LatinX EdTech Summit Logo

Bridging the Digital Divide

About Summit

We know the Borderplex region, already burdened with the challenges of the digital divide and inequity it created, suffered greatly during the pandemic. El Paso, Texas, is one of the highest concentrated Hispanic areas (83%), with approximately (50%) of households still without broadband. Compared to large metropolitan areas, access to emerging technology is an area STTE seeks to impact by the foundational design of the Future of Education. 

Advances in technology are radically impacting the education system through innovative platforms that deliver highly-effective experiential and immersive learning. While there is an emergence of innovative EdTech companies, there still remains a lack of access to education resources in underserved Latinos communities specifically in small-sized school districts in rural areas which historically have limited resources.

The STTE Foundation, EduLab Capital Partners, and CREEED hosted a half-day intersection of STEAM exploration, education celebration, and action creation as it relates to education technology. 

LatinX Edtech Summit connects leading national EdTech companies, teachers, and education leaders of influence to develop sustainable and resilient solutions that generate “Action.” 

LatinX EdTech Summit will Impact:

  • Provide rural areas and small to midsize school districts with options for accessibility to cutting edge technologies
  • Advance underserved Hispanic populations
  • Attract emerging Edtech leaders to the border region and demonstrate how to better serve the Hispanic markets
  • Recognition opportunity for teachers through awards mechanism

Keynote Speake Sponsor

Keynote – Maxeme (Max) Tuchman, CEO and Co-Founder of Caribu

Maxeme (Max) Tuchman is the CEO and Co-Founder of Caribu, an interactive video-calling platform that helps kids have virtual playdates with family and friends when they can’t be physically together. Caribu is one of Apple’s 15 “Best Apps of 2020”, one of TIME Magazine’s ‘Best Inventions’, made Fast Company’s list of ‘World Changing Ideas’, was named one of the ‘Top Ten EdTech Companies to Watch’ in Forbes, and became one of the most innovative startups in the world by winning the 1776 Global Challenge Cup. Max has been the winner or finalist in 30+ pitch competitions, is the 59th Latina in the US to raise over $1M in venture funding, and the first Latinx founder to raise $1M in Equity Crowdfunding. Max has been recognized and honored as one of the Top 100 Female Founders by both Entrepreneur and Inc. Magazine.
 

She has worked in almost every level of education from being a public school teacher, a consultant at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Executive Director of Teach For America, and manager of education projects under NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Before co-founding Caribu, Max was appointed by President Obama to serve as a White House Fellow at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. She is a first-generation Cuban-American and college graduate, and alumna of the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs and the Miami Fellows Leadership Program. Max currently serves as a Trustee of The Miami Foundation and received her MBA & MPP from Harvard.

View Caribu

Supporters

OBJECTIVE 1: CELEBRATING EDUCATION

The education sector faces many challenges, from teacher shortages to doing more with less. The summit hosted the 4th Annual Teacher Awards and recognized the achievements of best-of-the-best. 

  • National Stellar Keynote Speaker – sponsored by Bank of America
  • 4th Annual Educator Awards Ceremony Recognizing Eight Teachers
 
Awards Winners:
  • Mr. Jose Bueno, EPISD, Education Leadership Award sponsored by CREEED
  • Mrs. Abigail Muniz-Trejo, Clint ISD, Math Architect Award sponsored by Weststar Bank
  • Mrs. Ana Angerstein, EPISD, Inspirational Pathway Award sponsored by Western Tech
  • Mrs. Monica Cortez, EPISD, Regional Influencer Innovator Award sponsored by TFCU
  • Mr. Bill Swanson, Clint ISD, STEAM Creator Award sponsored by El Paso Community College
  • San Elizario ISD, Outstanding School Achievement Award sponsored by Innovare
  • Mr. Ross Robles, Fabens ISD, Technology Cultivator Award sponsored by Texas Gas
  • Mrs. Norma Payan, Canutillo ISD, Entrepreneurship Producer Award sponsored by TFCU

OBJECTIVE 2: STEAM EXPLORATION

The summit provided insights from national and local STEAM education leaders by deep diving into how LatinX educators and entrepreneurs have weathered the pandemic – unearthing culturally-specific challenges and tech workarounds to those challenges. Panel Discussions included:

Panel Discussion 1: District Leaders EdTech in the Classroom, Moderated by Joseph Sapien, STTE Executive Director

Panel Discussion 2: Addressing the Digital Divide in Education, Moderated by Dr. Annalisa Perez from the University of Texas at El Paso 

  • Dr. Errin Heyman, EdD, VP of Strategy & Innovation, Reach University
  • Norma Parraz is the Founder and CEO of Konekti Technologies Corp
  • Jodi Sohrt, Director of School Relations at Waterford.org

Panel Discussion 3: LatinX EdTech Founders Panel, Moderated by Liam Pisano, Managing Partner at EduLab Capital Partners

OBJECTIVE 3: CREATING ACTION

The first annual Pipeline Pitch Competition (sponsored by El Paso Electric) is our own unique take on a traditional shark tank event. Putting the supply and demand side in the same room, we’ve invited leading national education technology companies to showcase their innovative solutions to a captive audience of education leaders. In addition, EdTech entrepreneurs delivered their best sales pitch to district superintendents and decision-makers – a small step forward to addressing the lack of access to emerging technology, emphasizing bridging the digital divide and rural area support.

Companies were judged on the following criteria:

  • Relevance to existing pain point
  • Price point
  • Ease of Implementation/Integration into a diverse community
  • Differentiation

The Pipeline Pitch Competitors:

Judges:

  • Dr. Jeannie Meza-Chavez, Superintendent for San Elizario ISD
  • Dr. Carmen Cruz, Co-Founder of 1ST-Gen Scholars
  • Dr. Pedro Galaviz, Superintendent for Canutillo ISD
  • Horacio Hernandez, Technology Director, San Elizario ISD
  • Dr. Veronica Vijil, Superintendent for Fabens ISD

American Consortium for Equity in Education Podcast Interview

ACE-ED.org  is an award-winning, official online journal “Equity & Access PreK12” lives and where  Education Talk Radio podcasts are archived. STTE ED and Edu Lab Capital Partners Managing Partner participated on podcast.

(June 30, 2022) Listen to Podcast https://www.ace-ed.org/the-latinx-ed-tech-summit/

Agenda

12:00 pm MST: National Keynote Speaker – sponsored by Bank of America & 4th Annual Educator Awards Ceremony Recognizing Best-of-the-Best Teachers

1:30 pm MST: Panel Discussion 1: District Leaders EdTech in the Classroom

2:00 pm MST: Panel Discussion 2: Addressing the Digital Divide in Education 

2:30 pm MST: Panel Discussion 3: LatinX EdTech Founders Panel

3:30 pm MST: First-Ever EdTech Pipeline Pitch Competition

4:45 pm MST: Closing Ceremony

Who Should Make Plans to Attend

  • Rural Area Community Administrators & Board Members
  • Small to Mid Sized School District Superintendents
  • Principals
  • Teachers
  • ISD Admins with Focus on Performance and Information Technologists
  • Home School Associations
  • School Student Ambassadors

Date & Location

Thursday, June 16th, 2022 
From 12:00 P.M. MST to 5:00 P.M. MST
Starlight Event Center
6650 Continental Dr, El Paso, TX 79925

EdTech Companies Attended

BeeReaders expands the academic frontiers for Spanish-speaking K-12 students by advancing their reading comprehension skills. BeeReaders digital platform is a supplemental program that promotes literacy skills using adaptive learning in a game-like environment with a potential market of 100m students worldwide. BeeReaders content library offers thousands of authentic and culturally relevant Spanish texts, books, and assessments. Since March 2020, Beereaders has served 200K students in more than 400 schools in 11 different countries.

Learn more about BeeReaders here

Innovare empowers leaders of organizations in the education ecosystem with the technology, support, and community of peers they need to achieve a positive and sustainable impact on education and our society.

Innovare disrupts the status quo with cutting-edge analytics and strategic planning technology, expert support rooted in continuous improvement, and fostering collaboration among leaders in education and all other social impact-focused organizations.

Innovare is a Google for Education Partner recognized for its seamless integration with all education-focused Google tools, making it easier for education leaders to make an impact in their communities.

Learn more about Innovare here

Internbytes is an internship placement platform for diverse young professionals actively seeking to pursue career paths. Internbytes was created to be a space for students to share their experiences and find communities they can relate to. As students, the creators of Internbytes noticed the lack of helpful information about short-term occupations. As internships continue to grow in number, Interbytes will focus on the students who get left behind by companies and outreach efforts. Representation matters and Internbytes seeks to help mediate the disparity in internships and the workforce.

At Internbytes, you can access all the information students need to level up careers. Learn from other students, school experiences, majors, and employers. In addition, by focusing on building a community, users can apply to internships and opportunities other students have reviewed and discussed.

Learn more about Internbytes here

Reach University is a nonprofit university that employs job-embedded learning to help communities grow their own talent. At the undergraduate level, Reach offers adults employed in schools and other workplaces the opportunity to earn a unique bachelor’s degree that embraces work experience as part of the learning process. At the post-baccalaureate level, Reach provides “alternative” certification and degree programs for full-time educators and organizational leaders seeking a more equitable world.

Reach’s mission is to help schools grow their own highly effective teachers and leaders, pursuing equity in underserved urban and rural communities. Reach seeks to advance the efficacy and adoption in higher education of inquiry based instructional methods and job-embedded degree pathways.

Reach seeks to pioneer a new era in higher education where a job leads to a degree instead of the other way around. 

Learn more about Reach University here

Schola is the most powerful student recruitment system for PK-12 schools. Our mission is to improve education outcomes by placing students in their ideal educational setting. We do this by helping families discover and enroll in their ideal schools while providing schools with free and premium tools to help them source, engage, and enroll students.
 
Learn more about Schola here
Teaching Nomad is all about connecting schools and educators! We support education through two platforms. The first connects teachers with life changing opportunities to teach overseas. Here in the U.S. we’ve built an on-demand marketplace connecting schools with substitute teachers. Our marketplace is growing rapidly with thousands of vacancies covered already in 2022. Our schools see improved fill-rates, time saved for administrators, and even cost savings. Our substitutes love being able to book jobs on their mobile device and select the positions that are best suited for their skill set.
 
Learn more about Teaching Nomad here

The Konekti app is helping turn-around school engagement by bringing innovative tools to facilitate communication for students, families,
and school leaders with multilingual, three-way communication—connecting home and school under one easy access platform.

  • Quick Implementation
  • Easy Adoption and Onboarding
  • Customer Support Available
  • Instant Reporting
  • Building Robust Engagement Leading to Student Success

Learn more about Konekti here

UpBrainery provides an educational delivery platform which provides an immersive and interactive experience for students coupled with Credentials and Skills-based badges in order to teach skills for the Jobs of 2030. UpBrainery’s programs are aligned with state and national standards and come out of the box ready for schools and teachers to deploy with minimal effort in the classroom . Coupled with 3D models, Augmented Reality and other experiences, we aim to reach each student to help them get the most out of each lesson. We currently offer 16 CTE clusters and 150+ courses for middle and High School as well as Career Exploration series for Elementary Schools.

Learn more about UpBrainery here

Waterford.org was founded by Dr. Dustin Heuston, a pioneering educator who believed every child is entitled to lifelong learning success. Over the years, Dr. Heuston built a collaborative model of child, family, and educator engagement that delivers significant and lasting academic achievement gains. In 2009, that model was launched in Utah with Dr. Claudia Miner as Waterford Upstart, a kindergarten readiness project serving 4-year-old children and their families. Funded by the Utah State Legislature, Waterford Upstart delivers computer-adaptive instruction at home alongside personalized support from Family Education Liaisons, who monitor progress and empower parents as their child’s first teachers. Thanks to generous sponsors and partners, Waterford Upstart has expanded to more than 15 states, and Waterford serves over 300,000 children annually through at-home and in-school programs. And that number is continuously growing! 

Learn more about Waterford

Speakers Attended

Dr. Jeannie Meza-Chavez​, Superintendent, San Elizario ISD

Dr. Jeannie Meza-Chavez is the superintendent of the San Elizario Independent School District. She holds steadfast to her experience as a Teacher, Student Activities Director, Principal, and Human Resources Director. Her passion for education is contagious, and her energy pushes all to go the extra mile for students. She leads by example with her philosophy of serving to improve the lives of children. Dr. Meza-Chavez was previously awarded the ESC Region 19 Superintendent of the Year in 2017. In addition, she led the San Elizario ISD Communications Department to earn 9 Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA) Star Awards and 13 National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) Awards. Dr. Meza-Chavez serves as the Regional Advisory Committee Chair for Superintendents, serves the fine arts community as a Region 22 Executive Committee member, proudly serves on the TASA Race Equity and Diversity Committee, and was recently invited to serve on the TASA Member Engagement Committee. Dr. Meza-Chavez has approximately 25 years in service as an educator in the El Paso Region 19 area. She holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction from New Mexico State University, a Masters in Education / Mid-Management from Sul Ross State University, and a Bachelor's from the University of Texas at El Paso in Creative Writing with a Minor in Communications. She always encourages collaboration by reminding colleagues that plans will only work if we are willing to follow through "Manos a La Obra / Let's Do This."

Dr. Carmen Cruz is a Co-Founder of 1ST-Gen Scholars

Dr. Carmen Cruz is a Co-Founder of 1ST-Gen Scholars, former NASA Lead Education Program Specialist at Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) for the Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM). Dr. Cruz is a first generation Latina from the state of Washington, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences from Washington State University, a Master’s in Educational Leadership and Doctor of Education with an emphasis on Higher Education Administration from Stephen F. Austin State University. Dr. Cruz completed her doctoral dissertation on K-12 Title I schools focused on mathematics curriculum and instruction. She possesses over twenty years of PK-20 education experience. Her teaching career began in Houston, TX, where she taught at Title I schools and developed STEM curriculum inclusive of Robotics for State and National formal and informal organizations. She earned the honor of Teacher of the Year and has shared her STEM knowledge to educators via professional development across the country. Additionally, she also has extensive nonprofit management experience. Dr. Cruz also previously worked in Higher Education at a Hispanic Serving Institution where she assisted in developing STEM Accredited Undergraduate Degree Programs in San Antonio, TX. Dr. Cruz has also published and presented her research focused on K-12 and Mentoring First-Gen Latino Students Pursuing STEM College and Career Pathways at National and Global Conferences. Dr. Cruz is an Author, Editor, and Reviewer for many journals and organizations across the country.

Adrian J. (AJ) DeLeón, M.Ed, Co-Founder, Innovare

My professional experience includes roles focusing on youth development, teaching, staff development, postsecondary access, program management, strategic planning, and big data. I am now leading a scaling social enterprise which drives continuous improvement and social innovation within the education ecosystem. In addition to my academic background in computer engineering, education and the social sciences I also apply novel practices I’ve studied, such as human-centered design, to achieve sustainable results in the organizations I serve. Lastly, I am a proud alumnus of Education Pioneers, the Surge Institute Fellowship, the LEANLAB K-12 Fellowship, the StartEd & NYU Steinhardt EdTech Accelerator, 1871’s Latinx Tech Incubator, Stanford/LBAN's Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr. Pedro Galaviz, Superintendent, Canutillo ISD

Dr. Pedro Galaviz is a committed educator who cares deeply for the greater Canutillo and El Paso communities. Upon his appointment as Superintendent of the Canutillo Independent School District in May 2013, he immediately relocated his family from the Round Rock Independent School District in the Austin area where he served as Director of Secondary Education. Since then, he has overseen the successful completion of $32 million in capital improvement projects, including the new Congressman Silvestre and Carolina Reyes Elementary School, the new Gymnasium and Fine Arts Center at Alderete Middle School, the new Auxiliary Gymnasium at Canutillo High School, and the new cafeteria at Northwest Early College High School. Recently, under Dr. Galaviz’s vision and direction, Canutillo ISD has made great strides in its mission to provide high quality educational experiences that will inspire and prepare all students to apply the knowledge and skills necessary to become effective leaders and productive citizens. In 2017, Canutillo ISD made the Educational Results Partnership and the Institute for Productivity in Education, Honor Roll District list, as one of only 11 school districts in the state of Texas and the only one in El Paso County. And, Northwest Early College High School, Alderete Middle School and Reyes Elementary School were also honored as Star Honor Roll Schools.

Ghazal Qureshi, Founder, UpBrainery

Ghazal Qureshi is a serial educational entrepreneur, parent, innovator, educator and a technologist. Ghazal started an educational company called IDEA Lab Kids which she started in 2011 and exited in 2019 which grew from 1 location to 107 locations across 5 countries. It was there that she saw the immense need to provide the same type of services and programs to a greater population of underserved communities. She started UpBrainery to provide educational equity to all kids by merging her two loves - Technology and Education. She has a degree in Computer Science and also has over 15 years of experience as a Software Technologist.

James Guerra President & CEO, JG Consulting

James has served education systems in various roles since 2004. He recognized early in his career that human capital is the driving force for sustaining and improving all school systems. James believes that teachers and executive-level leaders are equally responsible for providing every student with an opportunity for post-graduation success. Since founding the company in 2014, James had one goal in mind: to support any school system in the country with a clear focus of retaining the best-in-class educators while supporting a select group of educational partners that offer a unique blend of products and services to ensure that every learner has the necessary tools to achieve academic success. James graduated from Texas State University in 2004 with a BA in Public Relations and currently resides in Austin, Texas.

Jesus Maximino Hernandez, Co-Founder, InternBytes

Co-Founder at Internbytes.com. Graduate from The University of Texas at El Paso. Upcoming Amazon Software Engineer. As students, the creators of Internbytes noticed the lack of helpful information about short-term occupations. As internships continue to grow in number, Interbytes will focus on the students who get left behind by companies and outreach efforts. Representation matters and Internbytes seeks to help mediate the disparity in internships and the workforce.

Horacio Hernandez, Technology Director, San Elizario ISD

Mr. Hernandez has built a strong foundation of highly traind staff, a cutting-edge infrastructure where he implemented and oversaw the rebuilding of a new Network Operations Center, as well as robust technology hardware that allows all schools to operate in a digital rich environment. His impact on the district and community cannot be overstated, as well as his passion for technology. He has 25 years of experience in public education(K-12) and technology. He began his career in 1997 as a technology intern at Fabens ISD, where he would later be hired as a Computer Technician in 2000, and soon promoted to Network Analyst. In 2007, he was hired as the San Elizario ISD Network Administrator where he served for 9 years before becoming the Technology Director in 2016. He has served in this role for five years. “My vision and goals for the district are to incorporate technology in daily instruction and provide students equitable access to technology to prepare them with 21st century skills.”

Dr. Errin Heyman​, VP of Strategy and Innovation For Reach University

Dr. Errin Heyman is the Vice President of Strategy and Innovation with Reach University.Here, she focuses on bringing apprenticeship-based, job-embedded approaches to higher education. Over her 25 years in higher education, she has served as the Director of Assessment and Educational Effectiveness at the California Institute for Advanced Management; led the Initiative for Advancing Leadership for and Visibility in Student Learning Outcomes Assessment at the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC); and has been an instructor in Park University’s Master in Education program, in addition to other consultant-based projects. Errin has served as the Dean of Educational Effectiveness at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences and was the founder of the Center for Excellence in Learning, Teaching, and Assessment at West Coast University. She also spent multiple years at eCollege, a learning management system vendor, where she led the academic consulting and training team. Errin holds an Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership, with a focus on Curriculum and Instruction; an MA in Teaching of Writing; and a BA in English Writing.

Brett Isis, Founder & CEO of Teaching Nomad

Founder & CEO of Teaching Nomad. Father, husband, lifelong learner, unstoppable entrepreneur, and dedicated leader. I've known since high school that I would be a entrepreneur. I spent the first 10 years of my career learning everything I could about how to build a big, impactful company. I've spent the last 11 as a founder working in education recruitment, growing a business, learning, iterating, and solving problems for educators.

Kristine ‘Kristi’ Marcum,President, Bank of America El Paso/Las Cruces Senior Resident Director, Merrill Lynch El Paso Senior Vice President Senior Financial Advisor

Kristi has been providing financial and wealth management advice and guidance at Merrill Lynch since August 2000. She is a proud graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso with both Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (1995) and a Master’s degree in Education (2000). Kristi is involved in a number of non-profit organizations in the El Paso community, having served on the boards of the Junior League of El Paso, the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, the Center Against Sexual & Family Violence, the Development Board for the University of Texas at El Paso, Executive Forum, the YWCA Paso Del Norte, El Pasoans Fighting Hunger, Borderplex Alliance, and most recently joined the board of Kids Excel El Paso. She also serves on the local board of the Bank of America Community Foundation. In December 2014, Kristi assumed the role of Resident Director of the El Paso office, and in January 2016, she was named President for Bank of America, El Paso market. Kristi was also honored to serve the Resident Directors’ Advisory Council to Management representing the Texas Mountain South Division from 2018 - 2020. She holds the Series 7, Series 66, Series 31, Series 9 and Series 10 FINRA registrations. Prior to joining Merrill Lynch in August 2000, Kristi worked in the El Paso ISD as a 7th and 8th grade Language Arts teacher.

Jaime Martinez, CEO at Schola / EdTech/ Connecting Families & Schools

Jaime has over a decade of experience in education, both inside and outside the classroom. While working with Teach for America, the idea for Schola was born in a Phoenix classroom and has now expanded to all 50 states under his leadership. With a passion for solving school fit, Jaime specializes in recruitment, enrollment, and retention strategies for growing schools. Jaime earned his M.Ed. from Arizona State University.

Brooke Montgomery Program Director, Student Entrepreneurship, NMSU

Brooke Montgomery serves as a Program Director for New Mexico State University's Arrowhead Center and is the Director of Student Entrepreneurship including Studio G, Innoventure, and the American Indian Business Enterprise Center (AIBE), while serving as a manager and teacher for NMSU’s National Science Foundation I-Corps regional site. Brooke leads Studio G’s Borderplex and statewide efforts in student entrepreneurship and innovation by providing direction for student entrepreneurship initiatives, strategies, goals, and performance while serving the diverse needs of Latinx and Native American students in the region. She delivers experiential learning opportunities that foster inquiry, diversity and inclusion, and service to the broader community. Brooke holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology with a minor in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine and a Master of Arts degree in Education. Brooke also serves as an entrepreneur serving as CEO for Pivotal Biotech LLC and holding patents in the respiratory medical device industry inclusive of Moisture Trap Assembly for Respiratory Circuit.

Paz Mosqueira, Marketing & Sales Specialist

Paz is the Marketing and Sales Specialist of BeeReaders. She is a Chilean born native Spanish speaking education professional living in Austin, with over 8 years of experience in education, which includes full immersion bilingual programs in the US.

Dr. Beto Pallares, STTE Board Chair & VC

Ebetuel (Beto) Pallares was born in Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, and raised in El Paso, TX. He began his career as a management consultant focused primarily on the telecom industry. He’s also been a start-up entrepreneur, a telecom executive, and restaurateur, a nonprofit director, a venture capitalist, and a professor. Beto’s investment expertise is in seed and early-stage venture investments, as well as venture fund creation. He currently advises a family office on fund commitments and direct investments into private operating companies and is the general partner/fund manager of two funds. Beto enjoys being involved in entrepreneurial transformation, particularly in the Borderplex region where he incorporates best-in-class mentorship, tech tools, and resources for start-up founders and aspiring investors. He teaches entrepreneurship and strategic management at New Mexico State University where he holds the Bill and Sharron Sheriff Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship. Beto is a Kauffman Fellow and a Presidio Fellow and over the years has served on the board of over two dozen private companies. He also serves on the board of Exagen, Inc. (NASDAQ: XGN). Beto holds a Ph.D. in International Business Strategy from the University of Texas at El Paso, in addition to an MBA. He received a B.A. in economics from Brandeis University. Beto frequently lectures internationally on topics ranging from tech ecosystem development and start-up mentorship. Specialties: seed/early-stage venture capital; strategic management and planning; non-profit and corporate board service

Dr. Annalisa Perez, Science and Engineering Research in Education and Technology for UTEP

ANNALISA PEREZ, Ph.D., J.D., leads science and engineering research in education and technology practices at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). She joined UTEP’s CREATE in January 2022, facilitating and mentoring Doctoral student success through advancing communication, digital, and professional skills. Annalisa holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Science and Engineering from UTEP (2016) and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Arizona State University's Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law (2008). Dr. Perez’s professional portfolio includes environmental enterprise consulting and legal and analytical studies.

Liam Pisano, Managing Partner at EduLab Capital Partners

Liam Pisano is a Managing Partner at EduLab Capital Partners. Prior to co-founding EduLab Capital Partners, Liam was the Managing Director at LearnLaunch, an early-stage education technology investment platform, and co-working space. There he managed all LearnLaunch investment activity and drove domestic and international strategy for the organization. He has over 16 years of direct investing experience, holding investment professional positions at Spectrum Equity Investors, Hercules Capital, and Patriot Capital. He also co-founded one of the first MOOC’s for student use, Academic Earth, which was named as Time Magazine top websites of 2009 and was eventually sold to an ABRY Partners portfolio company. Liam received his B.A. in Political Science from Williams College, where he was a member of the two time National Championship Division III cross country team. He received his M.B.A from Yale University where he was a founding member of the Yale Economic Review.

Norma Parraz, Founder and CEO of Konekti Technologies Corp

Norma Parraz is the Founder and CEO of Konekti Technologies Corp. Ms. Parraz launched new Education Technology Tools designed to connect home and school via mobile applications to support students and families. These Tech tools are focused in fostering stronger communication by offering multi-language options for end-users. The multilingual tool allows families from different backgrounds to be fully engaged in their children’s academic success. Ms. Parraz past professional experience includes legislative and public policy work in the nation’s capital. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona, a Ford Foundation Public Policy Fellow, and a Camelback Fellow. Her current community engagements include serving as Chair of the Phoenix Police Community Advisory Board, the Phoenix Film Foundation Board, and the KIPP-Southern California Board of Directors.

Larry John Porras, Regional Advocacy Director- El Paso/ Trans-Pecos Area, Raise Your Hand Texas

Larry John Porras joined the Raise Your Hand Texas Advocacy team in 2021. A native of West Texas and raised in the small community of Valentine, Texas, Larry John earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Political Science and Public Administration at Texas Tech University. He launched his career working for the City of Lubbock, managing homeless prevention + work force development, fleet acquisition, and contract compliance. He gained further experience in local, state, and federal policy and outreach work while on staff at the offices of Congressman Pete Gallego, then-State Representative Cesar Blanco, and most recently the City of El Paso. A child of a recently retired teacher and a school board member, Larry John is passionate about promoting public education and working to increase awareness throughout the community.

Joseph Sapien, Executive Director, STTE

A pioneer in Science, Technology Education, Arts and Math (STEAM), and entrepreneurship program development, holds B.A. in Computer Animation, emphasizing Design, Innovation, and Brand Strategy. His professional experience includes 15 years in workforce development, 21st-century non-profit management, and entrepreneurial ecosystem building. Mr. Sapien collaborates at the national level and has raised over 3.2M in revenue impacting over 60K individuals in the LatinX community. Sapien launched the first-ever high school STEM Business Challenge and has recently launched the first-ever Augmented Reality (AR) Science Fair World Climate Change Challenge (https://arsciencefair.com/).

Jodi Sohrt, Director of School Relations at Waterford.org, Serving Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico

After teaching for 17 years and having a passion for early literacy and teaching, I am proud to be part of a non-profit company that focuses on closing the achievement gap and providing a strong foundation for early learners. We provide a research-based and evidence-based curriculum to students to ensure success in the early years and throughout their years of school.

Dr. Veronica Vijil, Superindendent, Fabens ISD

Dr. Veronica Vijil began her tenure as Superintendent of Schools for the Fabens Independent School District in February 2019. Prior to her current role, Dr. Vijil was Canutillo ISD’s Associate Superintendent. She has worked in education for over 30 years. Vijil began her career as a teacher for the Ysleta Independent School District. After her time there, she and her husband relocated to Indianapolis, IN where she continued to teach English Language Arts. Another relocation took her family to Spring, TX where she worked for Spring ISD for 19 years as a science teacher, assistant principal, principal, and executive director. Vijil says that she stays grounded by teaching for Sam Houston State University as an adjunct professor. She earned a Doctorate of Education at Sam Houston University, a Master of Education at Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bachelor of Science at The University of Texas at El Paso. Veronica completed coursework for her administrative certificate at The University of Houston. Vijil believes that being the Superintendent of Fabens ISD is a continuation of her obligation to utilize the gifts that have been bestowed upon her. Being the first Latina Superintendent of Fabens ISD is truly a dream come true for her. She remains committed to mentoring students, supporting teachers, reaching out to the community, and building a strong rapport with the Board of Trustees.

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