Meet Our Team
Marie Felan, Executive Director
Marie joined AVANCE-Austin as Executive director in 2014. Previously, she has been the Development Director for non-profits, such as Manos de Cristo, Any Baby Can, and National Domestic Hotline. She brings years of experience in fundraising, communications, management, and leadership expertise.
Anurita Mittra, Director of Programs
Anurita joined the AVANCE-Austin family in 2012 as Program Director. She offers years of senior administrative expertise in the non-profit realm, including marketing, fundraising, human resources, and program oversight. Prior to AVANCE-Austin, Anurita served for six years as Chief Operating Officer at St. Phillips School and Community Center in Dallas, which provided predominantly African-American and Latino community members with early childhood programs, college prep classes, food assistance programs, ESL, and GED. Anurita, who holds a B.A in Communications and Psychology, was also Radio News Director at Asian Media Worldwide.
Jose Juan “J.J.” Garza, Office Finance Coordinator
As the Office Finance Coordinator, he manages H.R. and accounting functions. Originally from the Rio Grande Valley, he moved to the Heart of Texas back when it was considered the “Old Austin”. After years of working in healthcare, he decided it was time to make a difference in the community. Prior to joining AVANCE-Austin, he was the Tax Site Manager at Foundation Communities, where he provided direct service to the under-served. He also runs a bookkeeping service for small businesses. As a father of two young children, J.J. values the importance of early childhood education and is excited to be working for an organization that invests in resources for future generations. In his free time, he enjoys biking, coaching T-ball, fishing trips to the Texas coast, and spending time with family.
Margaret Aguas, Home Educator Lead
Photo and Bio Coming Soon
Catherine Frost, Development Associate
Catherine is a proud University of Texas longhorn and joined the AVANCE-Austin team following graduation. She brings previous experience in event planning, volunteer management, and donor relations. She is passionate about children-based causes and is excited to begin her career at AVANCE-Austin. In her spare time, Catherine enjoys reading, cycling, and petting every dog she sees.
Meredith Swim, AmeriCorps VISTA
A Kentucky native with a love for migas and Dr. Seuss, Meredith is ecstatic and wholeheartedly grateful for the opportunity to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA at AVANCE-Austin. Her previous and diverse nonprofit work experience in childhood literacy and bystander empowerment programming strengthened her belief in the transformative power of education. This passion for enhancing and uplifting individuals and communities through education prompted her serve at AVANCE for her VISTA term.
At AVANCE, she channels her wild affection for writing into crafting social media posts and cultivating a culture of storytelling within the organization. She strives to listen from her heart and keep her mind always open so she can learn from the amazing families and dedicated staff that make up the AVANCE family, and with this openheartedness she looks forward to being part of this astonishing community.
Carolina Guajardo, Program Coordinator
As Program Coordinator, Carolina oversees 5 cohorts, provides support to AVANCE-Austin teachers and implements strategies for recruitment and family retention. Prior to her role at AVANCE, Carolina served for 8 years with Literacy First (Formerly ACE – A Community for Education of the Charles Dana Center at the University of Texas) as the Bilingual Parent Coordinator and AmeriCorps site supervisor. Originally from Nicaragua, Carolina moved to Austin in 1996, where she and her husband are parents to 3 sons.
Her favorite things are pumpkin pie and watching “West Side Story”.
Maria Vargas, Toy Making Instructor & Van Driver
Maria has been with AVANCE-Austin since 2010. A native of Lubbock, Texas, she has worked in the childcare industry for 15 years, specializing in infant and toddler care, having obtained her CDA. Since joining AVANCE, Maria has worked as Early Childhood Educator Toy Making Instructor, and most recently, as our Home Educator.
Martha Junca, Parent & Home Educator
Martha joined the AVANCE team in 2012, and brings over 15 years of experience working with the Austin Latino community. Originally from Colombia, Martha received her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition from Xaveriana University in Bogota, and worked as a dietitian for over 20 years at San Rafael Hospital where she was recognized as Employee of The Year. In Austin, Martha was Nutrition Educator at the Capital Area Food Bank, connecting families to health resources and reaching out to community partners. At AVANCE, Martha teaches mothers about their child’s social and cognitive development as a Child Development Instructor and conducts monthly home visits. Martha has 3 children of her own—one teenage daughter and two sons, now in their twenties.
Nancy Ramirez, Parent & Home Educator
Since 2014, Nancy has been the Parenting and Home Educator. Prior to this, she was an AmeriCorps member with AVANCE. She graduated from the AVANCE program with her two sons in 1999, and credits the Parent-Child Education Program for her sons’ successes. “It is a grand pleasure to be able to work for the AVANCE program, because it is important to have Parent-Child Education Programs like this in our Hispanic community in the U.S.”
Zach Lindsey, ESL Instructor
Photo and Bio coming soon.
Susi Rivera-Ruiz, Toddler Educator
has been with the AVANCE-Austin staff for a sweet 16 years. She has worked in both the infant and toddler classrooms, and currently works with the toddler group. A native of México, Susi has been in the US for 20 years and loves the Austin area. She has two children who are both graduates of the AVANCE program. In 2006, she obtained her certification as a Child Development Associate from ACC.
Sonia Hopkins, Toddler Instructor
Photo and Bio coming soon.
Maria “Abi” Cazares, Toddler Aide
Abi has over 20 years of experience as an educator, teaching children from PreK to High school. Originally from Guatemala, Abi had previously taught in Decautar, Georgia before moving to Austin in 2008. Abi believes each child is unique and have their own learning style. She enjoys seeing how the AVANCE toddlers progress throughout the year, especially with their vocabulary skills.
Lucelvy Reyes, Infant Aide & Parent/Home Educator
Bio coming soon.
Soila Elizabeth Sanchez-Rincon, Toddler Aide
Bio coming soon.
Guadalupe Lopez, Infant Aide
She has 8 years of experience working in childcare, and was also a 2015 AVANCE graduate along with her 2 children.She enjoys interacting with the parents and children, and considers being a part of AVANCE very satisfying. As a Mexico City native, she enjoys all aspects of Mexican culture, eating good food, folkloric dancing and music, reading, and spending time with her family.