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2024 Education Symposium

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Keynote Speakers

Victoria Chen Headshot

Victoria Chen

Founder, CEO

Breakfast Keynote Speaker

Victoria Chen is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of BridgeYear, a Houston 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that connects underserved youth to careers and educational opportunities that provide a pathway to economic stability and independence - without requiring a four-year degree. Since its inception in 2016, BridgeYear has grown tremendously to serve over 37,000 students, partner with over 60 schools across the greater Houston area annually, and employ 18 full time and 11 part time staff with a $2.5M operating budget.

Previously, Victoria taught as a Teach For America corp member and has since consulted with several nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Victoria is deeply committed to expanding access to opportunities for students in low-income communities. She received her BS in neuroscience from Brown University and MBA from Yale School of Management.

Dr. Ruth N. Lopez Turley

Professor, Department of Sociology
Director, Kinder Institute for Urban Research

Lunch Keynote Speaker

Ruth N. López Turley is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, which brings together data, research, engagement, and action to improve lives. In 2011, she founded the Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC), a research-practice partnership between Rice University and eleven Houston area school districts, representing over 700,000 students. A program of the Kinder Institute, HERC works to improve educational equity by connecting research to policy and practice, working directly with district leaders. She directed HERC from 2011 to 2022, during which she raised over $30M so that school districts would not have to pay for research. She also founded the National Network of Education Research-Practice Partnerships, which connects and supports over 60 partnerships between research institutions and education agencies throughout the country. In 2022, President Biden appointed her to the National Board for Education Sciences, which advises and approves priorities for the research arm of the US Department of Education. She is a graduate of Stanford and Harvard and is originally from Laredo, Texas.


Michelle Newton
Michelle Newton, B.Sc.N., began her career at MD Anderson 26 years ago as an Occupational Health Nurse. She now leads teams to attract, develop and hire top talent for MD Anderson in an extremely competitive market. The institution’s recruitment teams complete more than 6,000 hires per year and Newton works closely with recruitment managers and directors to develop strategies that enhance the candidate experience and the hiring manager process. She is committed to the employee life cycle and collaborates with Human Resources and Talent Management colleagues to promote development opportunities, participate in mentoring and provide coaching.

Michelle spent the first 18 years of her career as a registered nurse. Primarily focused on critical care nursing. Michelle worked in various medical, cardiac and intensive care units in Canada and the United States prior to joining MD Anderson in 1997.
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center


Ericka Duhon Headshot
Ericka Duhon is currently the Director of Nursing at The College of Health Care Professions (CHCP) and has been in the role since July 2023. She started at CHCP in August 2019 as a Vocational Nursing Instructor and became the Vocational Program Lead in 2021. Under Mrs. Duhon’s leadership, the CHCP VN program has maintained a 100% NCLEX-PN pass rate for 3 consecutive years. Since becoming the Director of Nursing, Mrs. Duhon has been able to achieve a 100% NCLEX-RN pass rate of 100% for

Ericka began her nursing career in 2004 as a Practical Nursing student at Augusta Technical College in Augusta, Ga and was licensed as an LPN in February 2005. She enrolled at Excelsior College in Albany, NY and graduated with an Associate Degree in Nursing in October 2010 and was licensed as a registered nurse in November 2010. Ericka continued the nursing educational pathway, earning a Bachelors of Science in Nursing in November 2016 and a Masters of Nursing with a concentration in Nurse Education from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, AZ in November 2018.

Early in her career, Ericka worked with elderly patients, but soon began working with a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and a Pediatrician while working at Thomas Moore Health Clinic, which is located on Fort Cavazos (formerly known as Fort Hood) and is the largest freestanding clinic in the United States Department of Defense. While working there with pediatric patients, Mrs. Duhon realized that her passion was working with pediatric patients and started working as a Pediatric home health nurse followed by working at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Hospital in Temple, TX. Mrs. Duhon became a Certified Pediatric Nurse in 2013.

Mrs. Duhon always had a passion for education. She has been a preceptor in the hospital setting for several new nurses and decided that becoming a nurse educator is the best way that she can give back to the nursing profession. As an educator, Mrs. Duhon is dedicated to student success and supports students in reaching their goals and full potential. At CHCP, she is updating the traditional nursing school model and is hoping for nursing to be more accessible and attainable to those who strive to be in the profession.

Mrs. Duhon is currently married with 3 human children and 4 fur-children. She is a soccer mom and can be found on the field on most weekends. She enjoys gardening, cooking, and crafting. She is an avid follower of the Houston soccer teams, Dynamo and Dash and loves watching the Houston Astros play, as well.
College of Health Care


Hernandez, Alicia
Alicia Hernandez is a professional Registered Nurse with over 25 years of experience who oversees Nursing Professional Development for Harris Health System. Alicia’s past experiences have allowed her to lead the acute care service line at LBJ hospital before transitioning to system nursing professional development.

Alicia is a Harris Health trained leadership coach. She comes to this role with over 20 years of leadership experience serving in a consultant role both within the hospital arena and internationally. She is committed to helping to grow and develop others to their fullest potential and serves as the career coach for nursing for all of Harris Health nursing staff or any employee interested in pursuing a career path within nursing. She is passionate about helping others see the gifts they possess and utilizing them as a strength.

Alicia enjoys collaborating with executive leadership and frontline staff to help create innovative solutions and programs to support the patient and family with the best care service and experience. She thrives to utilize the evidence to support best practices to promote patient safety and to recognize Harris Health System as a high reliability organization

Alicia relies on three operational principles to guide her leadership development efforts: (1) A good leader models excellent behavior and must be able to motivate and encourage others. (2) A leader requires humility and someone who can admit when they made a mistake and learns from each experience to help to continue to grow. (3) Fulfillment in serving and adding value to others.
Harris Health


Dr. Kenya Steele
Kenya Steele, M.D., is the assistant dean of outreach and student pathways and a clinical professor at Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine.

She is responsible for developing outreach and pathway programs for students from traditionally underrepresented areas in K-12 as well as college into medical school. She is also working closely with the College of Medicine faculty, staff and students to ensure a culture of diversity at the college and across the curriculum.

As a clinical professor in the department of Health Systems and Population Health Sciences, Steele contributes to curricular content and education. She is also a family physician and sees patients of all ages at the UH Health Family Care Center at the University of Houston.

Steele grew up in Houston and is a proud alumna of the DeBakey High School for Health Professions. She earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Xavier University in Louisiana. Steele earned her medical degree at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. For her residency training, she returned to her birth city of Chicago, Illinois, where she trained in family medicine at Loyola University-Provident. There, she developed a desire to work with underserved populations.

After completing her residency, Steele briefly practiced at Christus St. Joseph Hospital, before joining the Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Family and Community Medicine and Harris Health System. At Baylor, she was a course director and learning community advisor and director involved in the Office of Student Affairs. She also served on various committees and the faculty senate. At Harris Health System, she served as a medical director and a family medicine provider at Casa de Amigos Community Health Center.
DR. KENYA STEELE Tilman J. Fertitta Family
College of Medicine at the University of Houston


Paula Whitfield
Paula Whitfield is an accomplished entrepreneur, seasoned consultant, and dedicated community advocate with a remarkable journey that exemplifies resilience, determination, and unwavering faith.

Paula's professional path has been marked by over two decades of experience as a multi-functional operational leader, spanning diverse industries, including automotive, oil and gas, and healthcare.

In addition to her thriving consulting career, Paula embarked on an entrepreneurial journey in 2019 by becoming a Franchisee/Owner of Fastest Labs of Central Houston, a drug testing clinic located in downtown Houston. She opened her second location Fall 2023.

She also works as a member of the Interfaith Ministries Impower Steering Committee. This organization serves homebound seniors and supports refugee services.

She is happily married to an ever-loving, highly supportive husband, and the marriage is blessed with two children: Robby and Myles.
PWR Holdings Corp, Fastest Labs Central and SW Houston



Jay Culver
Jay Culver is the director of the incumbent workforce for the LyondellBasell Center for Petrochemical, Energy, & Technology. Culver brings 26 years of industry experience to the role. Culver’s previous roles include process technician, training specialist, and training superintendent with OxyChem. Prior to San Jacinto College, Culver worked for Saudi Aramco as a training consultant in Saudi Arabia.
San Jacinto College


Rhenton Cauley
Rhenton Cauley is a Human Resources Specialist with the HR team. He joined Valero in 2017 and supports the operations and laboratory functions from a Human Resources prospective within the Houston refinery.

Rhenton began his career as an HR Operations intern at the Valero Port Arthur refinery before hiring on full-time at the Port Arthur Refinery. Rhenton earned his bachelors in Human Resources Development from Texas A&M University and his Masters in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Valero - Houston Refinery


Rose Luvaas
Rose Luvaas is a first generation college graduate from South Dakota, with a BS in Chemical Engineering 2008 who went on to work for one of the largest petrochemical companies in the world – LYB. Starting in Houston, she worked in several facilities producing isopropanol, isobutylene, and ethylene as a production engineer. Rose also had several roles of increasing responsibility in Texas and Illinois: lab supervisor, performance analysis engineer, ethanol operations and maintenance manager, polyethylene operations manager, pipeline site manager, and Olefins & Polymers site operations manager. She is very passionate about the employment opportunities the petrochemicals industry provides and how petrochemicals further our modern society. Rose currently sits on the ChE Dept. Professional Advisory Board, and is married with three kids, living in Houston.


Cronin Sara - low res
Sara Cronin is Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs, oversees internal and external communication for a leading petrochemical Company. Under her leadership and direction, Sara’s team has broadly impacted all areas of the organization by implementing culture-based programming to engage employees, manage and protect corporate reputation, and drive support for the business through effective and strategic partnerships, and grassroots advocacy, all of which impact and influence stakeholders to achieve critical business objectives. She has 30 years of experience and knowledge in communications and public affairs and 23 years as a strategy advisor in the petrochemical industry.
TPC Group



Elvia Quintanilla, CEO_Texas Technical Trade Headshot
Elvia Quintanilla, a first-generation Mexican American, is a pioneering entrepreneur in Houston, Texas. With over 10 years’ experience in workforce development and higher education, coupled with a background in business leadership and management, she is one of the few Latinas in her age group to own a trade school. As the Foundress of Texas Technical Trade School, Elvia’s primary goal is to impart knowledge to underserved communities regarding high-demand industries, providing educational opportunities at no cost.

Elvia’s motivation to start Texas Technical Trade School came from her own struggles as a young woman trying to navigate the world of higher education and the workforce. She faced numerous obstacles, including a lack of resources and guidance, as well as witnessing her teenage son, who thrives as a hands-on learner, which inspired an emphasis for hands-on training methods at her school. Refusing to let these challenges derail her dreams, she used them as fuel to create a space where others could thrive in a kinesthetic learning environment.

Today, Texas Technical Trade School offers vocational programs in high-demand industries like construction and technology. The school also partners with local businesses to provide students with job placement assistance and internships, ensuring that they have the skills and experience needed to succeed in their chosen careers. Despite the many challenges Elvia has faced, she remains committed to her mission of empowering underserved communities through education and workforce development. Her work has not only changed the lives of countless students but has also helped to create a more diverse and inclusive economy in Houston and beyond.
Texas Technical Trade School
Kolby A. Griffin
As a Human Resources Recruiter at Watco Companies LLC, Kolby works with a diverse team of professionals to attract, select, and hire qualified candidates for various positions across the company. Kolby leverages their expertise in full-desk recruitment, which involves sourcing, screening, interviewing, negotiating, and closing placements, to ensure a smooth and efficient hiring process.

Kolby has a Master of Public Administration from Kentucky State University and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Texas Christian University, where Kolby developed strong skills in public speaking, communication, and community outreach. These skills have helped him to build and maintain positive relationships with both internal and external stakeholders, as well as to promote the company's culture and values. Kolby is passionate about finding the best talent for the company and supporting their growth and development


Adam Gonzales Headshot
• Adam is a native of San Angelo, TX and joined the Kirby Inland Marine Team as Recruiting Manager in August of 2023. Adam is a graduate of the US Army Recruiting & Retention College and served 17 years active duty in the Army. 11 of which were spent serving as the Recruiting and Development Manager. Adam is happily married and has five children.
Kirby Inland Marine


Trevor Ragin
United States Coast Guard


Christina Robinson Headshot
Dr. Christina Robinson currently serves as the Executive Director of Work-Based Learning and Industry Partnerships for Houston Community College. Robinson founded the Gulf Coast Region Apprenticeship Hub, an accelerator for industry-wide apprenticeships and talent pipeline development. She works closely with employers, schools, and providers in upskilling and developing their talent pipeline through HCC Talent Solutions. An accomplished leader and champion of higher learning, she has been recognized for her leadership both locally and nationally. Most recently she received the 2023 National Council for Workforce Education Exemplary Program Award and chaired the 2023 Gulf Coast Region Apprenticeship Summit. Dr. Robinson has been honored as the Top 30 Most Influential Women in Houston and Top Ten Most Influential Women by Houston Woman Magazine. Robinson is a State of Texas Fellow for the Coalition of Adult Basic Education, and currently services on the City of Houston Advisory Board for Adult Literacy. Having earned a bachelor's degree in communications from Texas A&M University and a Master of Arts in Organizational Management from The University of Phoenix, Dr. Robinson received her Doctorate in Community College Leadership from the Roueche Graduate Center at National American University.
Houston Community College



WN Headshot 2024

William is the Regional Business Development Director for Global Energy & Capital Projects at UTC Overseas, Inc. With over 35 years of industry experience, William is a seasoned professional with a rich background in logistics.

William began his career in 1987, starting from the ground up in warehouse operations. Prior to joining UTC Overseas, he served as President of a specialized logistics company servicing the West African Coast. Throughout his career, William's focus has been on fostering business growth and nurturing talent within the industry.

A true aviation enthusiast, William hails from a family deeply rooted in airfreight. Both his father and grandfather were industry veterans, having worked for renowned air cargo carriers and freight forwarders. This legacy instilled in William a strong work ethic and a passion for excellence from an early age.

Known for his dedication to hard work, clear communication, and commitment to customer service, William believes in building relationships based on honesty, trust, and transparency. In the dynamic world of logistics, he understands that challenges are inevitable. However, it's the faith and trust in the people on the other end of the conversation that make all the difference when things don't go as planned.

William remains deeply connected to his roots. Born in East Point, Georgia, he was raised and continues to reside in Spring, Texas, with his beloved wife Rebecca of 26 years. Their only son, John is also carrying the family legacy of working in logistics.

An avid golfer, William can be found with clients and friends on the course any day of the week. He also enjoys spending quality time with family and traveling around the world.

With a wealth of experience and a genuine passion for serving others, William exemplifies the values of integrity, dedication, and community both in his professional endeavors and personal life.
UTC Overseas


John has been in the Houston maritime industry for 30+ years and holds a Bachelor of Science in Maritime Administration from Texas A&M. He started with Bertling in 2002 as Director of North America Vessel Operations. After moving to Bertling’s logistics division, he held various management roles within North and South America. He is currently the North America Chartering Director. John has also been an Adjunct Professor with Texas A&M University since 2002. Active in various industry and education initiatives, John is the current President of the Houston Maritime Arbitrators Association, sits on advisory councils for Lone Star College, Houston Community College, TSU and San Jacinto College and is a board member of the Port Houston Partners in Maritime Education nonprofit organization. In April 2020, he founded the Houston Supply Chain/Logistics Education Collective to proactively minimize the logistics industry talent gap and foster industry relationships with educators and students in the Greater Houston region.
Bertling Logistics


Jacquie Young Hall
Jacquie Young-Hall joined Port Houston in 2017 as the Maritime Education Outreach Manager, which focuses on the education and workforce development initiatives for students interested in a career in the Maritime Transportation, Logistics, and other related fields.

Jacquie serves as the liaison between Port Houston, Academic, Community, and Industry partners, holding numerous seats on Career and Technical Education and Post-Secondary Advisory Boards. She also chairs the Port of Houston Partners in Maritime Education, 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization.

Her management role also includes spearheading and participating in local events, workshops, seminars, expos, and career fairs that highlight current and future education and workforce outlooks, annually engaging with 10K+ students (k-12) and 500+ undergraduate and graduate students.

Jacquie has over twenty-five years of experience in Small Business and Non-Profit Management focused on Community Engagement, Education, Career, Workforce Development.

She loves engaging with students and parents regarding the vast academic and career opportunities within the Greater Houston Port Region.

Her motto is “Education Outreach is a spark that lights the fire of opportunity/s.”
Port Houston


CAPT John Stauffer is the Associate Vice Chancellor for San Jacinto College Maritime Campus where he oversees both the credit and noncredit maritime programs. John’s responsibilities included educational leadership and administrative management of all training and educational programs at the maritime campus.

Prior to joining San Jacinto College John served as the President at Maritime Institute where he was the day-to-day leader of one of the largest maritime training companies in the United States. John’s responsibilities include educational leadership and administrative management of over 100 U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy and GWO approved courses in Norfolk, San Diego, Alameda, Honolulu, and Guam.

John served for 22 years as an Army Warrant Officer concluding his career as the Chief of the Maritime Operations Branch in Virginia where he provided operational guidance for the training of Army maritime professionals. During John’s 22 years of honorable service he deployed three times to the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom earning numerous awards and recognition to include the Bronze Star.

John Stauffer earned his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Saint Leo University and his MBA from Liberty University. John is from Pittsburgh, PA and has been happily married to his high school sweetheart Melissa for 29 years. John and Melissa have two adult daughters Alli and Ashley Stauffer. John enjoys running, golfing, traveling and serving his community.
San Jacinto College


Captain Matt Glass
Captain Matthew Glass was born in Galveston and raised in the Houston Bay Area. He has been in the maritime industry for over 20 years and is in fourth year on the Houston Pilots Executive Committee, currently as the Second Officer. He has been an active pilot on the Houston Ship Channel for 13 years. Prior to receiving his commission as a pilot, he worked for various commercial enterprises operating tanker vessels that serviced ports in the East, West, and Gulf Coasts of the United States. As a member of the executive committee, he is responsible for overseeing the business and channel operations of one of the busiest pilot associations in the country. Captain Glass is also an active member of the Pilot’s 501(c)(3), Anchor Watch. Anchor Watch has a strong focus on educating youth on the opportunities of working in the maritime field. He graduated from Texas A&M Galveston in 2003 where in his senior year he served as Corps Commander.
Houston Pilots Association


Platinum Sponsor


Teacher of the Year Sponsor


Gold Sponsors

UHD Logo Horizontal
SCCU logo center

Social Media Sponsor


Registration Sponsor


Printing Sponsors

Photography Sponsor

HCC Southeast logo
legacy community health

Silver Sponsors

Gulf Winds International
Port Houston
San Jacinto College
The University of Texas MD Anderson
Cancer Center
TPC Group, Inc.
Tejano Center for Community Concerns


Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory
Houston Community College - SE
L.I.F.E. Houston
Port Houston
Space City Credit Union
University of Houston – Downtown
Workplace Safety Screenings

Student Frame Sponsors

Amegy Bank
Cooper/Ports America
EaDo Family Dental
Harris Health
Houston Pilots Association
J.L. Proler Iron & Steel Company
Legacy Community Health
Logical Innovations, Inc.
Primeway Federal Credit Union

Space City Credit Union
The Gonzalez Law Group,PLLC
University of Houston - Downtown
University of Houston System
Union Pacific Railroad
Valero - Houston Refinery
West Gulf Maritime Association
Tejas Office Products Inc.

East End Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Paula Mendoza - Chair | Possible Missions

Kristofer Schroeder - Treasurer | Schroder Marine Services, Inc.

Doreen Anderson - Valero Houston Refinery

Frances Castaneda Dyess = East End Chamber of Commerce

Eduardo Elizondo - Houston Independent School District

Amy Jo Foreman - Chamberlain Hrdlicka Attorneys at Law

Richard C. Rice - Houston Community College

Christopher Rowland - Frost Bank

Trina Silva - Harris County Department of Education

Dalia Sherif - Lone Star College

Frecia Todd - AAMA

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