Meet Our 2016 - 2017 Leadership Fellows

Yesenia Alvarez-Gonzalez, AVANCE-San Antonio

Yesenia Alvarez-Gonzalez is AVANCE-San Antonio’s director of parenting programs. She administers and implements AVANCE’s school- and center-based programs and family services across San Antonio. Alvarez-Gonzalez manages partnerships and collaborations with school districts and the United Way.

The daughter of first-generation Mexican immigrants, Alvarez-Gonzalez was her family’s first college graduate. After studying at San Antonio college, she earned her bachelor of arts degree in human sciences from Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU). She is currently enrolled at OLLU pursuing her master of nonprofit management and leadership degree.

Judith Bell, Providence Place

Judith Bell is president/CEO of Providence Place.  She was the agency’s chief operating officer for four years prior to becoming the CEO. Judith has 27 years of social service experience and has a passion for serving others and has served in several capacities throughout her career.

Judith has a bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Arkansas and a doctorate degree from Iowa State University. She is a Johnson and Johnson Fellow and an alumnus of the Volunteers of America’s Executive Development Program.  She attends University United Methodist Church, a member of the NonProfit Council and is actively seeking other community involvement opportunities.

Sheila Black, Gemini Ink

Sheila Black is executive director of Gemini Ink since 2012. Prior to that, she worked for many years as development director of the Colonias Development Council in New Mexico.

She is the author of two full-length poetry collections House of Bone and Love/Iraq (both CW Press) and two chapbooks, How to be a Maquiladora (Main Street Rag) and Continental Drift (Patriothall Gallery, UK) with painter Michele Marcoux. Her recent collection Wen Kroy (Dream Horse Press) received the 2011 Orphic Prize in Poetry. She is a 2012 Witter Bynner Fellow in Poetry, selected by US Poet Laureate Philip Levine.

Rebecca Brune, San Antonio Area Foundation

Rebecca “Becca” Brune is the president of the San Antonio Area Foundation. Becca has more than 22 years of experience working at the local, national and international levels building public-private partnerships to support innovative programming and leverage community investments.

As a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Becca earned a master’s degree in public affairs from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and, as a Bill Greehey scholar, earned a master’s degree in business administration from the Bill Greehey School of Business at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.

Gloria Canseco, San Antonio Christian Dental Clinic

Gloria Canseco is executive director of San Antonio Christian Dental Clinic, Christian ministry providing charitable dental care to over low-income and homeless Bexar County adults each year.  In her first six months as executive director, Canseco led the clinic through a projected $450,000 deficit and 20 percent reduction to full-funding. Since then, Canseco has grown partnerships, programs, governance, and financial support with a budget of $4,000,000. 

Canseco holds a BA from Mary Baldwin College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, cum laude in 1979, completing her undergraduate studies in three years.  Her Masters of Art is from Texas A&M International University graduating with a 4.0 GPA while working full-time and raising her family.

Melanie Cawthon, Executive Director, disABILITYsa

Melanie Cawthon is the executive director of disABILITYsa. Entering the nonprofit sector in October 1999, Melanie transitioned from an administrative assistant into development by 2002. With a B.A. in Business Leadership from UTSA, an M.S. in nonprofit management from OLLU, and two certifications in nonprofit management, Melanie established a good foundation for her career path. 

Recognized by the Business Journal as one of San Antonio’s brightest stars receiving the 40 Under 40 award in 2013 and The Current as one of San Antonio’s 20 Most Captivating People of 2015, Melanie has been acknowledged for her altruistic work and the positive impact she makes on the lives of others. 

Kristin Davila, Merced Housing Texas

Kristin Davila currently serves as the vice president/treasurer – director of corporate operations for Merced Housing Texas (Merced). Kristin started working for Merced in 2005 as a Resident Services Coordinator at a multifamily community where she provided supportive services and resources for more than four hundred families.

She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.  In 2014, Kristin earned a Housing Compliance Manager – HUD designation from Zeffert & Associates and in 2015, completed General Nonprofit Management and Leadership Certifications from Our Lady of the Lake University's School of Business and Leadership.

Miriam M. Elizondo, The Rape Crisis Center

Miriam M. Elizondo formerly served as executive director of The Rape Crisis Center. She received her Master’s in Science in Counseling Psychology from Our Lady of the Lake University in 2005.

Miriam began her professional career at The Rape Crisis Center as a trauma counselor in 2005 and has provided specialized trauma care to victims of sexual assault and their families as well as sex trafficked victims. In November of 2007 she was promoted to the Clinical Director and in February 2013, she became the Co-Executive Director, bringing a shared leadership model to the industry.

Eric Estrada, San Antonio Clubhouse

Eric Estrada is the director of operations for the San Antonio Clubhouse. He is responsible for designing business processes and programs that create meaningful volunteer and pre-vocational experiences for the members of the San Antonio Clubhouse—adults with serious and persistent mental illness.

Under his leadership, the number of members served by the Clubhouse has nearly doubled. In 2015, the organization received over 54,000 volunteer hours and helped over 40 members obtain paid employment. Eric is also responsible for providing leadership to communities in the state of Texas which do not have clubhouses.  Under his leadership, the number of clubhouses in Texas is expected to more than double in the next 18 months.

Renee Garvens, Roy Maas Youth Alternatives

Renee Garvens serves as the senior director of community and donor Relations for Roy Maas Youth Alternatives where she oversees fundraising, volunteer services, social media, marketing, public relations and community engagement. With 12 years in nonprofit leadership, Renee is passionate about the power of education to transform lives and the role that nonprofits play in ensuring every child is provided equal access to opportunities for success.

Renee has a BA in Anthropology from UTSA and a Master of Arts in Education from UIW.

Mary Heathcott, Blue Star Contemporary

Mary Heathcott is the executive director of Blue Star Contemporary, where she leads its exhibition and educational programs, guided by the bold mission to inspire the creative genius in us all.

Heathcott received her master’s degree in the Humanities from the University of Chicago in 2001, where her research in art history culminated in a thesis exploring the history of stereoscope photography, Collapsed Elemental Perspective. She received her BA in Art History in 1998 from Trinity University.

Gyna Juarez, San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Gyna Juarez has been in the nonprofit field for more than 13 years. She started her career working with the Brazos Valley Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse in 2003 and moved to San Antonio in the Fall of 2004 to start work with the San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, where she has worked for the past 12 years.

She has Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Texas A&M University and a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Texas San Antonio. 

Brit W. King, New Braunfels Area Community Foundation

As the president and CEO of the New Braunfels Area Community Foundation, Brit W. King oversees of all aspects of the Foundation including development, programming, grants, compliance and financial viability. 

Brit began his career in the financial service industry.  He has worked in investment banking, stock brokerage, and equity trading in New York City, San Antonio and Houston.  Brit has served on numerous nonprofit boards and volunteered in other ways with nonprofits during most of his adult life.  After 23 years in the financial services business, Brit was presented with the opportunity to combine his passion for nonprofit work with his work life through the formation of the New Braunfels Area Community Foundation.

Krystal D. Mathis, San Antonio Pets Alive!

Krystal D. Mathis, development director for San Antonio Pets Alive!, started on the road to her nonprofit career at an early age. 

Krystal attended Texas State University and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology in 2002. Krystal has worked in many areas of nonprofit administration for Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, including with the volunteers, interns, apprentices, and as Director of Outreach.  She left the organization in 2012 to gain more business development experience, working as the Director of Development at Girls Empowerment Network in Austin and as the Director of Special Projects at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. In 2015, Krystal returned to Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation. 

Sandra A. Morales, House of Neighborly Service

In January 2009, Sandra A. Morales joined House of Neighborly Service as a parent educator, and then advanced to program assistant. In the fall of 2014, she became interim executive director and in February 2015, she was made executive director.  With seven years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Sandra has become passionate about her field and is looking forward to doing more for the west side community that House of Neighborly Service serves.

Sandra worked 10 years in the Edgewood Independent School District where she was a volunteer coordinator at an elementary campus.  She received her B.S. and M.S. in Organizational Leadership from OLLU.

Dr. Sandie Palomo-Gonzalez, San Antonio Area Foundation

Sandie Palomo-Gonzalez is the director of capacity building at the San Antonio Area Foundation. She joined the Area Foundation in 2007. Initially, she managed a large-scale grantmaking initiative that awarded $12 million to south Texas nonprofits serving military families. The effort received the Council on Foundation’s Critical Impact Award for innovative grantmaking. Sandie now manages Strengthening Nonprofits, a grantmaking initiative that has awarded almost $2.5 million to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations. 

She also oversees the Area Foundation’s training and certification programs, including the Tesoro Leadership Fellows program. Prior to joining the Area Foundation, Sandie managed a continuing education program for nonprofit professionals at UTSA and served as campus director for a program that prepared students for nonprofit careers. She holds a PhD in Higher Education Administration from the University of Texas at Austin.

Belinda W. Pustka, Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children

Belinda White Pustka has served three years as the executive director of Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children, a local nonprofit that has been in the San Antonio area for almost 70 years. Prior to her time at Sunshine Cottage, Belinda taught as an adjunct professor in various universities as well as working for Representative Jimmie Don Aycock in the Texas House of Representatives.

Belinda retired as the superintendent in the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD having served in various capacities in the public education arena for 35 years. Belinda’s undergraduate degree is from Texas Tech University; her master’s degree is from the University of Houston, and her PhD is from the University of Texas – Austin.

Tiffany Walker, Family Endeavors, Inc.

Tiffany Walker serves as the Director of Family Services/Fairweather Programs at Family Endeavors, Inc. Prior to that, for over 10 years she served at Seton Home in various leadership roles— including as COO, leading service delivery for its population of abused and neglected teen moms and their children.  Tiffany was promoted to executive director for Seton Home in July 2015 and later, promoted to also oversee St. PJ’s Children’s Home, as well.

Tiffany is a licensed professional counselor with a passion for developing programming to transform the care model into a positive culture of care for youth facing crisis. 

Heather W. Russo, Witte Museum

Since January 2013, Heather Welder Russo has served as vice president of development for the Witte Museum, overseeing its $100 million capital campaign, raising $87 million to date. For the past nine years, she has also served as the museum’s lead gift officer, overseeing the raising of more than $3.5 million in operations each year. Previously, she was the director of major gifts and planned giving for the University of the Incarnate Word and the director of development for the Texas Wildlife Association. Her nonprofit experience began as the senior program officer for World Vision Armenia, overseeing $2 million in humanitarian aid and development projects and 80 staff.  

Heather graduated from Washington & Lee University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science, majors in Business Administration and European History.

Susan Wetz, Communities In Schools of South Central Texas

Susan Wetz serves as the chief programs officer for Communities In Schools of South Central Texas where she oversees the organization’s programming, ensuring the highest quality of interventions for the populations they work with.

She started with the organization as a site coordinator at an elementary school. This experience led to the position of director of programs for at-risk youth where she provided supervision and support to other site coordinators. She became the master trainer and trained new employees, providing ongoing learning opportunities for tenured staff. She assisted with training board members, new executive directors and other staff across the state.

Angela White, Alpha Home

Angela White started as the new CEO of Alpha Home in March 2016. Alpha Home is a substance use disorder program that celebrated 50 years of service in 2016. She is blessed to lead an organization that truly makes a far reaching difference. Their clients’ recoveries are impacted as they give them tools to fight the disease of addiction; they work to unify families and create a positive effect in the community.

Her background has been in the for-profit world, covering areas from finance and IT to international customer service and sales. She also ran her own business in life coaching for several years.

303 Pearl Parkway, Suite 114
San Antonio, TX 78215

The San Antonio Area Foundation helps donors achieve their charitable goals for the greater benefit of the community.

Contact Information

(210) 225-2243   Email Us

Working With Us

Access My Fund   Board Login

Connect with us