CTN will host the Virtual Ascender Spring Seminar on March 31st and April 1st from 9 am until 4 pm. The Spring Seminar brings together scholar mentors, educators, advisors, counselors, and trainers from across the state to discuss progress and challenges in the program and to share best practices in the classroom. The third and final seminar for cohort 2021, the series focuses on components of the Ascender Framework for Student and Faculty Advancement. The seminar will focus on the retention of students for the upcoming fall term, and the recruitment of new first year students for the next academic year, while also addressing the needs of various disciplines through breakout sessions. Additionally, CTN will be incorporating guidance and adaptations for technology in the delivery/implementation of our Ascender framework.

Registration: The link for registration is Only those people registered will be able to access the seminar links and materials.

Guest speakers for the seminar include CTN Peer Mentors Stephanie Alvarez, Rosie Castro, and Tina Jackson as well as CTN alumni, staff, and instructors.

Speaker bios:


Rosie Castro

Maria del Rosario “Rosie” Castro is a civil rights activist and educator from San Antonio who has been involved in several prominent groups, such as the Young Democrats of America, the Mexican American Youth Organization, the Committee for Barrio Betterment, and the Raza Unida Party. She is the mother of former San Antonio mayor and U.S. Secretary of Housing Julián Castro and Texas Congressman Joaquín Castro.

Growing up in the San Antonio barrio, a low-income neighborhood on the West Side, Castro cited the beginning of her interest in social justice in witnessing the racial and economic boundaries that affected her family, especially her mother. Her mother, a Mexican immigrant who reached the fourth-grade, cleaned the houses of the affluent in Alamo Heights. As a young girl, Rosie was struck by the remarkable differences -- the streets and drainage, the sidewalks and schools. The inequities she observed in her youth inspired her social activism in college and beyond.

Rosie first worked as a volunteer for Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 presidential campaign, and later she joined with the Mexican American Unity Council and helped to organize the organization’s boycott of the San Antonio Savings Association. With a scholarship from her valedictorian title and other financial means, she successfully enrolled at Our Lady of the Lake University. As a student at Our Lady of the Lake College (BA Spanish 1971, Sociology 1975), she joined with the Catholic Youth Association and organized the Young Democrats. In 1971, she became one of the first Chicanas to run for City Council. She helped found the La Raza Unida Party and became its Bexar County chair. Rosie was also active during the “Free Angela Davis” Campaign of 1971.

Castro received a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from The University of Texas at San Antonio and worked at Palo Alto College, where she served as Interim Dean of Student Affairs from 2008 until she retired in 2013. Rosie’s belief in the importance of education remains as strong today as it did more than 50 years ago and continues to advocate for social justice. She is an accomplished community activist, a published poet, and a tireless advocate for voter registration, for better political representation, and for better city services, particularly on the West Side of San Antonio. She also is involved in national organizations such as Latinas Represent, the Texas Organizing Project, and AARP.

In 2015, she was elected to the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 2017 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Our Lady of the Lake University. But she is perhaps best known for supporting the political aspirations of her sons. Both Joaquin Castro and Julian Castro have cited Rosie’s activism as the foundation for their political careers. Rosie took her sons to political rallies and instilled in them a desire to serve. Julián delivered a moving tribute to Rosie during the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. “My grandmother never owned a house,” Julián said. “She cleaned other people’s houses so she could afford to rent her own. But she saw her daughter (Rosie) become the first in her family to graduate from college. And my mother fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone.”


Tina Marie Jackson, Ph.D.

Dr. Jackson is the first African American woman to serve as Assistant Commissioner of the Division for Workforce Education for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). In this role she works with all aspects of career and technical workforce initiatives and programs. She is the former District Director of Developmental Education at Collin College where she worked across all campuses on issues related to developmental education, completion and pathways to careers. Jackson served as Associate Dean of Science Technology Engineering & Math (STEM) at Dallas County Community College District from 2016-2017. Tina worked as the statewide coordinator of Community College Programs at the University of Texas at Austin from 2012-2016 where she helped to redesign developmental math throughout all 50 community colleges in the state of Texas. In 2013, Tina was named a Jackson Scholar by the University Council for Educational Administration. In 2012, Jackson was awarded a Community College Leadership Fellowship from the University of Texas at Austin. In 2012, she also received an award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education to continue her research on STEM Workforce Development in Community Colleges focusing on students of color. Jackson also serves as Vice President of Programs on the Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education State Board. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Minnesota and a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Texas at Austin.

Stephanie Alvarez Stephanie Alvarez earned her PhD in Spanish from the University of Oklahoma.

Alvarez is an Associate Professor of Mexican American Studies School of Interdisciplinary Studies & Community Engagement at the University of Texas – Río Grande Valley College of Liberal Arts. At Pan American University, she was the founding director of the Mexican American Studies program (2009-2013) & Center for Mexican American Studies (2011-2013).

Alvarez is the co-editor with William Luis of The AmeRícan Poet: Essays on the Work of Tato Laviera (2014). Her research intersects in the areas of Latin@ identity, language, literature, culture, education and empowerment and has appeared in various edited volumes and journals such as Hispania, Journal of Latinos and Education and CENTRO: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, among others.

Alvarez is the recipient of the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education Outstanding Latina/o Faculty Award (2011) and the University of Texas Board of Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award (2009).

Alvarez also serves on the CTN Board of Directors.

Dr. Maria Martha Chavez-Brumell

Dr. Maria Martha Chavez-Brummel is a sociologist with a history of researching, implementing, and evaluating social policy. Dr. Chavez has a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University in Journalism, Psychology, and Spanish Literature and a master’s degree in Education – Curriculum and Instruction. She also has a Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy from Yale University. At Kansas State, Dr. Chavez created The Minority Admissions Program. At Yale, she has served as Assistant Dean at Yale College, and as a member of the faculty. At Yale, Dr. Chavez established the Asian/Chicano- Native American Cultural Center, The Chicano Boricua Studies program (that has evolved into the American Studies, Race, Ethnicity and Migration major), the LULAC Head Start Program (a preschool initiative for children up to 5 years old), and the building of The Latino Youth Center in the city of New Haven, Connecticut. Maria also worked at Save the Children Federation as Associate Vice President of U.S. Programs and Global Marketing Team and was the principal investigator for the state of the union report on America’s Forgotten Children, looking at America’s 101 poorest rural places. She established six community learning centers in the Central Valley of California for the America’s Forgotten Children Campaign. Dr. Chavez also worked with Public Agenda, 4 a research and engagement organization, and was a national partner in the Achieving the Dream Initiative, where she served as Research and Engagement coach and member of the Knowledge Development Working Group.

Allegra Villarreal

Allegra Villareal holds an undergraduate degree in International Relations from St. Andrews University and a master’s degree in creative writing from Oxford University though she began her academic career at a community college after receiving a GED. She has 12 years of teaching experience, and her classroom practices have earned her the NISOD Excellence Award, the Faculty Spotlight at South Texas College, and she was nominated for faculty of the year each year since she taught at ACC. As the past lead trainer for the Ascender Framework, she designed and facilitated a year-long sequence of triannual, interdisciplinary professional development trainings that are eligible for six credit hours through the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at UT-Austin.

Dr. Anna B. Alaniz

 Dr. Anna B. Alaniz earned a doctorate from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, a master’s degree in Education with an emphasis is Reading from University of Texas Pan-American (now University of Texas Rio Grande Valley), and her bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis on Bilingual/Bicultural Education from the University of Texas Pan-American (now University of Texas Rio Grande Valley). Dr. Alaniz currently serves as the Ascender Coordinator at South Texas College and Catch the Next Director of Professional Development. She also teaches all components of the Ascender program. She is currently a full-time Developmental Reading Instructor, and adjuncts for the Education department and the English department. She adjuncts in the Teacher Bilingual Program at Texas A&M University-Kingsville where she teaches Foundation of Literacy and Assessment and Remediation in Reading. Dr. Alaniz taught in public education at Roma ISD. She has taught adult literacy courses with Roma ISD. Dr. Alaniz’s passion is helping underserved students persist and graduate from college. Her dissertation is titled, Beating the Odds- Perceptions of Successful Former Developmental College Students.”


Yon Hui Bell

Yon Hui Bell has been teaching at San Antonio College since 2010 and has taught in the CTN Ascender Program since 2018. She primarily teaches the corequisite English courses and coordinates the INRW tutoring center. After earning her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in English Literature from the University of Texas at San Antonio, she spent a year in Japan teaching English and four years in El Salvador working in adult literacy. Her time in El Salvador introduced her to the pedagogy of the Brazilian educator Paolo Freire, and she has since worked in a variety of institutions with students of all ages sharing her passionate belief in the power of literacy as a tool for personal and social growth.


Dr. Darrial Reynolds

Dr. Darrial Reynolds has been teaching core classes in political science at South Texas College for 21 years. Most students at the Starr County Campus over the past two decades have taken at least two of his courses. His teaching style is engaging and it inspires the students to try to take advantage of their educational opportunities. Like him, many of his students are first-generation students that have to overcome hurdles to succeed in higher education. He lived in Talladega, Alabama until the age of 15 while attending a segregated school system until the 6th grade. He then moved to Chicago, Illinois at age 15 and completed his senior year of high school without graduating due to my fear of swimming, which was part of the physical education requirement. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio at age 18 to work at gasoline stations and the Midland Ross Steel Products factory. He returned to Talladega to live with his grandparents at age 21 to work on the family farm and work as a janitor for the county government. He earned his GED at age 22 and 5 started his freshmen year at age 24 at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (1988) at age 28. At that time, he decided that he had a passion to become a college professor and a desire to go from living in university student housing to living in faculty housing. He went on to Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho to earn his Master of Health Education (1991), Doctor of Arts in Political Science (1997), and Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education (1999). He started teaching at South Texas College in 2000 on the Starr County Campus. He supports programs like Ascender, Early College, and Co-Requisite that help first-generation students thrive. He tells the first-generation students that since they have disadvantages it is their job as a college student to read, write, and study in ways that prove they are serious about what they are trying to do. One of the most important skills that he teaches his first-generation students is how to read closely and think critically. He asks them to re-read and rewrite the textbook in a way that puts it in their own words to show that they understand it. He also asks students to take advantage of opportunities such as financial aid and the Ascender Program. “Since I love my job as a college professor it is so easy for me to be motivated to teach and just try to bring learning objectives alive and make them relevant to the students. I feel the pride in reaching core learning objectives and transforming students. South Texas College has given me the opportunity to work at being the best student mentor and college professor that I can be now and in the future.”


Mario J. Morin

Mario J. Morin earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of Texas – Pan American (UTPA) in 2000 and earned his Master of Science degree in Mathematical Science from UTPA in 2003. He joined the South Texas College Mathematics Department in 2003 as a full-time faculty member and has since served in various roles at the college including: full-time Mathematics faculty, managing Director of a U.S. Department of Education College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA) grant (2008-2011), Academic Grants and Projects Officer (2011-2013), Coordinator of the University Relations, Transfer and Articulation Center (2013-2015) and currently as Program Chair of the Department of Mathematics. Mr. Morin currently serves on the Executive Board of the Rio Grande Valley Council of Teachers of Mathematics (RGVCTM) as well as on the Executive Board as the Immediate Past President of the Texas Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (TexMATYC).

Ariel Marie Flores

Ariel Marie Flores is a Senior Area of Study Advising Specialist at the Austin Community College, Riverside Campus, where she is responsible for advising STEM, Computer Science, and Ascender Students. She strives to make sure each student feels listened to and fully supported in both their academic, transfer, and career goals. She first started as a mentor with Catch the Next, of which this year will be her third, and has served as the Club Advisor for the student club since its inception. As the Club Advisor she encourages her students to develop their leadership skills and embrace the importance of serving the local community. She also now helps in the recruitment of future Ascender students and is a CTN Leadership Fellow for the 2018-19 year. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin and has a minor in Biology.

Helen A. Dailey

Helen A. Dailey is currently the Manager of the Learning Lab at the Riverside Campus of Austin Community College (ACC).  She is also an adjunct faculty member for the Student Development Department, teaching Learning Framework sections for the Ascender program and the general population.  She joined ACC as a Senior Computer Lab Support Technician in March of 2009.  She demonstrates a wide range of both managerial and technical knowledge during the execution of tasks used to manage the operation of the Learning Lab and to ensure proper maintenance is provided to support the hardware and software utilized by staff and visiting students. Her responsibilities include ensuring the lab is properly staffed for both online and in-person tutoring services and that students, faculty, and staff each have access to the equitable resources needed to be successful.

Prior to joining ACC, Helen worked as the IT Manager for a law firm in Los Angeles, California. She began her work in the computer industry by attending an intensive training program offered by the Los Angeles Urban League.  This technical training allowed Helen to secure a job, that led to the career path currently providing financial stability for she and her family.  Her years as a hands-on technical manager, trainer, wife and mother fostered the development of highly effective time management skills and anchored her life-long learner mentality.  These characteristics came in handy as she juggled life, work and school. 

As a non-traditional student, she entered college after nearly 25 years in the workforce. Helen graduated Summa Cum Laude with her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles, California in December 2008. Quickly following the completion of her undergraduate degree, she began her Master of Business Administration from Keller Graduate School of Management in Austin, completing that in June 2012, maintaining a 4.0 GPA, and was awarded “With Distinction” honors. She is currently enrolled at Grand Canyon University, working on her Doctor of Philosophy in General Psychology: Integrating Technology, Learning, and Psychology (Qualitative Research).

Armando Joab Sanchez 

Armando Joab Sanchez is a Catch the Next, Ascender Program Alumna from Austin Community College (ACC). As a student at ACC, he first began with an interest in becoming an automotive technician. A year later, he switched his interest to government, after meeting an individual who opened his eyes to a whole different world. With the additional support from two professors who taught state and federal government, Armando then went on to earn an opportunity to intern at the Texas House of Representatives. He continued his interest in government by participating in the Diplomats Club at ACC as the secretary, discussing international issues.

Armando started the Ascender program in 2017 and later graduated with his Associate of Arts in General Studies in December 2019. In January 2020, he transferred to Texas State University at San Marcos - where he pursued a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science, minoring in Communication Studies. He graduated in August 2021. During his journey as an undergrad, he was able to develop skills that allowed him to adapt to different political settings, explain his concerns, and address current issues. The skills that he has developed throughout his time at Texas State have helped him advocate and research pertinent information. He has been able to draw upon these skills while being interviewed several times to discuss the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and other issues undocumented individuals face in Texas. Throughout these interviews, he was also given the opportunity to present his concerns about the Supreme Court ruling on DACA and discuss the Texas House Bill 1486, and also how it will impact undocumented students from being eligible for in-state tuition.

Armando, a first-generation DACAmented student, from Ixtapan de la sal, Mexico, is now currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Political Science at Texas State University, working as a Graduate Assistant. One of his fundamental goals is to continue to use his skills to advocate to reform the treatment towards the Latino community and the immigration system. Despite his rough childhood, Armando is proud of where he is and acknowledges the support he receives. He exists for what the future has in store for him, doing his best to change the world, while making sure his parents are proud for all of the sacrifices they have made for him, giving him the world, and reminding him to keep his head up no matter how cruel the world it may be.





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