Board of Directors
Be a champion of a family’s future
Succesful Leaders from all Walks of Life
AVANCE-Austin's Board of Directors blends a diverse group of distinguished leaders. The Board oversees the organization's business strategy, ensures accountability, enhances its public reputation, and serves as a thought partner to the leadership team.
Phillip Martin is currently the Executive Director of the Texas House Democratic Caucus. He has extensive experience in outreach, advocacy, communications, social media, and grant writing. Working with AVANCE-Austin connects him with his family’s roots of education and service in the Latino community. Phillip holds a Master of Arts Degree in Public Policy, Communications, and the Press from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and graduated from The University of Texas at Austin.
Amber Walker is a Branch Manager for Wells Fargo Bank. Amber is passionate about AVANCE's mission and work to empower low-income Latino families. For AVANCE-Austin, she serves on the Fund Development and Human Resource Committee and has been a Board Member since 2014. Amber is an active volunteer with AIDS Services of Austin, Austin Habitat for Humanity, and teaches financial literacy in the Austin Independent School District. Amber graduated from Texas State University.
Cristina Cornejo is the Program Officer at Rebuild Texas Fund for the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Cristina has an extensive background in Texas Legislature and Communications. Her range of skills includes fundraising, public relations, special projects, strategic planning, and program development. She received a Master of Business Administration in Global Entrepreneurship from St. Edward’s University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Agricultural Economics from Texas A&M University.
Maria Cantú Hexsel
Maria serves as a Senior Trial Counsel for the law firm, Germer Beaman & Brown, PLLC. She serves as a Committee Member for the Hispanic Bar Association of Austin. She has extensive experience in outreach, advocacy, community service, and strategic planning. AVANCE-Austin captivated her to be directly involved in providing services to the Hispanic community. Previously, she served as a Board Member for the American Lung Association. She also served as a Parliamentarian and President of Becker Elementary Parent-Teachers Association.
Elma Cantú Aldrete
Elma Aldrete is the Director of Technology and Operations to the Office of Admission at St. Edward’s University. Mission-driven, she is dedicated to enhancing the students' experiences. Elma has expertise in education, management, human resources, computer science, and research and analytical processes. She holds a Master's Degree in Administration and a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Management as well as Computer Information Systems.
Kyler Arnold is the Health and Human Services Budget Analyst for the Committee on Appropriations in the Texas House of Representatives. As a new Board Member to AVANCE-Austin, she brings extensive knowledge and experience in budgets, advocacy, nonprofit work, grant writing, policy-making, and Spanish speaking skills. Kyler works directly with the Department of Family and Protective Services and understands that parent-child relationships influence the wellbeing of each child, family, and community. She aims to help families feel welcomed and connected to Austin through AVANCE.
Hon. Valinda Bolton
Hon. Valinda Bolton is a retired District Representative. Valinda has extensive knowledge and experience in Texas Legislature and many skills including grants, nonprofits, communications, fundraising, community outreach, and strategic planning. She graduated with a Master of Science Degree from Texas Tech University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Baylor University.
Dr. Esther Calzada
Esther Calzada is a clinical child psychologist and an associate professor at University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work. Professor Calzada’s expertise includes parenting and early childhood development among ethnic minority, particularly Latino, families. Her program of research, focused on family and intergenerational processes and interventions, aims to reduce racial/ethnic disparities in academic achievement, behavior problems, and socio-emotional problems. Professor Calzada also serves as associate editor for the Journal of Latin@ Psychology and as Editorial Board Member of Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. She received her Doctorate from the University of Florida and Bachelor of Arts Degree from Duke University.
Jo Cassandra Cuevas
Jo Cuevas works as an area manager in the legislative and external affairs division at AT&T. She is responsible for assisting with AT&T’s legislative initiatives at the Texas Capitol. Prior to her position at AT&T, Jo served as legislative director and policy analyst for various elected officials in the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate, finishing her tenure at the Texas Capitol as Executive Director for the House Democratic Caucus within the Texas House of Representatives. An Austin resident for over ten years, Jo is a former instructor at MOD Fitness and a member of Tarrytown United Methodist Church. With a deeply instilled passion for giving back to the community, Jo grew up in Pearsall, Texas and double-majored in Political Science and Communications at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.
Julio de la Llata
Julio de la Llata is an Associate Attorney for Evans Family Law Group. He is a new Board Member for AVANCE-Austin, bringing extensive experience in Texas Legislature and analytical solutions. As a parent, Julio knows that parenting is difficult even in the best of circumstances. Through AVANCE-Austin, he aims to provide community members and children long-lasting skills and opportunities. He graduated with a double major in Anthropology and Political Science from Southwest Texas State University and earned a Doctorate of Jurisprudence from University of Texas School of Law. Julio is a Life Fellow, a prestigious honor for of the Texas Bar Foundation.
Yvonne Jauregui is a Fiduciary Manager at Wells Fargo Bank. Yvonne brings skills in budgeting, fundraising, networking, and social media planning. Yvonne is committed to AVANCE-Austin because she understands the struggles at-risk women face. She currently volunteers for Meals on Wheels, Keep Austin Beautiful, and Ballet Austin. She has previously served on the Luncheon Committee for AVANCE-Austin and the Diversity Committee for Wells Fargo Bank.
Dawn Lewis is a Manager for Austin Partners in Education and currently serves on several boards including Highland Park West Balcones Area Neighborhood Association, Texas Gun Sense, Austin Area Amigos Advisory, and St. John United Methodist Board of Trustees. She is also a member of AISD’s Environmental Sustainability and Community Engagement Committees. Dawn brings her knowledge about the educational process and curriculum development as a former educator, dyslexia and tutoring coach to offer support to AVANCE.
Thomas "Tom" Mast
Tom Mast is a retired Navy Lieutenant from the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Cartagena, Spain. He held several roles as Board Member and Committee Chairs to MEDICO, NWHUMC, and FPCA, and also President to Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, and United Way in Seguin. Tom believes that AVANCE has a wonderful model in giving mothers and their pre-K children the tools and motivation to have a better life.
Krista Moore is a Sales Engineer at Fiserv. Krista is passionate about community service and offers many skills in administration, marketing, communications, fundraising, event planning, public relations, and database management. She also serves as the Vice President of Community Service to Austin Junior Forum as well as a Member of the Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist Committee.
Zenaida "Sandy" Martinez Nava
Sandy Nava works as Community Outreach Specialist at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and serves as a Board Member for Any Baby Can. Sandy holds Chairs for the Bastrop and Caldwell County Interagencies. She brings skills in fundraising, outreach, special events, community service, and program evaluation. Previously, she was a Committee Member for the March of Dimes and a member of the Health Equity Task Force for the American Heart Association.
Lourdes "Lulu" Pelcastre
Lulu Pelcastre currently works as Development Lead at HCL Technologies, Inc. Serving as an AVANCE-Austin Board Member combines both her advocacy for education and support of the Latino community. She previously spent 17 years at IBM, leading the Community Service Committee for the Hispanic Business Resource Group. In the last 10 years, Lulu has volunteered more than 400 hours at public schools and nonprofit organizations. She has served on the District of Innovation Committee at Pflugerville ISD, Campus Academic Advisory Board at River Oaks Elementary School, and leads the Spanish Conversation Club at Wells Branch Public Library. Born and raised in Mexico City, Lulu earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitan.
Melissa Caro Preston
Melissa Caro Preston is an Attorney-at-Law who worked in the legislative, criminal and administrative law fields before ultimately moving into a career in high tech. Her breadth of experience includes new business development, global partner management, contractual negotiations and strategic planning. The AVANCE mission is very close to Melissa’s heart as she was the first person in her family to attend college thanks to supportive parents and personal champions in her life who stressed the importance and power of education and self-sufficiency. As such, Melissa strives to build awareness and support for AVANCE-Austin and is passionate about being an effective advocate to better the lives of children, women and families in the local community. Previously, Melissa also served as a Board Member for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.
Dr. Stacey Shackelford
Dr. Stacey Shackelford currently is Chair to the Child Care and Development Department at Austin Community College. She has been a Member of the School Readiness Action Plan Leadership Committee, Quality Child Care Collaborative, and San Marcos Commission on Children and Youth for several years and has served as President for Texas Council for Exceptional Children. Dr. Shackelford’s background in early childhood special education as a teacher and researcher at the University of Texas at Austin gives her a unique appreciation of honoring the family unit when raising a child and advocating for one’s needs. She has comprehensive skills in policy development, program evaluation, public relations, education, and special event planning.
Lisa Tomaka is a Senior Consultant at Triwest Group, who focuses on Mental Health Consulting. She was trained in health and mental health leadership to include strategic planning, implementation theory, systems change, program development, and board development. She has extensive grant writing, program development, and implementation experience. Previously, Lisa served as a Board Member to NAMI Texas as well as Committee Member and Chair to United Way. She established a Board of Directors to include writing the bylaws for a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration cooperative agreement and has worked as part of a collaborative and collective impact effort. She has also worked with AVANCE-El Paso and believes in the organization's mission and vision.