CTN would like to welcome our new peer mentors to our family-Megan Diaz, Shay Isdale, Dr. Melissa Chavez, Dr. Aja Martinez, and Sandra Gonzalez-Lamb. Mentors in our program cultivate a community of learning among authors, scholars, and community leaders with community college faculty throughout Texas. Their work inspires, motivates, and encourages our practitioners and ASCENDER students by showcasing their experience as a model of success. Indeed, Catch the Next believes that sharing their experiences of integrating culture with professional success can serve as a source of inspiration to our students, faculty, and administrators implementing the Catch the Next ASCENDER program.

Community Leader Mentors

Megan Diaz earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Communication Arts at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. Currently, she serves as the Network Support Specialist for the Austin 2030 Network, which strives for diversity, equity, and inclusivity for all students in the Austin area, while generating effective solutions for post-secondary education and success. Before joining the Network, Megan was the Outreach Coordinator for Hispanic Outreach Projects and the ASCENDER Program at Austin Community College, and previously worked in the Latino Studies department at the University of Texas at Austin. Megan is a proud fourth-generation Austinite who passionately believes in giving back to her community.

Shay Isdale is a creative and user experience leader in the enterprise space. Over his 16 -year career, he has been a transformative player as both individual contributor and team builder with PayPal, Rosetta Stone, IBM, and now Athenahealth. 

After graduating from Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Design, Shay started his career as a branding and logo designer by working for creative agencies. He developed a passion for user experience in 2008 with the launch of the iPhone. This eventually led to a role as a senior designer with Paypal working on their revitalized account experience. It was then he realized the impact he could have on major brands and the millions of users the work touched. Currently he lives in Austin Texas.

Dr. Melissa Chavez is the Associate Vice President of The University of Texas at Austin in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.  She has over 20 years experience in K-12 education and higher education.

Dr. Chavez is the superintendent of the University of Texas Charter School System, a university public charter school district. The University of Texas Charter School System is committed to delivering the most diverse and rigorous learning opportunities for children in pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade across the state of Texas.

Our system is made up of two separate open-enrollment charter school districts. Each and every year we grow stronger as an organization and as a community. We are passionately dedicated to the students and families we serve, to the UT Austin students and faculty, and to quality public education access for all students.

Our first district is University of Texas–University Charter School. This district specializes in serving special-needs students in unique settings such as psychiatric hospitals and residential treatment centers. We are currently serving students in 23 locations in the Central Texas and the Houston areas. We are the district of choice for students who are unable, for a period of time, to benefit from a traditional school setting. Our schools reside within a partnering hospital or residential facility.

Our second school district is The University of Texas Elementary School, an open-enrollment charter serving 304 students in pre-kindergarten through the fifth grade. Our community includes not only our staff but also the East Austin community, our partners, donors, volunteers, UT faculty, staff and students. Our mission is to serve the families of East Austin with the best research-based curricula and instruction while maintaining a caring and welcoming environment, serving as a research site and training site for educators, and reaching out to our community, our partners and the nation to share best practices that move education forward.

Sandra González-Lamb is fascinated by the cross-section where work-based learning, information technology and education meet. She has over 17 years of higher education experience, specifically working with first generation and high school youth. She is serving on a national board focused on women in higher education, Center for Women Board. Currently she works in the higher education space while working towards expanding Talent Hatched, an educational technology company facilitating career coaching to first generationpeople. She is enjoying this thing called life with her familia, Team Lamb, along with two pets. You can find her exploring campgrounds, practicing yoga or checking out food trucks.

Mona Aldana-Ramírez has worked in education over 20 years.  She currently serves as the Director of Student Success for Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence at San Antonio College. In this role, she leads the college’s equity plan to develop an equity mindset throughout the institution. She began her education career teaching science throughout K-12 and worked as an Aerospace Education Specialist for NASA.

While at SAC, she developed programs and spearheaded initiatives that increase student success. These programs and initiatives include San Antonio College Men Empowerment Network (SACMEN), The Dream.US Scholarship Program, Honors Academy, Student Success Community Partnerships, Ascender Program, Student Ambassadors, Foundations of Excellence and a Teacher Certification Program. She has also written and overseen several grants.
She has served as a 2021 New Leaders Academy Fellow and a 2012 National Community College Hispanic Council (NCCHC) fellow. She has also garnered several awards, such as the Community College Service Award by the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (2020) and the Outstanding Male Student Program Award in Texas (2018). She is committed to being a lifelong learner and is a member of several professional organizations.
She earned an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts from San Antonio College, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from St. Mary’s University and a Master’s degree in Natural and Applied Sciences from Oklahoma State University.
She has been married for twenty-nine years and has two children with whom she enjoys cooking, traveling and zip lines. She also enjoys hiking, reading and mastering escape rooms.

Scholar Mentor

Dr. Aja Martinez conducts research on and teaches a range of courses concerning rhetorics of race and ethnicity, including the rhetorics of race within both Western and non-Euro-Western contexts, and beginning, professional and advanced writing courses. Her award-winning book, Counterstory: The Rhetoric and Writing of Critical Race Theory (NCTE 2020), presents counterstory as a method by which to actualize critical race theory (CRT) in rhetoric and writing studies research and pedagogy. Dr. Martinez’s work argues specifically that counterstory provides method and methodology for other(ed) perspectives to contribute to conversations about narrative, dominant ideology, and their intersecting influence on curricular standards and institutional practices. Dr. Martinez’s body of scholarship provides an interdisciplinary understanding of how counterstory functions, while accomplishing a further goal of establishing counterstory as a pedagogically employable method in writing classrooms. In addition to her monograph, Dr. Martinez is co-editor with Dr. Vershawn Ashanti Young of Code-meshing as World English: Policy, Pedagogy, and Performance (NCTE 2011), co-editor of the multimodal journal Writers: Craft and Context, and her scholarship has appeared nationally and internationally in several edited collections and in journals.

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