Special Guest


In January 2015, Cecilia Abbott made history by becoming the first Hispanic First Lady of Texas. She has been a teacher, vice-principal and principal at several Catholic schools across Texas, and she has also worked in senior health care services. But Cecilia hasn’t only devoted her professional life to helping others – she has done the same in her personal life. She serves on the board of several educational organizations and is a member of numerous philanthropic organizations. She recently announced the launch of her Texanthropy Initiative, which she will use to promote volunteerism and service to others as her primary focus as First Lady of Texas. Cecilia and her husband, Governor Greg Abbott, have been married for 35 years, and have one daughter, Audrey, and two dogs, Oreo and Pancake.

Keynote Speaker


Dr. Arvind Singhal (PhD, USC) is the Samuel Shirley and Edna Holt Marston Endowed Professor of Communicationand Director of the Social Justice Initiative in UTEP’s Department of Communication. He is also appointed,since 2009-2010, as the William J. Clinton Distinguished Fellow at the Clinton School of Public Service, Little Rock, Arkansas. Singhal teaches and conducts research in the diffusion of innovations, the positive deviance approach, organizing for social change, the entertainment-education strategy, and liberating interactional structures. His research and outreach spans sectors such as health, education, peace, human rights, poverty alleviation, sustainable development, civic participation, democracy and governance, and corporate citizenship. 

Keynote Speaker

Andy Carey

Andy Carey was named Executive Director of the U.S.-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership (BPP) in September 2008. The BPP is a binational membership organization that supports a network of organizations that build prosperity through leadership, collaboration, and philanthropy in the U.S.-Mexico Border region. Since 2008, the BPP has grown to nearly 300 institutional members from across the U.S. and Mexico, training over eight thousand civic leaders and dispersing over $150,000 in technical assistance. He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Foreign Language, and his Master of Arts degree in Latin American Studies, as well as completed a year of study abroad in Madrid, Spain at the Universidad Complutense. In 2013 he was named to the Adjunct Faculty at the University of San Diego in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences where he teaches post graduate courses on International nonprofit management.

Stephanie Karr

S Karr photo

Ms. Karr is the Executive Director of the Center Against Family Violence in El Paso. She has a 30+ year history of advocating for children and families. She has presented at numerous national, state and local conferences on topics related to domestic violence, sexual assault, organizational management and community collaborations. Her prior experience includes serving as Executive Director of the Child Crisis Center of El Paso and Children’s Mental Health Director for El Paso MHMR. Community involvement activities include Women’s Fund of El Paso, Executive Forum, and Leadership El Paso and Leadership Texas.

Veronica Garcia

Veronica Garcia

Veronica Garcia was born in Los Angeles and raised on the U.S./Mexico border in El Paso, Texas. She has over 20 years of experience working with social justice nonprofit organizations and community groups on issues including health care disparities, access to quality education, community development, anti-violence initiatives, LGBTQ equity, anti-racism, immigrant rights, and community organizing. Veronica learned and internalized this powerful value as a graduate of the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training’s (GIFT) Internship Program more than 10 years ago. Veronica also more recently helped launch the Paso del Norte OUT Fund, a grant making initiative of El Paso’s LGBTQA community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, and our allies) and the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee, a group committed to ending unjust and inhumane migrant detention in our community. In addition to extensive real-world experience in the nonprofit sector, Veronica has a B.A. in Sociology and a Master of Nonprofit Management graduate degree.

Marybeth Stevens

Marybeth Stevens, President of MJD & Associates, provides executive management, fund development, and organizational consulting services to private corporations, foundations, nonprofit organizations, and community leaders in the border region.  In addition to leading MJD & Associates, she serves as the El Paso Ecosystem Advisor for the mobile app Metropia. 

Prior to leading MJD & Associates, Marybeth served as Assistant Vice President of External Affairs and Public Relations at El Paso Electric. Before moving to El Paso, Texas in 2009, she served as a consultant for USAID projects in Mexico City relating to criminal justice reform and human trafficking.  She also lived and worked in El Salvador.  From 1992 to 2001 she served as Senior Counsel for the American Council of Life insurers in Washington, D.C.   She holds a B.A. from the University of Texas in Austin and a J.D. from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and is a member of the Maryland and D.C. Bar Associations. 

Marybeth is the 2016 Chairman of the Board of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, as well as being active in numerous other civic and community organizations, including serving on the Boards of Directors of the YWCA and Kids Excel. 

Alfonso V. Velarde, CVA

©DeluxePhotography2012 / Diane Sierra

Alfonso V. Velarde is the Executive Director for the Child Crisis Center of El Paso and has been leading the Center for 11 years.  In his time at the Center, he has led the transformation of programs that has resulted with the development and delivery of impactful and evidenced based services. Mr. Velarde has been appointed to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Public Private Partnership Committee and serves as a Director on the Board of Directors of the Texas Alliance on Children and Families.

Before becoming the Executive Director at the Child Crisis Center of El Paso, he retired from the El Paso Police Department after serving 21 years as an El Paso police officer.  He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from the University of Texas El Paso and is a graduate of the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas Leadership Academy.

Sofia Larkin Appleby

sofia larkin appleby

Sofía Larkin Appleby is a native of El Paso and graduate of Loretto Academy and the University of Texas at El Paso. With twenty-five years of experience in corporate, small business, and nonprofit environments, she has always strived to create value for a business or organization through her commitment to the highest level of service to customers, clients, and donors. She stresses servant leadership—being a servant first—and putting the needs and growth of others before her own. Sofía serves as the major gifts officer for El Paso’s Catholic Foundation, the Foundation for the Diocese of El Paso.


Crysti Couture

 Recognized by the City of El Paso as a ‘Social Media Shining Star’, Crysti Couture is a social media strategist, trainer and speaker certified by the National Institute for Social Media. She has been actively immersed in social media since 2006, and in that time has helped businesses and non-profits of all sizes better connect with their customers and target audiences.In addition to being responsible for leading all aspects of Visit El Paso’s social media and multimedia strategy, Crysti has been a speaker on social media for a variety of professional events and organizations, such as Femfessionals, the El Paso Business Conference and Expo, and for the El Paso Community Foundation. She has also personally trained several dozen local attractions and non-profits in social media, giving them the building blocks to creating a more compelling and effective presence online. Earlier in her career, she wrote for El Paso Times, Fusion Magazine, and 915Lifestyle.


Patty Tiscareño

patty photo

Patty Tiscareño is the Executive Director of the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation, a private foundation which has been in existence in El Paso since 1996. She is responsible for oversight of the $13.5 million in foundation assets, creation of the foundation’s major programs and initiatives, and the grant making operations. Her background is in banking, having spent fifteen years as Vice President of Investments with the original State National Bank. She is a graduate of Loretto Academy and the University of Texas at El Paso with a BA in English Literature.
She serves on the board of directors of the Stern Foundation (a supporting organization of the El Paso Community Foundation), is the past President of the Board of Loretto Academy and is an Advisory Director for the El Paso Community College Radiation Therapy program.


Kimmy May


Kimmy May is a native of Dallas, Texas and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Modern Dance from Texas Tech University. When she retired from performing, Kimmy became a full-time teacher and dance director for a public performing arts school. When her husband got an amazing job offer in Chicago, Kimmy took the opportunity to transition into a career in fund development. She worked as a Development Associate for High Jump, a non-profit organization associated with the Latin School, focused on access to higher education for middle school students. Work opportunities and the desire to start their family near relatives brought the May's to El Paso. Since then Kimmy has served as the Development Director for the Boy Scouts of America's Yucca Council and, most recently, as Development Director for the Alzheimer's Association West Texas Chapter. Now Kimmy works as a nonprofit consultant and her current project is El Paso's first giving day, give EP

William A. Brown

Will Brown

William A. Brown is a professor in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University and holds the Mary Julia and George Jordan Professorship. He teaches the Nonprofit Management, Social Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, Human Resource Management and Capstone courses. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Northeastern University with a concentration in human services. He earned his master's and doctorate in organizational psychology from Claremont Graduate University. He has worked with numerous organizations in the direct provision of services, consulting, and board governance. He served on the board of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) from 2007-2012 and chaired the Education Committee from 2009-2011. His research focuses on nonprofit governance, strategy, and organizational effectiveness. He has authored numerous research articles, technical reports, and several practice-oriented publications.


Gerry Howard

Gerald Howard

Gerry Howard is a partner in the Kemp Smith Labor and Employment Department. Mr. Howard attended West Virginia University where he received a Bachelor of Science in Education, cum laude. He then served in the United States Army in command and staff positions in the United States and in Europe. Mr. Howard earned a Masters of Military Art and Science from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He retired from active duty as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1998. Mr. Howard then attended the University of Houston Law Center, earning his J.D., cum laude, in 2001. While in law school, Mr. Howard served as the Senior Notes and Comments Editor for the Houston Law Review. Prior to joining Kemp Smith, he served for two years as a Judicial Law Clerk in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division.


Deborah Zuloaga

D  Zuloaga

Deborah Zuloaga is a native El Pasoan and graduate of the University of North Texas. In 2003, Ms. Zuloaga was selected by the Board of Directors of the United Way of El Paso County to serve as the organization’s President and Chief Executive Officer. Ms. Zuloaga’s previous professional experience includes Special Events Coordinator of a Hispanic grassroots outreach effort for a Presidential Campaign; Deputy Associate Director of Presidential Personnel, The White House; and Director of the Federal Advisory Committee Office, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Ms. Zuloaga currently serves on the Texas Prepaid Higher Education Tuition Board. She is also a member of the board of directors of the El Paso Club and Executive Forum. Ms. Zuloaga is past Chair of Leadership El Paso and alumnae of the prestigious statewide leadership organization, The Texas Lyceum.

Cemelli de Aztlan


Cemelli de Aztlan, a native El Pasoan, has been engaged in community organizing, social justice advocacy and cultural education throughout her career. She holds a Masters in Divinity with a focus on Women and Indigenous Religious Studies from Harvard University and received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Religion from Concordia University at Austin.
Cemelli has served as Racial Justice Program Manager at the YWCA of El Paso 2011-2014. In 2009-2011, she served as the Executive Director at the Indigenous Cultures Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to research and preservation of Indigenous cultures.

Presently, de Aztlan serves as Network Weaver for the El Paso Equal Voice Network, a coalition of community organizations rooted in social justice, human rights, & women’s rights and serves as a part-time lecturer at the University of Texas at El Paso in the Gender and Religious Studies programs.

Thenral Mangadu


Thenral Mangadu is an assistant professor in public health sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso and has extensive experience in public health promotion and evaluation in the U.S.-Mexico border region. Her research focuses on sexual and reproductive health (particularly HIV prevention), public health program evaluation, substance abuse prevention, domestic and intimate partner violence and obesity related health disparities. Dr. Mangadu partners with non-profit community based organizations in the Texas- New Mexico region and in other minority communities to implement community based participatory research which will enhance priority communities’ health while help sustain the organizations’ public health programs. Along with community partners like the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, Aliviane Inc., etc. she has presented her research findings to a variety of audiences including community members, local coalitions, at scientific conferences and, peer reviewed journals.


Christopher Villa

Christopher Villa received his B.S. in Civil Engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in 1998. Upon graduation he was employed as a payloads engineer at the Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington. He continued to work for the Boeing Company until June of 2003 when he enrolled at UTEP in the Master of Business Administration (MBA). In 2004, he added the Master in Public Administration (MPA) curriculum to his coursework and was accepted into HUD’s Community Development Work Study Program. Mr. Villa earned the dual MBA/MPA degrees and was also selected for the “Outstanding Public Administration Research Award” in May 2007. During his academic tenure, he came to the realization that the El Paso community has a need for objective program evaluation for non-profit and public organizations. As a result, Mr. Villa formed Helix Solutions in 2007. In 2016, Mr. Villa received the “Outstanding Alumnus Award” by the UTEP MPA Program.


Kristin Kosyluk, Ph.D., CRC


Dr. Kristin Kosyluk received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Illinois Institute of Technology’s Rehabilitation Counseling Education program in December 2014.  She is currently Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation Counseling at The University of Texas at El Paso.  She is also a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. Previously she was Program Coordinator for the Center on Adherence and Self-Determination, an NIMH-funded research Center examining issues of self-determination, service engagement, and stigma among individuals with serious mental illness.  Dr. Kosyluk has co-authored 20 peer reviewed manuscripts and book chapters to date.

Steven T. Varela

SteveVarela pic

Steven T. Varela is currently an Associate Director with Academic Technologies, and faculty member with the Department of English at the University of Texas at El Paso.
In his role with Academic Technologies, Steve specializes in curriculum and instructional design for fully online, blended and tech-enhanced courses, and teaching with technology. He is skilled in using multimedia and multimodal approaches to teaching and learning. Steve currently oversees the Creative Studios area of AT, which is responsible for graphic design, software and web programming, emerging technologies and professional development.
As a faculty member, Steve’s research and teaching interests include the areas of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s), Gamification and Game-Based Learning, Critical Pedagogy and Social Justice, Popular Culture, Graphic Novels and Literacy, and Transformational Leadership.

Elizabeth Darling


In 2009, Elizabeth Darling became President/CEO of OneStar Foundation which was created by executive order to promote service and volunteering in Texas. Previously, Elizabeth was Chief Operating Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in Washington DC, where she provided oversight and management of AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, VISTA and disaster response.  In 2003-5 Elizabeth served as Deputy Secretary for the Maryland Department of Human Services providing oversight for Child Support Enforcement; Child Care; Child Welfare and Workforce Services.  In 2001 Liz was appointed the founding director of the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.   She has a BS in elementary education from Baylor University, a certificate of Nonprofit Leadership and Management, is a Certified Association Executive, and a Certified Fundraising Executive. Liz has been recognized nationally by her peers through the 2014 & 2015 NonProfit Times Power and Influence Top 50. 


Ann Starr

Ann Star Headshot

Ann Starr, Principal, Starr Nonprofit Services Ann Starr has more than 20 years experience as a nonprofit connector, educator and strategist. In addition to her work as a consultant and facilitator for select nonprofit clients, Ann is the Managing Director at Austin-based Forklift Danceworks, where she leads the innovate company’s development efforts and strategic initiatives.
Prior to joining Forklift, Ann was Director of Education for Mission Capital (formerly Greenlights), overseeing several programs and events designed to educate and connect the Central Texas nonprofit sector.
Ann holds a bachelor's degree in education from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio and a Master of Arts in Human Services from St. Edward's University. She is past chair of the SIMS Foundation Board of Directors and a former member of the International Board of Directors for Amigos de las Américas.