Speaker Biographies


Alfonso Alvarez was born and raised in the City of Santa Ana\Alvarez has 22 years of experience as a child advocate, both as a counselor for abused children and as a social worker. In addition, Alvarez has approximately 25  years of volunteer experience in the City of Santa Ana, specifically in gang prevention and intervention. He has also mentored high school and college students. He has served on the Board of Directors of Veterans First, the Foundation for Survivors of Human Trafficking, SER Jobs for Progress, Inc., and the American GI Forum, a Congressionally chartered veterans organization.  Alvarez was the first in his family to attend college and received both a bachelor’s degree and a graduate degree from Chapman University. He went on to earn his educational doctorate in Organizational Leadership from Argosy University.

Ana Miriam Barragan was born in Mexico and grew up in Boonville, California. She identifies as an undocumented Chicana and hopes to positively impact the immigrant community in the United States. Barragan received two bachelors’ of art degrees, one in Deaf Studies and the other in psychology from California State University, Northridge, where she played a role in the development of a Dream Resource Center. She also completed a minor in Chicana/Chicano Studies and she is part of Movimiento Educational Chicana Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) and Dreams to be Heard (D2BH). Barragan currently serves as assistant director of the Dreamers Resource Center in the University of California, Irvine and continues to advocate for the rights of undocumented immigrants in the community.

Marisa Bono recently joined the San Antonio Mayor’s Office after serving as Southwest Regional Counsel and staff attorney for MALDEF. Before that, she served as an associate attorney for Kustoff and Phipps. She graduated from the University of Michigan Law School, and has an undergraduate degree from Rice University, and a master’s degree from the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Myrna Castrejón is Great Public Schools Now’s executive director. She worked at the California Charter Schools Association in various key leadership roles since 2003, including as the Acting Chief Executive Officer. She has also been a consultant to the state-funded Urban Education Partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District, where she helped develop eight innovative early education service centers in the most high-need areas of city; the vice president of School and Family Networks for the Los Angeles Alliance for Student Achievement; and the director for family engagement for the Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project. In these positions, Castrejon saw parents’ deep desire to give their children real high-quality education opportunities when faced with so few choices.

Ernesto Cantu was born on June 20, 1970 in Caldwell, Idaho to migrant parents. He joined the U.S Army and served his country until 1991 mostly overseas, including during Operation Desert Shield/Storm. In 1997, he graduated from the University of Texas Pan-American (UTPA) in Edinburg, Texas and then taught seventh-grade English Language Arts in Alamo, Texas. In 2000, he began teaching GED and ESL classes at nearby jails.  He joined IDEA Public Schools as a part-time after- school Saturday tutor and then moved from his school district job to teaching full-time for IDEA. Cantu has been with IDEA for 13 years and has worked at four IDEA campuses. He is now a senior vice president of schools, and executive director of IDEA El Paso.  Cantu also earned a doctorate from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Sara  Castro-Olivo is a nationally certified school psychologist. She received her doctorate in School Psychology from the University of Oregon. Her research focuses on the development and validation of culturally responsive social-emotional and behavioral interventions for Latino English-language learners  youth and families.  Castro-Olivo has more than 15 years of experience working as an interventionist for Spanish-speaking populations in Texas, California and Oregon. She has worked as a bilingual community health educator, social skills trainer, parent trainer, school psychologist, and mental health care provider.

José Luis Cruz began his tenure as the third president of the Herbert H. Lehman College of The City University of New York on August 15, 2016. Widely regarded as one of the nation’s leading advocates for policies to expand opportunities and improve educational outcomes for all students – especially those who have historically been underserved – is a frequent keynote speaker and writer on higher education issues. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, and his work has been covered by many media outlets. Previously, Cruz served as provost of California State University, Fullerton. He is a former vice president of Higher Education Policy and Practice at The Education Trust in Washington, D.C., and a former vice president of Student Affairs for the University of Puerto Rico system. He began his career as a faculty member in engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez. Cruz is a professor of physics in Lehman’s School of Natural and Social Sciences. He is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers as well as a National Science Foundation Career Award recipient. He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering (magna cum laude) from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez and his doctorate from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Patricia Gándara is research professor and co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. She is also director of education for the University of California-Mexico Initiative.  Gándara is an elected fellow of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the National Academy of Education. In 2011 she was appointed to President Obama’s Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and in 2015 received the Distinguished Career Award from the Scholars of Color Committee of the American Educational Research Association.  Her most recent books are The Latino Education Crisis (2009) with Frances Contreras; Forbidden Language: English Learners and Restrictive Language Policies (2010) with Megan Hopkins; and The Bilingual Advantage: Language, Literacy, and the U.S. Labor Market (2014), with Rebecca Callahan.

Mildred García is president of California State University, Fullerton, the third largest university in the state. García previously served as president of CSU Dominguez Hills where she served as the first Latina president in the largest system of public higher education in the country.Prior to her arrival in the CSU, García served as the CEO of Berkeley College. She has held both academic and senior level positions at Arizona State University; Montclair State University; Pennsylvania State University; Teachers College, Columbia University; and the Hostos, LaGuardia, and City Colleges of the City University of New York. García was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. A first-generation college student, García earned a both a doctorate and a master’s degree from Columbia University, Teachers College and a master’s in business education from New York University, among other degrees.

Lydiana Garcia-Suazo was born and raised in Puerto Rico and obtained  a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the Inter American University in Puerto Rico. She moved to Los Angeles in 2008 to complete the pre-doctoral internship. Her professional experience includes working with children and families that survived childhood abuse (including sexual abuse) and domestic violence, families, and dealing with immigration status related-issues. She also has offered therapy in schools, homes and in the community. In 2015, Garcia-Suazo  started my private practice. She also has taught graduate-level psychology classes at Universidad del Turabo in Puerto Rico, and at Antioch in LA. Currently, she also works at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology-Los Angeles as a clinical supervisor.

Luis A. Huerta is an associate professor of Education and Public Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. He teaches courses in policy analysis and implementation, school finance and organizational sociology. His research and scholarship focus on school choice reforms and school finance policy. Prior to joining the Teachers College faculty in January of 2002, he served as a research associate and coordinator for K-12 education policy research for Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE). He also served as a California public school teacher for six years. He is the author of recent articles on school choice and school finance published in Educational Policy, Journal of Education Finance, Teachers College Record, Peabody Journal of Education, Journal of Education Policy and Phi Delta Kappan. He is currently serving as co-editor of the journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

Maria Kuripet is a first-generation college student at the University of Kansas and hopes to graduate in Fall, 2018. She received her associate’s degree in liberal arts from Johnson County Community College in May.  She graduated from Olathe East High School in 2014 with about 20 hours of college credit and received a scholarship from the community college that covered her tuition and books. The scholarship came through a competition called Bizfest in Kansas City for high school business hopefuls.

Julian Lucas is an intern for Gavin Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign and recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in political science. Lucas was involved with organizations such as CARECEN and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) while in high school.  Although Lucas managed to get accepted into every university that he applied to right after high school, the lack of financial assistance prevented him from continuing his education. Soon after President Obama enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, Lucas saw it as the opportunity to pursue his higher education dreams. At Berkeley, Lucas pushed for the needs of undocumented students as a board member of Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education, the only undocumented student group on campus. He was also involved with Dreamers project which is a mentorship program that helps prepare undocumented high schools students for college.

Louis Malfaro is the president of Texas AFT.  He served as president of Education Austin from 1999-2010, and also as president of the Austin Federation of Teachers, from 1992-1999, as well as secretary-treasurer of Texas AFT before being elected president. Malfaro began working as a bilingual elementary school teacher in 1987. He has served as president of the Austin Central Labor Council (2003-2007) and is currently a member of the AFT Teachers program and policy council and a member of the AFT organizing committee.

Raquel Mamani is a parent volunteer with Save Our Schools Arizona. She was born and raised in Nogales, Arizona. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and Deaf Studies. She worked as a special education teacher in three different states for 10 years and taught bilingual education for two. She lives in Phoenix with her husband and two children.

David Nieto is executive director of the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Colorado, Boulder School of Education. Nieto holds a Ph.D from the University of Massachusetts at Boston. His research focuses on bilingual education, English language development and language policy in education. He also has served as an administrator of English Language Learning for the Illinois State Board of Education’s English Language Learning; served as a research special in Providence (R.I.) Public Schools; and an assistant director in the Massachusetts Department of Education’s office of English Language Acquisition.

Tammy Olivas is the outreach director of Hispanics for School Choice, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based advocacy organization that serves Hispanic families by informing them of their educational options and advocating for parents’ right to choose the school that best fits their needs. Under her leadership, Hispanics for School Choice has expanded its grassroots efforts throughout Wisconsin. In addition to her work in education, Olivas serves as consultant for the Institute of the Mexicans Abroad and is a Board Member of the Wisconsin Hispanic Scholarship Foundation.

Allyson Osorio is a UnidosUS civic engagement strategist in the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation. Prior to UnidosUS, Osorio was the university affairs chair for the University of California Student Association where she led important education and justice reform issue campaigns on behalf of all UC students. Osorio led budget and policy conversations between students, the University of California Office of the President and key leaders in the state of California. Osorio also worked closely with student allies of the California Legislature to advocate on behalf of current and future students for accessibility, affordability, and quality in the University of California system. Osorio also served as the student observer for the Committee of Education Policy for the University of California Regents. Osorio UnidosUS in 2015. Osorio oversees UnidosUS’ public policy and advocacy activities on a wide range of issues including justice reform, health, education, and immigration. She also leads voter engagement projects in the state of California.

Delma Ramos is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Denver  in the Higher Education Department and research assistant for the Interdisciplinary Research Incubator for the Study of (In)Equality (IRISE). Her work focuses on asset-based approaches to college access and completion with an emphasis on historically underserved populations. Ramos is also interested in the influence of public policy on issues related to college success, which has led her to collaborate with policy organizations and think tanks including RAND, the American Council on Education, the College Board, the Education Commission of the States, and the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Ramos’s dissertation research focuses on asset-based perspectives and the college success of first-generation, low-income, and students of color.

Claudio Sanchez is a former elementary and middle school teacher and an education correspondent for NPR. He focuses on the “three p’s” of education reform: politics, policy and pedagogy. Sanchez’s reports air regularly on NPR’s newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. Sanchez joined NPR in 1989, after serving for a year as executive producer for the El Paso, Texas-based Latin American News Service, a daily national radio news service covering Latin America and the U.S.-Mexico border. In 2008, Sanchez won first prize in EWA’s National Awards for Education Reporting. He was a 2007 Nieman Journalism fellow at Harvard University. In 1985, Sanchez received one of broadcasting’s top honors, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton, for a series he co-produced, “Sanctuary: The New Underground Railroad”. Sanchez is a native of Nogales, Mexico, and a graduate of Northern Arizona University, with post-baccalaureate studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Michele Siqueiros oversees the Campaign for College Equity’s strategy, policy priorities, fundraising, and serves as the leading spokesperson for our work. Siqueiros has been with the Campaign since 2004, serving first as associate director, then  executive director and now as president. She currently serves on the Boards of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), The EdSource Advisory Council, Alliance for a Better Community (ABC), and from 2011-2014, Siqueiros served as a gubernatorial appointee to the California Student Aid Commission, the state agency responsible for distributing and awarding over $1.7 billion annually in Cal Grant aid to California college students. In 2015, the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation named her its Woman of the Year. Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) named Siqueiros  their HOPE Treasure in 2014. That same year, La Opinion Newspaper gave her the Hispanic Leader Award for her leadership in education. In 2008, La Opinion named her one of Los Angeles’ Mujeres Destacadas (Outstanding Woman). She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Studies and Chicano/a Studies from Pitzer College and her Master of Arts in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Emma Treviño is the project manager of implementation of Common Core State Standards –Math implemention for San Francisco Unified School District. She is responsible for ensuring the coherence of the mathematics professional development design and implementation for the District.  Previously, she was the Ssupervisor of Mathematics Programs for the Dana Center at the University of Texas in Austin. She has extensive experience in the areas of mathematics standards, curriculum, and assessment and has provided technical assistance to States and Districts.