Meet our 2018 - 2019 Leadership Fellows

Sondra Ajasin, TruLight127 Ministries, Inc.

Sondra Ajasin, TruLight127 Ministries, Inc.

Sondra Ajasin is the chief executive officer of TruLight127 Ministries, Inc., a ministry she started three years ago. The ministry has grown from a team of one to more than 12 employees/caseworkers. For the past 15years, she has dedicated herself as a fierce advocate for abused and neglected children, children who come from the most underserved and forgotten parts of our community.

She knows well the helpless and hopeless feelings that these children experience when placed in the foster care system. She also knows the power of community, education, mentors, and a strong network of friends. She says this support has helped her overcome many obstacles and allowed her to gain the valuable experience that is crucial to fight for children from hard places.

Ajasin has fostered and adopted in Texas. She has volunteered with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for two years in Arkansas and a year in Washington D.C. She has worked with youth and teens at her previous church for over five years prior to moving to Texas and is currently leading childcare at her current church.

Professionally, she has worked as an investigator, family based worker and a legal worker for Child Protective Services (CPS) in Arkansas and Texas. Ajasin has also been the program director for a local private agency that worked with abused children. 

Ajasin holds a Bachelor of Arts in social work from Arkansas State University and a Master of Arts in human services: marriage and family from Liberty University. She is also a Trust Based Relational Interventions Educator, Trauma Competent Trainer, and a Licensed Child Placing Agency Administrator.

Deborah Alaniz, ACTS Missions

Deborah Ann Alaniz, ACTS Missions

Deborah Ann Alaniz is the executive director of ACTS Missions.  ACTS Missions manages the implementation and fidelity of a four-day Catholic weekend retreat known as ACTS: Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service©. Retreats are held in 28 states in the U.S. and in five additional countries. 

Alaniz began her career in teaching and then worked for a small education start-up as a trainer and regional manager. Prior to working at ACTS Missions, her education business career included more than 19 years’ experience leading change management, adult professional development, and strategic implementation.   

In 2015, Alaniz began working with ACTS Missions by offering her professional development expertise to support the work underway on updating training materials. She served on the board of directors from January 2016 to August 2017 and was selected as the executive director in September 2017.

Alaniz received her Master of Arts in Teaching and Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from Trinity University. Her post-graduate work includes Educational Leadership from The University of Texas at San Antonio and Spirituality from Oblate School of Theology.

Kimberly Ball, Rise Recovery

Kimberly Ball, Rise Recovery

Kimberly Ball serves as Rise Recovery’s director of Finance and Administration. In this role, Ball oversee all operational and fiscal goals for the organization, manages accounting and financial control functions and establishes internal policy for the long-term growth of the mission driven nonprofit. Ball, who has been on staff at Rise Recovery since 2015, is a strategic thought partner with more than 30 years’ experience as a Certified Public Accountant. Under her guidance, Rise Recovery continues to be good stewards of the community dollars they receive whether it is a $5 contribution or $50,000 grant. Additionally, Ball has successfully operated a personal tax and auditing practice since 1999.

As a lifelong volunteer at various nonprofits and schools, Ball is the recipient of the Governor of Texas’ Yellow Rose Award and the Department of the Army’s Outstanding Civilian Service Medal. Ball and her husband, Danny, have traveled the globe as an Army family but have now made Boerne their home. 

Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms

Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms

Inga Cotton is the founder and executive director of San Antonio Charter Moms, a blog and online community that helps families research schools that best fit their children and become advocates for high quality education in the San Antonio community. 

Cotton’s passion for and commitment to high quality education was sparked by the challenge she faced in finding the proper educational environment for her son, who is on the autism spectrum. He attended private school, a traditional public school and was homeschooled before finding the right fit at a public charter school. Although both he and his sister attend a public charter they love, getting there was not an easy road. Cotton’s efforts at San Antonio Charter Moms help other families navigate the school choice process and find the right high-quality school for their own children, whether it be public, public charter, private, or homeschool. 

A native of California, Cotton moved to San Antonio as a teenager. She is a graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio with a Bachelor of Arts in history and has a Juris Doctor from the University of Texas School of Law in Austin. She began blogging in 2012 as a way to help spread the word about new schools that were coming to San Antonio. Through the use of platforms like WordPress, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, San Antonio Charter Moms has become an active online community of parents who ask questions, share their experiences, work to promote fairness and equity, and support each other in educating their children. The blog also encourages readers to get out and explore: Cotton and her children enjoy San Antonio’s rich cultural life of museums, concerts, festivals, and more, and frequently share those experiences through San Antonio Charter Moms.

Cotton’s previous experience working as an attorney, particularly in appellate law, honed her skills in policy analysis, research, and persuasive writing; and working as a staff member in the Department of Computer Science at Trinity University helped her learn digital communication tools and engagement strategies. 

A member of the Alamo City Moms Blog team for more than five years, the mentorship of experienced bloggers in the San Antonio community has been invaluable as Cotton grew her own blog into a thriving online community. In 2017, a group of funders approached Cotton about furthering her mission by establishing a nonprofit. As a result of this additional support, San Antonio Charter Moms continues to grow in reach and influence.

Elida Gonzales, AVANCE, Inc. (National)

Elida Gonzales, AVANCE, Inc.

Elida Gonzales serves as chief operations and innovation officer at AVANCE. Elida joined AVANCE in 1998 and has spent most of her career in leadership roles in accounting, finance and business development. Elida is the project lead for AVANCE’s Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action -- a collective impact project in the Texas Rio Grande Valley called PACES (Pathways to Alliances for Community Engagement Services). She earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree from St. Mary’s University and her Master of Science in Accounting from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Jacob Huereca, Connections Individual & Family Services

Jacob Huereca, Connections Individual & Family Services

Jacob Huereca is currently the residential services administrator for Connections Individual and Family Services in New Braunfels, Texas. Huereca is currently training for an executive leadership position within the organization and is part of Connections’ long-term succession plan. Prior to joining the organization, Huereca was the executive director at New Life Children’s Center and has spent the majority of his career working with children in foster care. Huereca  received his undergraduate in social work from Colorado State University-Pueblo and his master’s degree in social work from The University of Texas at Austin. He studied Community and Administrative Leadership with a focus on nonprofit management and has a strong passion for organizational science and culture. 

Huereca is a licensed social worker, licensed child care administrator and a Trust Based Relationship Educator. He has volunteered his time teaching trauma informed care practices for children for many years at Gateway Church in Austin prior to moving to New Braunfels in 2016. Currently, he volunteers for the local New Braunfels Youth Soccer league and has had the opportunity to coach his three daughters. Huereca is a member of the Rotary and is a proud board member of the Community Resource and Recreation Center, a nonprofit in the Canyon Lake Community. 

Huereca is the father of five children, has been a foster parent on two separate occasions and has two adopted children. He is originally from Las Vegas but considers Texas home. He loves his faith, loves to fish, and loves to get outdoors and spend time with his family. 

Manijeh Huereca, Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels

Manijeh Huereca, Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels

Manijeh Huereca is a social worker who has dedicated her career to serving children and families.  Huereca obtained her bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Texas and her master’s in social work with a concentration in administration and leadership from Texas State University.

For two months, Huereca has held the role of executive director of Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels, an organization aimed at helping families facing homelessness achieve self-sufficiency. Her previous work involved various non-profits in Austin including CASA of Travis County, advocating for youth in foster care; and SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone), managing their Strong Start program aimed at prevention of child abuse.   

In her spare time, Huereca enjoys spending time with family-- with six children she says there is never a dull moment. Her hobbies include, cheering for her kids on the sidelines of their soccer games, listening to audiobooks, and the occasional date night with her husband.

Huereca believes that all families and individuals have the capacity to change and that situations can be redeemed, starting with a family's desire to change its legacy with support from a loving and compassionate community. 

Tracy Ladgenski, Catholic Charities

Tracy Ladgenski, Catholic Charities

Tracy Ladgenski is the vice president for Mission Advancement for Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of San Antonio, Inc., and is responsible for raising friends and funds for the five nonprofit agencies that comprise the Catholic Charities family. Tracy began her career with Catholic Charities in 2017 as the director of Grants. Previously, she held the position of director of Hope for the Future at the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

Born and raised in Illinois, Ladgenski attended the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in speech communication. She spent 10 years in the financial services industry where she received company and industry honors for sales and exceptional service to clients, and remains a licensed insurance agent. 

She is married to John, owner of the Ladgenski Financial Group, and they are the proud parents of son Jack, who is a junior at The University of Texas at Austin. Before her nonprofit career, Tracy was a professional volunteer, serving of the boards of the Junior League, Little League, and PTA. It was during these service opportunities that she recognized her commitment and passion for the work completed in the nonprofit arena.

Ladgenski is a member of the Grant Professionals Association, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the United Way Emerging Leaders Council, and the San Antonio Volunteer Administrators. She will complete her Certificate of Nonprofit Management through Our Lady of the Lake University/San Antonio Area Foundation this fall and is preparing to take the Certified Fund Raising Executive exam.

Ladgenski is a mission driven executive who lives by the words of Mother Teresa who said, “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”

Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, P16 Plus Council of Greater Bexar County

Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, P16 Plus Council of Greater Bexar County

Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, Ph.D., is a social synthesizer, always looking for ways to create a more vibrant world through dynamic collaborations, strategic partnerships, and transformative programs. He serves as the executive director for the P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County, where he works to align his board of directors, staff leaders, and more than 120 institutional partners around a shared vision to ensure all young people are ready for the future. 

Lugalia-Hollon was previously the executive director for Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio, where he helped to build the strongest network of out-of-school time providers in Texas. Prior to these roles, he lived in Chicago for nearly 15 years, where he worked at The Field Museum and the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, and helped lead major research projects for Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He also served on the board of directors for the Community Justice for Youth Institute, which has trained over 2,000 Chicagoans as restorative justice peacemakers. 

His doctorate is in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author of “The War on Neighborhoods: Policing, Prison, and Punishment in a Divided City,” published by Beacon Press in April 2018. The book helps to show the impact of mass incarceration on disadvantaged neighborhoods and helps to identify a path for ending our addiction to punishment. 

Elizabeth Nemeth, Guadalupe Community Center

Elizabeth Nemeth, Guadalupe Community Center

Lizzy Nemeth is the executive director of the Guadalupe Community Center, a nonprofit component of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of San Antonio, Inc. 

Nemeth, who is originally from New Jersey, received her Bachelor of Science in Public Health from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.  Upon completion of her degree, she joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corp, which consists of a year of post graduate service working with a nonprofit focusing on social justice efforts. 

Through the Jesuit Volunteer Corp, she was placed as a Crisis Intervention case worker with Catholic Charities Archdiocese of San Antonio at the Guadalupe Community Center. She worked closely with leadership and eventually was offered a full-time job as a program director at GCC upon completion of the volunteer year with JVC. During this time, Catholic Charities Guadalupe Community Center grew and opened new programming to meet the unmet needs of the community at large. 

After spending close to 1.5 years as the program director, she was asked to be the interim executive director. She spent six months in this interim role and then applied and was hired to be the executive director in July of 2016.   

As the executive director for the Guadalupe Community Center, Nemeth is responsible for the facility and the programs that reside there, delivering human needs services to the community. This nonprofit maintains a rich history in San Antonio and in her role she must continue to look at maintaining the building as a historic landmark and also evolve the center to meet the growing needs of the community by providing services in a timely and efficient manner. This includes more than 13 programs aimed at helping families reach self-sufficiency through services like Adult Education, Emergency Assistance, Food Pantry, Clothes Closet, Military Family Relief Program, VITA program, and the After School and Summer Youth Program.

Nemeth is passionate about serving the community and helping people find bridges out of poverty.

Debi Pfitzenmaier, Youth Code Jam

Debi Pfitzenmaier, Youth Code Jam

Debi Pfitzenmaier is the founding executive director of Youth Code Jam. Youth Code Jam, founded as a nonprofit in 2016, encourages upper elementary through high school students to imagine themselves in the emerging technology-driven jobs of tomorrow by introducing them to coding activities and programming languages and providing a roadmap from early coding to programming literacy. This work is accomplished through volunteer-run community-wide events, summer creative computing camps, after school coding clubs and popup events for special populations. Youth Code Jam expands its reach through teacher professional development workshops and is a TEA-approved continuing education provider. Currently, Youth Code Jam run Texas’ largest family coding event in San Antonio and is expanding to host new jams in Austin and the Rio Grande Valley for 2019. 

Pfitzenmaier, along with the most amazing and committed volunteers, works closely with private and public entities, as well as parents, schools and community leaders, to create synergy around teaching students to code. These efforts were included by The White House as part of former President Barak Obama's #CSForAll initiative twice in 2016. 

Over the last 30 years, Pfitzenmaier has served as a public relations executive, grant manager, ESL instructor, and event organizer and presenter. She is an active community volunteer, serving as an MIT Parent Supporter and member of Excel Beyond the Bell CEO Roundtable, Digital Inclusion Alliance San Antonio, San Antonio STEM Council, International Society for Technology in Education and CS4TX. She is a founding member of the Alamo Chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association. 

Rachel Richter, SJRC Texas

Rachel Richter, SJRC Texas

As director of Foster Care and Adoption for SJRC Texas, Rachel Richter oversees the day-to-day operations of the Child Placing Agency, which is responsible for licensing and managing foster and adoptive homes in San Antonio and surrounding areas. Richter is responsible for the leadership and management of this program, to include development and community outreach, and is committed to our families and children receiving the highest standard of care and support.

Richter brings over 14 years of experience in the child welfare field, including 12 years working at SJRC Texas. Richter earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Development from Boston College and started her career in child welfare right out of college. She worked at a behavioral health hospital in the Boston area serving adolescents, many of which were in foster care, and then for a period of time tried her hand at the corporate world. Realizing very quickly that her heart was in social services, Richter moved back to Texas and started working for SJRC Texas. During her time at SJRC, Richter has held various positions at the Bulverde campus, most recently including program director, before moving to the Child Placing Agency. Richter also holds dual licensure as a Child Care Administrator, as well as a Child Placing Agency Administrator, for SJRC Texas, and is also a TBRI® EDUCATOR for the organization.

Riley Robinson, Artpace, Inc.

Riley Robinson, Artpace, Inc. 

Riley Robinson has worked at Artpace San Antonio as the studio director for 24 years. Hired by Artpace founder and philanthropist Linda Pace before the doors opened in 1995, Robinson has played a major part in defining Artpace’s role as a leader in the world of contemporary art residency programs. During his tenure, Robinson has worked directly with more than 300 artists to turn their ideas into finished works of art. He has also drafted and managed contracts and agreements, met countless project deadlines, and developed and worked within different formats of annual budgets. He is committed to ensuring that Artpace’s resident artists have the opportunity to exhibit new and challenging artwork, which reflects their personal vision and the reputation of Artpace as a leader in the contemporary art world.

Robinson will assume the position of director at Artpace on Sept. 1, moving from the creative side of the organization to taking on larger leadership and administrative roles. Artpace has 13 full-time and five part-time employees, and each year, it engages the public with six major openings, a public festival, and over 20 programs that are free and open to the public. Artpace has an annual budget of $1.7 million, and Robinson’s main focus as director will be on development and income while maintaining the organization’s leading role in the artworld.

A working artist himself, Robinson has exhibited and created public artworks throughout Texas and around the world and is well-versed with both the local and international arts community. He received a Master of Fine Arts from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 1994. His wife, Joey Fauerso, is also an artist and an associate professor of Studio Art at Texas State University. The couple lives in San Antonio with their two boys, Brendan and Paul.

Christopher Salas, Rolling Inspiration

Christopher Salas, Rolling Inspiration

It was in April of 1997 that a car accident changed Christopher Salas’ life forever. A broken neck left him paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. After years of physical and mental therapy, Salas started volunteering by visiting newly injured patients. It was there that he found his new passion. 

In January of 2010, the former TruGreen top salesman started Rolling Inspiration, a support group for those with mobility impairments. As the group grew, Salas wasn't satisfied with just meeting so he added programs, and in 2014, filed for and was approved to make Rolling Inspiration an official 501c3 nonprofit organization. The former Houstonian turned San Antonian did all of this while continuing his education at St. Philip’s College where he later obtained his associates degree in liberal arts with an emphasis in psychology. He completed his education with a 4.0 grade point average. 

Rolling Inspiration later gained national attention from the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, now known as United Spinal.  Salas was asked to be president of their San Antonio chapter. Salas has also served as an official peer mentor for the Christopher Reeve Foundation and recently became the South Texas ambassador to that foundation. 

Some of Salas’ accolades include being named United Way Volunteer of the Year in the group category for the city of San Antonio. He also was inducted to both the Warm Springs Wall of Fame as well as Morgan's Wonderland Walk of Fame. Although those are great achievements, he feels like his work is never done and lives by his mantra: "Disabled is a label I intend to redefine!"

Judy Treviño, CCVI Ministries

Judy Treviño, CCVI Ministries

Judy Treviño is the executive director for CCVI Ministries, Inc., a nonprofit organization sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. She was hired for this position in January 2018, and  has extensive management experience in nonprofit, governmental, and construction institutions. Her experience includes strategic planning; developing policies and procedures; and overseeing the departments of Administration, Finance, Human Resources and Information Technology.

A native of San Antonio, she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from St. Mary’s University and a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from Our Lady of the Lake University, both in San Antonio.

Treviño was selected by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics Cardinal Latina Mentoring Program. She graduated from the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Latina Leadership Institute and participated in Leadership San Antonio Class 41. She served as a member of the steering committee for the Latina Leadership Institute Class III. She is a former president of the Institute of Internal Auditors San Antonio Chapter and is currently the second vice president of the CentroMed Board of Directors. She also serves as treasurer for Southwest Outreach for Older People and as a board member of the Texas A&M Foundation. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg recently appointed her to the city’s Audit Committee.

Patty Vela, Autism Service Center of San Antonio

Patty Vela, Autism Service Center of San Antonio

Patty Vela serves as the chief development and outreach office of the Autism Community Network. She joined the Network in March 2017. 

A school psychologist by training and education, Vela worked as a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology in Northside ISD for 14 years. However, she felt called to nonprofit work after serving for several years on The Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas’ Friends Board. With little more than a dream, she was hired as the director of Mission Advancement for Catholic Charities Archdiocese of San Antonio, Inc. It was there she learned about development and fundraising. Her role grew to include Seton Home and St. PJ’s Children’s Home as the agencies turned to a shared services model.

Knowing her heart would forever be connected to children with special needs, she jumped at the opportunity to get back to her roots through Autism Community Network.   

Vela received an undergraduate degree in psychology from Southwestern University and a master’s degree in school psychology from Trinity University.

She is the proud mother of 3-year-old Noah. In her free time she enjoys cooking, practicing the art of calligraphy, and spending time in laughter with Noah. She is extremely honored to have been selected for the Andeavor Leadership Fellows Program.  

Lea Watson, Divine Redeemer Church/¡Vamos Ya!

Lea Watson, Divine Redeemer Church/¡Vamos Ya!

Lea Watson is the executive director of ¡Vamos Ya! (Formerly known as MEYO). She has been the director for the past three years and involved with the program for the past seven years. She is excited to help grow the program and is passionate about working with San Antonio youth. 

Watson started volunteering with ¡Vamos Ya! while she was a freshman at Trinity University. She co-created Peace Camp, a two-week day camp for the children of ¡Vamos Ya!, and has been its director ever since. 

Watson was recognized for her service as volunteer and intern for ¡Vamos Ya! by the Trinity University Alumni Association for Outstanding Service to the San Antonio Community and awarded the Gold President’s Service Volunteer Award from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Watson graduated from Trinity in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies, Social Issues and Policy. She became the ¡Vamos Ya! director in July of 2015. 

Watson hails from a big family of eight siblings total between her parents and step-parents and loves when they all get together. She lives in San Antonio with her two dogs and her boyfriend, Jason. She is excited to continue her career in the city and to also start a family.

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