Meet our 2017 - 2018 Leadership Fellows

Armen Babajanian, Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas

Chief Operations Officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas

Armen Babajanian is the chief operations officer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas. He was born and raised in Los Angeles. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in political science and developmental psychology. He completed his Masters in Political Science from the University of Texas, San Antonio. Armen worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Houston for 2 years before moving to Kerrville in 2003 to restart and run operations for Big Brothers Big Sisters serving Kerr County. In 2009, Armen relocated to San Antonio to continue to work with Big Brothers Big Sisters and focus on communications, marketing, partnerships & public relations. In 2014, Armen relocated to Warsaw, Poland to help start Big Brothers Big Sisters of Poland as their executive director.  

Armen has been a court appointed special advocate and a Big Brother to Tyler and Jesse. Finally, Armen has been involved with the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce as an Ambassador, was on the committee for Kerrville’s ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and on the Former Texas Rangers Foundation committee. He has served on the Government Affairs committee for the SA Greater Chamber as well as the Education and Workforce committee, a member of the Rotary Club and was actively involved with the American Chamber of Commerce of Poland.  

Nikisha Baker, SAMMinistries

Chief Development Officer, SAMMinistries

Nikisha J. Baker is Chief Development Officer for SAMMinistries. Nikisha is responsible for the development and execution of the ministry’s $4.5 million annual fundraising strategy, with special emphasis on corporate and foundation relations and major gifts. She also supports the President and CEO and the Board of Directors in setting the strategic priorities that guide the ministry’s delivery of services to the San Antonio community.

Over the last 11 years, Nikisha has served in a number of fundraising roles for nonprofits including The Winston School San Antonio, St. Mary’s University, TMI – The Episcopal School of Texas, the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County, and Florida’s Blood Centers.

Aside from her work, Nikisha strongly believes in supporting her community. She currently serves on the Friends of the Ronald McDonald House Board and has previously served as the Vice President of Membership for the San Antonio Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Vice President of the Central Florida Urban League Young Professionals and as a member of Central Florida’s Urban Design Commission.

Nikisha earned her Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of Central Florida and a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations from the University of Florida.

Adele Brackenridge-Giles, TEAMability, Inc.

Deputy Executive Director, TEAMability

Adele Brackenridge-Giles serves as the deputy executive director of TEAMability where she shares leadership and management responsibility for daily operations, strategic initiatives, financial viability and Board relations. She is privileged to have a leadership role at TEAMability, an organization that provides unique opportunities and care to children with severe multiple disabilities and support to their families.

Her background includes over 20 years’ experience in both the non-profit and for-profit health care world, covering areas from quality, risk management, compliance to hospital operations.  

Adele has a BA from Kent State University, a Master of Social Work from Our Lady of the Lake University and Master of Business Administration from UTSA.

Adriana Contreras, San Antonio Education Partnership

Executive Director, San Antonio Education Partnership

Adriana Contreras, PhD is executive director of the San Antonio Education Partnership (SAEP), a non-profit committed to creating college opportunities, access and success for our community.

Contreras began her career at Austin Community College where, as a specialist in the Outreach Office, she developed a passion for higher education and for helping students with the college access process. Now with over 30 years of administrative experience, she has held leadership positions with the Alamo Colleges, Austin Community College and the Austin Independent School District.

Prior to joining SAEP, Contreras held the position of deputy to the chancellor at the Alamo Colleges where, as part of the executive team, she chaired a committee to develop an employee leadership program for its 6,000 faculty and staff and created a Student of the Month Program, still in existence today. Contreras has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwest Vista College, San Antonio College and UTSA.  

Contreras holds an Associate of Arts degree from Austin Community College and a Bachelor’s in Government, a Master’s of Education in Student Personnel Services, and doctorate in Educational Administration from the University of Texas at Austin. 

Sylvia De La Pena, Avance - San Antonio, Inc.

Head Start Director
Avance – San Antonio

Sylvia De La Peña is the Head Start director for AVANCE – San Antonio in partnership with the Harlandale Independent School District.

Having been with AVANCE for 17 years, she has developed professionally through countless hours of training in the area of supervision and management. She holds the Head Start Administrators Credential from the Office of Head Start. De la Peña has invested 37 years of experience in working with non-profit community based organizations.

Her experience in working with the community extends from being a member of the City of San Antonio Consortium, to working in partnership with the following organizations: City of San Antonio Metro Health, University Health Systems, The University of Texas Health Science Center and the Harlandale Independent School District. 

A native of San Antonio and one of five siblings, De la Peña is the first college graduate from her family. Having studied at Our Lady of the Lake University and San Antonio College, De la Peña completed and earned her bachelor of science in Occupational Education from Wayland Baptist University.

Evelyn Delgado, Healthy Futures of Texas

President, Healthy Futures of Texas

Evelyn Delgado is President of Healthy Futures of Texas.  She has extensive experience as a senior-level executive leader in public health at the Texas Department of State Health Services, including overseeing women’s and children’s health programs.  Using the principles of public health prevention and intervention, community health programs under her leadership served over one million Texans and delivered $950 million in public health services annually. 

With over 20 years of public service, Delgado served in leadership roles on numerous quality improvement task forces, including the Executive Committee of the Texas Collaborative for Healthy Mothers and Babies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Network of Perinatal Quality Collaboratives, Texas Medical Association Committee on Reproductive, Women’s and Perinatal Health, and the Council on Children and Families.  Delgado was also appointed to the National Advisory Council on Maternal, Infant and Fetal Nutrition by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and on the National Campaign for the Prevention of Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a state and local action advisory group.

Elaine Hartle, THRU Project

Executive Director, THRU Project

Elaine Andries Hartle is the executive director and co-founder of THRU Project. She spent over fifteen years in sales and management in the medical insurance field then became the foster mother to two teenage sons. While researching the benefits available for her sons as they aged out of foster care, she learned few foster youth have even one trusted adult to help guide and support them in the critical year after foster care, leading to homelessness, incarceration and victimization within just one year of leaving foster care.

Elaine had the vision of a foundation to provide mentor volunteers to youth leaving foster care in San Antonio who could provide that guidance and support we all need as young adults. Working with co-founder, Steve-O’Donnell, the idea was brought to the community of Unity Church of San Antonio and they responded with overwhelming support. The THRU Project was born to give foster care youth hope during the most critical time of their lives and now partners with many residences and organizations including Baptist Child & Family Services, Boysville and Roy Maas.

Lisa Juarez, San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Financial Director
San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Lisa Juarez is the financial director for the San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. She has been with the council for more than six years and brings with her over 15 years of experience in governmental and non-profit accounting. She has a great passion for her work, and holds her head up high with regard to SACADA’s mission, growth and the awesome team she works with. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.

Brooke Kearney, Arc of San Antonio

Director of Community Services Case Management and Community Education, The Arc of San Antonio

Since obtaining her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2007, Brooke Kearney has held various positions, each with a focus on serving children and adults with special needs. She holds a Master’s Degree in Health Education from Kaplan University and her previous job titles include: case manager and service coordinator for several Medicaid Waiver programs and director of childcare for a special needs children’s program. Presently, Brooke works at The Arc of San Antonio where she has provided necessary services to individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities in various capacities over the last 4 years. Her current title is director of CSCM (Community Services Case Management) and Community Education. In this capacity she oversees a vibrant case management program serving over 240 children per year and facilitates various presentations and workshops throughout Bexar County and surrounding areas which provide invaluable resources to individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and their families. Brooke currently lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband, Thomas, and daughter, Olivia, along with her two fur babies, Sophie and Sheryl.

Shelley Laabs Weber, Magik Theatre

General Manager
Magik Theatre

Shelley Laabs Weber holds the position of general manager for The Magik Theatre, San Antonio's premier theater company producing literacy based work for families and young audiences. She previously served as the director of education and outreach, expanding the arts education program to a second campus, and facilitating the launch of sensory friendly programming and theater for very young audiences (under 5).  

Prior to her work at Magik, Shelley was the development manager with the cutting-edge Woolly Mammoth Theater Company, and an executive fellow at Arena Stage, both in Washington DC. She has 10+ years of Stage Management experience in NYC, with national touring companies, and opera productions. Shelley taught in SAISD for several years and holds a Masters in Teaching and a Bachelors in Business Administration from Trinity University. She is a member of American Alliance for Theater Education, TYA/USA, Actors Equity Association, and the Junior League of San Antonio. 

Dhawn Martin, SoL Center at University Presbyterian Church

Executive Director, SoL Center at University Presbyterian Church
Dhawn B. Martin, Ph.D., has served as executive director of the SoL Center since September of 2016. She joined the Center after several years in academia, holding teaching positions at Drew University, Elon University, St. Mary’s University, and Hanover College, winning diverse awards for scholarship and teaching. As an undergraduate, Dhawn worked on a research project at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, analyzing media and politics. From that moment, she was hooked on charting the intersections of politics, faith, and social justice. Dhawn has been invited to speak to different groups on topics ranging from ethics to feminism. She has published in print and online media, and is currently co-editing a volume of essays scheduled to be published in 2018. Passionate about peace-building, Dhawn seeks to draw on her studies of religion and the common good to further the mission and reach of the SoL Center.

Sarah Martinez, San Antonio Christian Dental Clinic

Chief Operations Director, San Antonio Christian Dental Clinic

Sarah Martinez currently serves as chief operations director at San Antonio Christian Dental Clinic (SACDC).  SACDC’s mission has provided charitable dental care to low income and homeless adults living in Bexar County since 1986.

Martinez began working with SACDC in her freshman year of college through a special work study program provided by St. Mary’s University. She was later hired in 2008 as a part-time dental assistant and within a short time transitioned from clinical skills to an administrative working environment.  Her role as the chief operations director is to manage the day to day agency processes supporting the efforts of all staff, volunteers, and partners to meet the nonprofit’s mission.  

Martinez is the agency’s highest tenured employee making her a valuable team member understanding agency operations and overall clinical care. She holds a BA from St. Mary’s University, graduating in 2010.  Her Masters of Science in Nonprofit Management is from Our Lady of the Lake University, graduating in 2016 with a 4.0 GPA while working full-time and completing a year early.  

Sandra Merrill, Guide Dogs of Texas

Chief Executive Officer, Guide Dogs of Texas, Inc.

Sandy Merrill serves as chief executive officer of Guide Dogs of Texas (GDTX). She was promoted to president/CEO in 2014, and held the position of director of training for eight years prior to that. In her tenure, she helped GDTX establish the highest standards and become accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation.  

Sandy is also a certified Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, and has provided Guide Dogs to blind Texans since 2001. She’s passionate about the life-changing impact these guide dogs inspire. Sandy served as a delegate for five International Guide Dog Federation Conferences, and has been a representative of the Council of US Dog Guide Schools since 2011. Sandy also helped establish the San Antonio Guide Dogs of Texas Lions club in 2015, served as treasurer for two years, and serves on the board of the Lions Club.  

Sandy previously co-authored a stats/calculus textbook for pre-med students at Marquette University (Addison-Wesley, 2002), and a paper “Introductory biological sequence analysis”, Proceedings of 13th ICTCM. She holds a Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, where she worked in a molecular biology lab, and taught two lab courses to undergraduate students. She has a B.A. from Reed College.

Anne Meyer, Animal Defense League of Texas

Director of Finance and Business Operation, Animal Defense League (ADL)

Anne Meyer has a BA in Accounting from UTSA and is the director of finance and business operations at the Animal Defense League (ADL), the oldest animal shelter in Texas. She has over 20 years of accounting, finance, and management experience. At ADL she oversees the accounting, budgeting, financial reporting, human resources, and IT functions. Her career started as an auditor and progressed to leadership positions in the broadcasting, restaurant and manufacturing industries. She changed course and found her niche when she began working in the nonprofit industry in 2009. Anne joined ADL in 2014 and contributes to their mission of enhancing the quality of life for abandoned, abused or neglected dogs and cats by providing all needed medical care which includes spaying and neutering. Food, shelter and safety are also provided- along with compassion and attention. ADL consistently works to find the best possible home for each resident animal.

Minka Misangyi, Girls on the Run of Bexar County

Executive Director
Girls on the Run of Bexar County

Minka Misangyi is executive director of Girls on the Run of Bexar County. As one of the founders, Misangyi has led the organization through its growth, intent on inspiring joy, health, and confidence in as many girls as possible.

Misangyi received her doctorate in English from Northern Illinois University in 2005 and took a tenure track position at the University of Guam, where she had been adjunct teaching literature and composition since 2002. She moved to Texas in 2007, where she worked as the training development manager for a start-up IT company. In 2010, Misangyi was presented with the opportunity to combine her passion for running and helping young girls become strong women with her mentorship and business experience through the formation of Girls on the Run of Bexar County.

Evita Morin, Rise Recovery

Executive Director, Rise Recovery

Evita Morin, LMSW, has been honored to serve Rise Recovery as executive director, in her second year. She began her professional life called as a social worker on the front lines of substance abuse, homelessness, and education, inspired by the heroes who helped her overcome her own childhood barriers. In service to the civic and nonprofit sectors for 12 years, she has provided direct counseling, communications, community stewardship, program development and ultimately agency leadership throughout her career. Evita grew up between San Antonio and Hondo, TX. She attended undergraduate and graduate school at Columbia University. After fulfilling service to youth, young adults and families at Rise Recovery, she can be found playing with her two young children, Eowyn and Joel. She enjoys gardening, writing, listening to audiobooks and singing in her free time.

Regina Murphy, Providence Place

Chief Operating Officer, Providence Place

Regina Murphy is the chief operating officer of Providence Place. She previously served at the agency as the Director of the Center for Higher Independence. Her current role includes championing mission advancement, the operational excellence initiative and leading Providence Place University which is the in-house leadership training program. She has over 15 years of experience in social services and higher education. Prior to finding her home at Providence Place, she was the Region 5 Operations Director of Programs for the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. She earned her B.S. in Communications from Eastern New Mexico University and her M.S. in Counseling and Psychology from Troy State University.

Regina leads her teams with the Providence Place values of grace, holistic care, authentic presence, openness of spirit, and value of human capital. She is known for some of her quirky sayings such as ‘those are your rabbits, so I’m not chasing them’.  Her teams know where to find her on campus by listening for her booming and infectious laugh.

Evelyn Reyes, Gemini Ink

Managing Director, Gemini Ink

Evie Reyes, managing director, researches and writes Gemini Ink’s grant proposals, and maintains organizational policies and procedures in the absence of the executive director. Before coming to Gemini Ink, Evie helped manage a successful pottery business in San Antonio for several years. She has two young children, writes fiction in her spare time, and is an avid reader.

Lorna Stafford, San Antonio Area Foundation

Director of Communications and Marketing, San Antonio Area Foundation

Lorna Stafford is the director of Communications and Marketing at the San Antonio Area Foundation. Before that, she enjoyed a multi-market, 20-year career in journalism including leadership roles at the San Antonio Express-News, News 4 San Antonio and Spectrum News San Antonio. Those roles included positions as community editor, night city editor, education editor, assignments editor and senior producer. 

She also worked several years at The University of Texas at San Antonio as a communications specialist in the office of University Communications.

Stafford holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from The University of Texas at San Antonio, and a bachelor’s degree in history from Louisiana State University-Shreveport.

Tara Roussett, SJRC (St. Jude's Ranch for Children) Texas

Chief Executive Officer, SJRC Texas

With over 20 years of experience in the child welfare field, Tara Roussett joined SJRC Texas (formally known as St. Jude’s Ranch for Children) in March of 2008. She was promoted to CEO on July 1, 2016 after leading the organization in a successful transition from a national entity to a local Texas focused non-profit. Tara is honored to lead the organization that cares for nearly 100 children and families every day that have been affected by abuse, neglect or abandonment. Tara is responsible for the overall leadership, financial oversight, development, improvement, strategic planning, staffing, board governance, and regulatory compliance SJRC Texas. 
Tara’s experience spans from working in residential treatment facilities to working as a classroom teacher, including nine years working in senior and executive level management at SJRC Texas prior to being named CEO.  She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a specialization in Early Childhood Education from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a Master of Business Administration from Howard Payne University in New Braunfels. Tara also holds dual licensure as a child care administrator and child placing agency administrator and is a TBRI (Trust- Based Relational Intervention) educator. TBRI® is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children.

Tara is committed to improving the lives of the most vulnerable children and families in the community and to educating the public about the good work being done by SJRC. She brings her enthusiasm to the ongoing expansion of programs and to the mission of SJRC and all the people it serves.

Shannon White, Guardian House

Executive Director
Guardian House

Shannon White serves as the executive director at Guardian House. She works with her team to strengthen families and promote healthy parenting. Shannon is an advocate of creating a safe, therapeutic environment so that children and parents can create healthy bonds and learn new skills. 
With over 15 years in the nonprofit sector, Shannon’s scope of work includes turning around declining organizations; program and grant management at the local, county, state and federal level;  program development, implementation and evaluation; employee and volunteer management; fundraising; outreach and providing counseling to children and families. 

Shannon holds an MS in counseling psychology from Our Lady of the Lake University. Shannon is a licensed professional counselor, and is licensed to provide supervision to licensed professional counseling-interns.

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