Christina Collazo (Founder & Executive Director) Christina Collazo was raised in the Rio Grande Valley, where educational and career opportunities were limited. Her experience has given her an appreciation of the importance of good educational systems. A graduate of St. Edward’s University, Christina studied International Relations with a focus in Latin American Studies. Her background in non-profit organizations includes working at San Juan Diego Catholic High School in the Corporate Work Study Program as the Corporate Sponsor Recruitment. Her work with A Look…for Love Foundation, raised monies for the Austin Children’s Shelter and the Austin Museum of Art. She co-founded Sí Se Puede Learning Center in 2009 and founded SSP Learning Center in May of 2013. During her time with the center, Christina has worked together with her team to establish an innovative and collaborative 2Gen Family Learning Center focused on community, education, and trust.
Marce del Torro (ECE Coordinator and Lead Early Childhood Education teacher) Marce joined the SSP team in September 2011. Originally she came to SSP as an AmeriCorps ACE member where she was tasked with instruction of the center’s three to four-year old classroom. Using the ACE: A Community for Education curriculum, she immediately excelled in her role as instructor and SSP couldn’t bear to see her go once her term ended. An asset to SSP, Marce became the lead ECE teacher and now also oversees the ECE program. During her tenure she has helped grow the program and introduce several new and valuable programs. Marce has really enjoyed her position; even saying that she wished this could be “her forever job”. She is a native of El Paso, TX where as a teenager she would invite the children in nearby colonias to her father’s horse corrals to give them informal English instruction and teach them about the horses that drew them there. She was always destined to make a positive difference in the lives of children.
Early Childhood Education (ECE) Staff and Volunteers:
Ivett Garcia (former volunteer)
Lupita Garcia (former volunteer)
Raney McKool (former Americorp)
Anna Morales (former volunteer)
Marizza Rodriguez (former ESL student, parent to ECE graduates, and longtime volunteer)
* Each year, SSP seeks out of 3-5 ECE volunteers to assist in various capacities, including our one-on-one reading project and classroom assistance. In 2016-2017, SSP had 10 volunteers supporting the SSP mission, including one St. Edward’s University Intern and 5 St. Edward’s S.E.R.V.E. volunteers. Additionally, the center is fortunate to have probono services from a marketing firm, Johnson & Sekin in Dallas, as well as local CPA, Kathy Long.
English as a Second Language (ESL) Staff:
Amber Miller (Lead ESL Teacher)
* ESL staff are professionally trained instructors provided as an in-kind service by Austin Community College.
Board Of Directors
Carmel Borders is president of the Tapestry Foundation whose primary focus is early childhood education and social emotional learning. Mrs. Borders is past chair and board member of the National Institute for Literacy. She has served on the boards of Texas State Board for Educator Certification, The Texas Book Festival, and National Jump Start Board. She currently serves as a governor for the Austin Community Foundation. Mrs. Borders is a member of the University of Michigan President’s Advisory Group and the Chancellor’s Board for the University of Texas Systems. She received her B.A. and M.A. from the University of Michigan and taught high school for 20 years.
Charley Clay, is a local broker and owner of Clay Real Estate Services. His work is in management of commercial property and Investor portfolios, as well as brokerage services for acquisition. Charley has a B.A from Wilmington College in Ohio and is currently a graduate student at UTSA in the Bi-Cultural Bi-Lingual Studies Department working toward TESL Certification.
Roger Edmondson is an active entrepreneur and business consultant, a native Texan and Austin resident for more than 40 years. He has attempted to give back to the community through volunteer activities and NPO Board membership. Children, families and education are foremost among his community issues. His education activism includes having developed a successful statewide adult literacy awareness campaign for Literacy Volunteers of America with Barbara Jordon and Henry Cisneros, 26 years of support for Mainspring Schools (formerly Austin Community Nursery Schools), volunteer reading coach for Austin Partners in Education, and volunteer reading coach for Communities in Schools. Other organizations that Roger supports include Urban Roots, The Trail Foundation, and Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM).
Erica V. Ekwurzel, CFRE, MPAff, is founder of CivicAIM, a philanthropic consulting practice focused on increasing the capacity of grantmakers. With experience as a professional fundraiser, research scholar in philanthropic strategy, grantmaking program officer, and consultant focused on social impact, Erica brings extensive perspective to her work. Erica holds a BA from Austin College and a Master of Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. She is a member of the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers and is a 21/64 Certified MultiGenerational Philanthropy Advisor. When not on land building strong philanthropic ties and impact to the Texas community, you can find Erica, with passport in hand, traveling to beach destinations and scuba diving exploring the depths and wonders of the sea with her family.
Jean Haggerty is a small business owner In Austin, TX. A true philanthropist, Jean dedicates much of her time to improving the local community. She serves on the board of Urban Roots, a non-profit that uses food and farming to transform the lives of young people. Prior to owning her business, Jean was an educator and coach.
J.R. Johnson (Secretary; Finance Committee) is an attorney with Kelly, Hart & Hallman, where his practice is focused on resolving business disputes in state courts, federal courts, and in arbitration. J.R.’s interest in SSP was inspired by his mother, who spent decades working to promote early childhood education centers in Dallas. He earned his J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in Austin.
Dr. Yana Kushner As a lead dentist at St. David’s foundation, Dr. Yana Kushner works with elementary school children in the underserved areas of Austin and surrounding regions. When she is not practicing dentistry, or listening to adorable 1st grade theories of where cavities come from, she loves to tell the everyday story of families through documentary photography. Yana is passionate about creating the best outcome for families through education and community, and she is excited to contribute to the future growth of SSP.
Rev. Ella Leal Luna was raised into faith at Emmanuel United Methodist Church. She has extensive experience working with at risk children and youth, the homeless and transitional housing population, and providing community linkages for holistic address of social issues and services. In June 2015, Rev. Luna returned to serve Emmanuel United Methodist Church where SSP is located. Rev. Luna holds a Bachelor’s in Business Management Organizational Behavior and a Masters of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.
Dr. Megan Olshavsky (Board President) is the Director of Measurement and Evaluation for fellow Austin nonprofit Any Baby Can. She has a long history of volunteerism and, since recently having her own child, has come to deeply appreciate the importance of parent education, early childhood education, and a supportive community. She earned her Ph.D. in Psychology, with an emphasis in Behavioral Neuroscience, from the University of Texas at Austin.
Martin Rodriguez is a Global Claims Specialist for Whole Foods Market, Lay Leader for Emmanuel United Methodist Church and spent 24 years in the United States Air Force as a Chaplain Assistant. Martin was born and raised in Austin TX.
Dan Sharphorn is the General Counsel and Vice Chancellor for the University of Texas System. He manages all of UT System’s legal affairs and the attorneys within the Office of General Counsel and serves on the Chancellor’s executive management team. He also works directly with all 14 UT institutions to serve their varied legal and business needs. Before joining the UT System in 2007, Dan served in the General Counsel’s Office of the University of Michigan for 20 years. He earned J.D., M.S.W., and M.A. degrees from the University of Michigan and a B.S. degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.