Leadership Team

Be a champion of a family’s future

Leaders with Distinguished and Broad Experience

AVANCE's leadership team is distinguished by its broad and deep experience and its unsurpassed focus on AVANCE’s mission of helping families scale new heights and achieve future success.

National Office

Elida Gonzales

Chief Operations and Innovation Officer

Elida serves as Chief Operations and Innovation Officer of AVANCE.  Elida joined AVANCE in 1998 and has spent most of her career in leadership roles in accounting, finance and business development.  Elida is the project lead for AVANCE’s Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action, a collective impact project in the Texas Rio Grande Valley called PACES (Pathways to Alliances for Community Engagement Services). She earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree from St. Mary’s University and her Master of Science in Accounting from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Tom Hedrick

Chief Executive Officer

Tom comes to AVANCE from the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University, where he was a Fellow during 2017. Before Harvard, Tom was an Operating Partner in Private Equity at The Stephens Group. Before his work at The Stephens Group, Tom was a Senior Partner with McKinsey and Company. Tom holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from Harvard.

Rita Sandoval

Senior Director of Programming

Rita serves as the Senior Director of Programming at AVANCE Inc. She began her career with AVANCE as a Parent Educator and spent more than 20 years with AVANCE’s San Antonio Chapter teaching and mentoring parents and staff, ultimately becoming the Chapter’s Associate Director of Programs. Rita has a Bachelor of Social Work from Our Lady of the Lake University and a Master of Public Administration from Webster University.

Anne Thomas

Chief Program Officer

Anne Thomas is the Chief Program Officer of AVANCE Inc. The quality, integrity, and fidelity of AVANCE’s signature Parent-Child Education Program and the innovation and implementation of all AVANCE intellectual property are her principal responsibilities. Before joining the AVANCE headquarters staff in mid-2018, Anne was the Executive Director of AVANCE North Texas. Anne has a long and distinguished history with nonprofit leadership with organizations such as Big Thought, ChildCareGroup, and the Houston/Harris County Homeless Coalition. Anne holds a bachelor's degree in business management and a Master of Business Administration from Warren University.

Chapter Leadership

Frances Brown

Rio Grande Valley - Regional Director

Francesca A. Brown is the Regional Director at AVANCE RGV Chapter located in Alamo, Texas. Mrs. Brown began her career in Early Childhood Education in 1994. She has worked in Head Start, Child Care Licensing, and Texas Public Schools for over 20 years.    Frances holds an Associate’s degree in Early childhood from South Texas College, a Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentration in Bilingualism, Consulting and Business Management from University of Texas Brownsville and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Lamar University. 

Daisy Cano

AVANCE North Texas - Interim Executive Director

Daisy is currently the Interim Executive Director of AVANCE North Texas. She obtained a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2008 and joined AVANCE North Texas as coordinator of the HOPE program in January 2009. Prior to her interim ED role, Daisy was Chief Operations Officer of AVANCE North Texas. Ms. Cano has experience as an early intervention specialist, case manager and program coordinator.

Marie Felan

Austin - Executive Director

Marie joined AVANCE-Austin as Executive Director in 2014. She brings more than 26 years of experience in non-profit organizations serving families and children, homeless populations, family violence survivors, and families experiencing poverty. She has had success in individual, government, foundation and corporate fundraising, in addition to communications, management, and leadership expertise. Previously, she was the Chief Development Officer for organizations, such as Manos de Cristo, Any Baby Can, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Marie received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from West Texas A&M University and certification from the Indiana University School of Fundraising.

Luz Flores

Houston - Executive Director

As Executive Director for AVANCE-Houston, Luz Flores has nearly 30 years of leadership experience with national nonprofit organizations. Throughout her career, Luz has successfully steered organizations, such as the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto, the United Way of Greater Houston and SER Jobs for Progress, through periods of substantial growth and transition. Luz joined AVANCE-Houston in 2009, serving in several management positions, and assumed her current role in 2016. Originally from Puerto Rico, Luz holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters in Non-Profit Management from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio Texas, and a Human Resources Certificate from Rice University.

Susan Thompson

San Antonio - Executive Director

Thompson brings 28 years of leadership experience in nonprofit business, social services, and healthcare sectors. She most recently served as the Vice President – Grants, Programs, and Services at the San Antonio Area Foundation. Susan is actively involved with a wide range of professional and nonprofit organizations, including the Masters Leadership Program, John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. A native San Antonian, Thompson holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology/english from The University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Business Administration from Rice University.