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

Dr. Teresa Granillo

Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Teresa Granillo is the Chief Executive Officer of AVANCE Inc. As CEO, she provides oversight to daily operations as well as the development and execution of strategic plans to expand both the reach and impact of AVANCE programs. Since joining AVANCE in 2019, Dr. Granillo and her team have increased the revenue of the National Office 600%, funding that has allowed AVANCE to scale programming in some areas and offer new, innovative programs in others. AVANCE Inc. staff has also more than tripled, increasing from 49 employees in 2019 to 186 in 2021. Prior to AVANCE, Dr. Granillo served six years as Executive Director of Con Mi MADRE, a two-generation organization that supports young Latinas on the path to higher education and engages their mothers in the educational journey alongside them. Before Con Mi MADRE, Dr. Granillo was a tenure-track professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Steve Hicks School of Social Work. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona, and dual Ph.D.’s from the University of Michigan.

Elida Gonzales

Chief Operating Officer

Elida serves as Chief Operating Officer of AVANCE Inc.  Elida joined AVANCE in 1998 and has spent most of her career in leadership roles in accounting, finance and business development. She has been a Staff Accountant, Controller, VP of Finance, and interim CEO. Elida has also been the project lead for the AVANCE 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.

Sonia Dominguez

Chief Program Officer

Sonia Dominguez is the Chief Program Officer at AVANCE, Inc., where she leads the implementation, strategy, and continuous improvement of AVANCE’s programs and services. A Head Start graduate, Sonia draws upon her lived experience and passion to advance equitable outcomes for families through education. Sonia began her career as a middle school math teacher in El Paso, TX and went on to serve in various leadership roles in rural and urban public school districts in Texas. Prior to AVANCE, Sonia served as the Senior Director at a collective impact organization in Austin, TX where she led systems-change and alignment efforts in education. Sonia earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and a master’s degree in mathematics education from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Alex Chandler

Chief Communications Officer

Alex is the Chief Communications Officer for AVANCE Inc. As a first-generation college student, Alex is passionate about the AVANCE mission and believes in the power of education as the great equalizer and wants to see the systemic inequities eliminated. Through his role as CCO, Alex is responsible for leading the organization’s communications, marketing, branding, and community engagement efforts. Alex has more than 15 years’ experience in communications and marketing for educational non-profits. Before joining AVANCE, Alex worked for WGTE PBS, Trellis (formerly Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation), Austin ISD, and E3 Alliance, leading various marketing and community initiatives while also doing graphic design and video and photography. Alex received his Bachelor of Visual Communication Technology from Bowling Green State in Bowling Green, Ohio, and studied art, photography, and graphic design at the Studio Arts Center International in Florence, Italy.

Melanie Brewster

Senior Director of Head Start & Early Head Start Partnerships

In her role as the Senior Director of Head Start & Early Head Start Partnerships for AVANCE Inc., Melanie oversees the organization’s HS/EHS programs in the Rio Grande Valley in addition to working closely with the program team to integrate PCEP into HS/EHS operations. Before joining the AVANCE team, Melanie spent 10 years with Acelero Learning and Shine Early Learning in different roles that provided her a wealth of experience in the management of HS/EHS programs, including monitoring and compliance, family and community engagement, curriculum implementation, and training and professional development. Melanie holds a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Temple University and a Master of Arts in Urban Studies and Community Development from Eastern University.

Ana Lorena Carrasco

Senior Director of Curriculum and Implementation

As the Senior Director of Curriculum and Implementation for AVANCE Inc., Ana Lorena Carrasco plays a vital role in the development, review cycle, and quality improvement of new and existing AVANCE curricula, programs, and services. She also oversees staff training, program fidelity, and research and evaluation efforts. Before joining the AVANCE National office, Ana Lorena served the communities of North Texas for more than ten years through various roles at AVANCE-North Texas. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering from Instituto Tecnologico de Saltillo in Saltillo Coahuila Mexico and a Master’s in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language from Universidad Internacional Iberoamericana in Puerto Rico.

Chapter Leadership

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.

Cristina Garza

Austin - Executive Director

Prior to joining AVANCE-Austin as Executive Director, Cristina served as Director of Social Impact for the Mission Economic Development Corporation (EDC) where she curated and led all STEAM and entrepreneurship initiatives. She was named Code.Org's 2019 Champion of Computer Science. She is also a 2017 Next City Vanguard and named by CityLab Latino one of the Top 20 Young Civic Leaders of 2017. Before her career in economic development, Cristina worked in education at museums in New York City including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rubin of Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Historical Society, and the Brooklyn Museum. She holds a BA from New York University, and an MA from Syracuse University where she received the Florence Graduate Fellowship.

Vanessa Maldonado

AVANCE North Texas - Executive Director

Vanessa Maldonado is the Executive Director of AVANCE-North Texas. Maldonado joined AVANCE-North Texas with a degree in nonprofit management from St. Edward’s University and more than a decade of experience in nonprofit leadership and development. Most recently, she served as the Chief Engagement Officer for Easterseals, a nonprofit organization that promotes independence and creates opportunities for people with disabilities. In this previous role, Maldonado managed the organization’s fundraising activities, retail operations, communications, marketing, and advocacy in Central and North Texas.