His research focuses on co-occurring mental health, substance use and medical disorders, and on community and family strengthening efforts, with a particular focus on Hispanics. His research funding includes grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to deliver HIV/HCV, Mental Health, and Substance Use Prevention Interventions to Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, and other minorities ages 18 to 24; from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study the effectiveness of Recovery High Schools in three states, and to explore the use of Virtual Reality Cue Exposure Therapy to target opioid cravings; and from the Administration for Children and Families to conduct rigorous evaluations of Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education Programs that target primarily Hispanics and African Americans. He has several research collaborations in Mexico and El Salvador. A native of Puerto Rico, Dr. Torres has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Fordham University in New York City and over 25 years of clinical, administrative, and research experience.
Lorena G Gonzalez, PhD
Vice President of Urban Strategies
A life-long commitment to leadership and service has endeared Dr. Lorena Gonzalez to audiences around the country for more than twenty years. Through speeches, training, workshops and coaching, Lorena inspires individuals to recognize and magnify their strengths for the good of others.
Lorena helps business leaders through training and executive coaching create inclusive company environments that capitalize on the strengths of a diverse workforce. She works with employees to identify their abilities and enhance their performance. Above all, Lorena teaches the power of honoring culture, and the strength of personal heritage.
Combining practical and theoretical experiences, Lorena develops programs that transform people, neighborhoods and communities. She is a recognized expert in creating unique, holistic approaches to program delivery. With her colleague, Lisa Treviño Cummins, her efforts have been the catalyst to a book project resulting in the International Latino Book award and Amazon best-selling book entitled Inheritance: Discovering the Richness of the Latino Culture and Family. In true fashion of Dr. Gonzalez’s talents, this storytelling format highlights the struggles, values and challenges of many of the families and communities she was worked with in her twenty-five-year career. She has also been instrumental in developing a renowned, culturally based leadership program, The Family Leadership Institute.
In her work with Urban Strategies, Lorena provides training and technical assistance that teaches practitioners, educators, policy makers and community leaders how to build successful community programs that drive positive change.
She develops effective community engagement strategies, and is instrumental in creating partnerships that strengthen the power of underserved communities.
In 2011, Lorena was inducted into the prestigious Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Hall of Fame, where she received the “Optimista” award for achieving success through persistence in the face of adversity. Also in measure of her work she received the respected San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 2012, “Making a Mark on the World - Women’s Inspiration” Award.
Lorena credits her father’s first four English words, “You can do it,” for helping her complete three degrees as a young wife and mother. Lorena received her PhD in Leadership Studies from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, TX, and her MA in Bicultural Bilingual Studies from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She completed post-doctoral work at Harvard University’s Government, Executive Education Program.
J. Michael Hall, M.Ed
President and Founder of Strong Fathers, Strong Families, LLC.
J. Michael Hall is the father of two adult sons and the husband to a beautiful middle school reading teacher. Mr. Hall has been a special education teacher, a teacher of the gifted and talented, and an intermediate and middle school principal. After realizing that he was spending more time raising other people’s children than his own he left the principalship and soon became an advocate for stronger father and family engagement in public education. As an educator, speaker and founder of Strong Fathers-Strong Families, he has presented to more than 200,000 fathers and parents at local schools, Head Starts, and regional and national conferences.
J. Michael has worked with over 250 schools in Texas and in over 40 states with public schools and Head Starts. He is a consistent presenter with the Texas Association of School Boards, Texas PTA, the National PTA, the National Head Start Association, the National Association for Relationship and Marriage Education, the National School Board Association, and the National Zero to Three Institute.
He is also a contributing author to the book on fathering entitled Why Fathers Count, and is considered one of the country’s foremost experts on working with fathers in schools and Head Starts. For his pioneering work over the past fifteen years in education he was honored as a 2012 White House Champion of Change for his work in the fatherhood field around the nation.
Rev. Dr. Jayme Mathias
The Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees
Jayme often jokes that he wasn’t born in Austin—but that he got here as quickly as he could! Upon finishing his undergraduate studies at St. Louis University, Jayme first moved to District 2 at the age of 23 to complete a nine-month internship, which included outreach to gang youth in East Austin. After completing his first graduate degree in D.C., he returned to District 2 in 2000 to begin his career of service to education in Austin.
In 2001, Jayme co-founded La FUENTE Learning Center, which continues its mission of providing children’s programs, the DELTA program for high school credit recovery, and classes for adult English-language learners. In 2002, La FUENTE became the first organization to partner with the Austin ISD and offer the DELTA program outside of an AISD facility.
Jayme has great empathy for our AISD teachers & administrators. He is a certified instructor of secondary foreign languages in the state of Texas and has taught all levels of high school Spanish, including Advanced Placement Spanish Language & Literature. He also served as president of a local, college-preparatory school in South Austin for four years, overseeing the school's Vice Presidents for Academics (i.e., the principal), Admissions, Advancement, Postsecondary Studies, and the school's innovative Corporate Work Study Program, which allowed high school students to intern in Austin's corporate world to offset the cost of their college-preparatory education.
In 2009, while serving as pastor of what he would grow to be Austin's largest Spanish-language Catholic parish, Jayme worked with Christina Collazo to co-found Sí Se Puede Learning Center in East Austin. Sí Se Puede is a dual-generation learning center that provides early childhood education to infants, as well as rich educational resources for their parents.