Our skilled trainers have a wide range experience, expertise and certifications. See below to learn more about our session presenters. This page will be updated as sessions are confirmed.
Alan Meca, PhD
Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, UTSA
Alan Meca is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio Department of Psychology. He received his Ph.D. in Developmental Science from Florida International University in 2014 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Miami. His expertise is in identity development, acculturation, and positive youth development. Though his research has mainly focused on identity development, most of his work has been on cultural identity development and acculturation among ethnic/racial minoritized youth, particularly among Hispanic/Latinx populations. Towards this end, his research agenda has focused on identity development and its effects on mental health, health risk behaviors, and educational achievement. Dr. Meca has published over 70 peer-reviewed manuscripts concentrating on personal, ethnic/racial, and national identity as crucial developmental and cultural assets to be leveraged for promoting positive development. Currently, his research plan is focused on refining measures of cultural identity, understanding the processes that govern how ethnic/racial minority navigate their cultural environment (e.g., code-switching, cultural frame switching), and identifying ways we can support youth throughout the transition to adulthood.
Gustavo Gonzales, BA
Site Coordinator, CIS-SA
Gustavo Gonzales Jr. is a Site Coordinator for CIS-SA with 17 years of programing experience working with diverse students from multiple school districts throughout San Antonio. In addition to providing services to students as a site coordinator, Gustavo is a LEAD facilitator for the XY-Zone leadership program and has been the HEB Foundation camp Lead coordinator for the past ten years. He began his first five years working with the TRIO-Talent Search program and assisting students with pre-college programming support services. Gustavo is a 2000 graduate of TAMU-CC, earning a Bachelor's degree in Sociology. He is also thoroughly trained and has experience facilitating high/low ROPES. His passion is traveling the country and exploring North America's beautiful mountains, rivers, and lakes. His legacy is to provide a fully funded sustainable camp for at-risk inner city youth to utilize for trauma healing, drug abuse, and to develop leadership skills in the great outdoors.
Amy Chanmugam, PhD, LCSW
Assoc. Prof. & Dept. Chair, UTSA Dept. of Social Work
Lily Casura, MSW
Freelance Social Science Researcher and Consultant
Lily Casura is a social science researcher who holds a Master of Social Work degree from UTSA and an B.A. with honors from Harvard University. In 2020-21, she and a team of UTSA researchers conducted the first-ever, community-wide survey of San Antonio and Bexar County residents regarding domestic violence. In November of this year, they will be presenting some of the results of this survey at the American Public Health Association (APHA) national conference in Boston. Previously, she co-authored the ”Status of Women in San Antonio Report” with Rogelio Sáenz, Ph.D. (2019), which focused significant attention on the problem of domestic violence locally. A former journalist, she has published hundreds of articles and commentaries, and is the author or co-author of two upcoming chapters in books to be published by Oxford University Press and Springer in the coming year
Rachel Vargas, Ed.D
Field Manager, CIS-SA
Rachel Vargas is a native Texan with a heart for helping young people discover their path to success. She has trained and coached individuals and organizations on Conflict Management, Organizational Leadership, and Restorative Practices in Schools. Rachel also leads Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts for CIS-SA. She longs for the day when penal systems of oppression are re-designed and restorative mindsets return to our sacred land. Rachel has nearly a decade of experience in educational non-profit in K-12 schools. She is a recent doctoral recipient in Educational Leadership at Abilene Christian University, where she researched Restorative Practices implementation and training. Beyond her professional identity, Rachel is a wife, mom, sister, and daughter, who loves outdoor camping, retro arcades, and spending time with her husband, daughter, and three pets.
Shelly Bosse, LMSW, MA
Community Initiatives Manager, CIS-SA
Shelly is the Community Initiatives Manager at Communities In Schools of San Antonio. She currently oversees community partners, volunteers, and the training department at CIS-SA. Shelly has worked for CIS-SA for over 11 years and in the social work field for over 22 years. She holds a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Texas Lutheran University and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she is also licensed. Shelly’s social work experience ranges from domestic violence to low-income housing to working with foster/at-risk youth. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in Theatre from Texas State University and teaches graduate-level Social Work courses for Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. Shelly has training and facilitation experience in Mindfulness, Trauma Informed Care, Reality Oriented Physical Experience (ROPES), is a Developmental Relationships trainer through the Search Institute, an ACE Interface Master Trainer, a Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) Instructor, and is a Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) Practitioner through the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University. She is passionate about teaching anything about Mindfulness and Mental Health. During her downtime, Shelly plays with her young daughter, dabbles in art/theatre, and spends time at the beach.
Kemba Noel-London, PhD,MAT,ATC,CES
Kemba is a health equity researcher interested in exploring the social determinants of health and policy-level impacts on minority health, specifically within youth sports and access to appropriate care. Her research also includes examining the impact of traumatic childhood experiences on youth physical activity, sports participation, and mental health outcomes; the development of trauma-informed sport and sports medicine practices and organizations; and disparities in access to safe youth sports, including access to athletic training and broader healthcare services. Kemba also has experience working as the head athletic trainer for Trinidad and Tobago's National Men's rugby 7s and 15s teams. She also served as a travel physio for rugby teams from Australia, the USA, and Canada. Kemba is also a former national volleyball athlete for Trinidad and Tobago.
Joshua Knebel, PharmD
Assistant Professor, University of the Incarnate Word
Dr. Knebel is an Assistant Professor within the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the University of the Incarnate Word Feik School of Pharmacy. Dr. Knebel specializes in psychiatric and neurologic care.
He attended the Purdue University College of Pharmacy and received his Doctor of Pharmacy in 2019. He completed his first year of clinical pharmacy residency training at Saint Louis University Hospital in St. Louis before moving to North Carolina to complete a second year specializing in psychiatric pharmacy at the University of North Carolina Medical Center. He joined the faculty of the University of the Incarnate Word in 2021, and his primary teaching responsibilities are in the CNS Pharmacotherapeutics module and APC V Skills Lab Series.
Dr. Knebel is a member of several professional organizations, most notably the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP). His research interests include anxiety and thought disorders, particularly obsessive-compulsive disorder and neurodevelopmental disorders.
Angelica Bush, M.A, LPC-S, CIMHP
Clinical Caseworker, CIS-SA
Angelica Bush attended Rice University and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in 2006. She then attended Saint Edwards University, obtaining a Master of Arts in Counseling in 2008. Angelica received her LPC in 2011 and has dedicated her career to working with adolescents and young adults dealing with various mental health issues. Angelica is now a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPCS) and continues to work with underserved populations through Communities In Schools of San Antonio, where she is a clinical caseworker for the Teen Parent program. Outside work, Angelica enjoys reading, crocheting, and spending time with her family.
Maritza Garcia-Pulido, MS, LPC
Clinical Caseworker, CIS-SA
Maritza Garcia-Pulido attended Texas A&M University-Kingsville and earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2013; she went on to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, where she earned a Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in 2015. Maritza received her LPC in 2018 and has worked with various populations, including victims of a crime, individuals experiencing homelessness, undocumented minors, acute patients in a psychiatric setting, and Christian counseling. Maritza continues to serve at-risk populations through Communities In Schools of San Antonio, where she is a Clinical Caseworker on the Domestic Violence team. Maritza enjoys trail-running, reading, and creating memories with her family outside of work.
John Bonner, M.A.
Director of Educational Outreach and Support Programs, UTSA
John Bonner is the Director of Educational Outreach and Support Programs and has been with The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) since 2014. He provides leadership, guidance, and supervision for the UTSA TRIO programs (Upward Bound, Talent Search, and Student Support Services). John has his Master of Arts degree in Ministry from Wayland Baptist University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Applied Sociology from Texas State University. He is a member of The Counsel of Opportunity (COE), Southwest Association of Student Assistance Programs, and Texas TRIO Association. John has had the opportunity to present at The National Advising Conference in 2016 and 2017 and at the National TRIO conference in 2019. He also received the George Bergquist Award in 2016, given to an academic advisor who genuinely cares for every person who enters his sphere of influence. He is also a Certified Life Coach through the Life Coach Institute of San Antonio. John is passionate about supporting students to achieve their academic and professional goals. He also wants to use his influence to bring positive change within higher education and his community.
Airika Burford, LLMSW
Project Director for the Bexar County Fostering Educational Success
Airika Buford is a dedicated macro practice social worker with over twelve years of experience in child welfare case management, program development, nonprofit management, outreach, recruitment, and retention of underserved populations. Mrs. Buford has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Wayne State University and an MSW from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and was a Community-Based Initiative Scholar focusing on Community Organizing in Communities and Social Systems. She has macro practice experience in community organizing in urban settings, program evaluation & policy analysis, and expert knowledge in advocacy, quantitative and qualitative research, and data analysis. Ms. Buford’s research, practice, and policy interests include improving the educational trajectory of system-involved (foster and juvenile justice) youth, especially boys and young men of color. Airika worked for 4 1/2 years as a Foster Care Specialist for the State of Michigan in Macomb County and then served as the Communications and Outreach Coordinator for the CHAMPS Program at Wayne State University for five years.
Currently, Ms. Buford is the Project Director for the Bexar County Fostering Educational Success Program in San Antonio, Texas. BCFES, now in its second biennium of a $3.5M legislative appropriation, aimed to improve pre-college preparation, college access, and higher education retention for students with lived experience in foster care. Airika is a proud mother of three kids, Rashid Jr. (10), Airik (8), and Akira (3). They are her greatest motivators and fuel her passion for child welfare and equitable access to higher education for BIPOC.
Michael Karcher, PhD, EdD
Professor of Educational Psychology, UTSA
Dr. Karcher is a professor of Educational Psychology in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio. His research focuses on school-based and cross-age peer mentoring, adolescent connectedness, and pair counseling. Michael authored the Cross-age Mentoring Program (CAMP) program, the implementation described in CAMP Program Manual, Training Guide, Connectedness Curriculum, and Mentor Handbook, which have been reviewed and are listed on the website of CrimeSolutions.gov (https://www.crimesolutions.gov/ProgramDetails.aspx?ID=432) and the NMRC. Michael was most recently the Principal Investigator of a longitudinal follow-up on the SMILE study. Along with David L. DuBois, Professor Karcher edited the Handbook of Youth Mentoring (2005, Sage; second edition in 2014). Michael co-edited with Michael Nakkula, Play, talk, learn: Promising practices in youth mentoring (2010), which first presented the TEAM framework. He is on the editorial board for three national journals and the research and advisory boards of BBBSA, MENTOR, and the Christian Association for Youth Mentoring.
Roxanna Perez, LPC
Lead Clinical Caseworker, CIS-SA
Roxanna Perez has a master’s degree in Counseling and is a Licensed Professional Counselor. Currently, she is a lead clinical caseworker overseeing social workers and therapists with Communities In Schools of San Antonio in Northside ISD. Roxanna has a heart and passion for serving children, adolescents, and their families, which lead her to her professional experiences, which include Communities In Schools of Houston, Southwest Key Houston serving unaccompanied minors, and family and youth community counseling center in San Antonio.
Veronica Sandoval, MS, LPC-S
Lead Clinical Caseworker, CIS-SA
Veronica is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and a Registered Play Therapist. She has been providing mental health services for over eight years and fully licensed for over five years. Veronica has provided crisis intervention support and primarily counseling to adults, children, and adolescents in shelters, foster care agencies, private practice, and school settings. She graduated from Texas A&M University- Kingsville with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology in 2012 and from Texas Woman’s University-Denton, with her Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in 2014. Veronica has been with CIS-SA for over four years and has provided counseling services to students of all ages with high mental health needs. She currently serves as the Basecampus Project Coordinator in East Central ISD and provide wellness coaching services and consultation to teachers and staff about the mental health needs on their school campuses. Lastly, Veronica is passionate about implementing expressive arts and play techniques during counseling and is a strong advocate for the mental health wellness of individuals in the community and the school setting
Sabrina Donatto, MSSW, LCSW-S
Field Manager, CIS-SA
Sabrina graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Supervisor in the state of Texas. She has experience working with children with disabilities, caretakers, homeless populations, and victims of violence, abuse, and neglect. Sabrina has a passion for serving and motivating others.
Sabrina joined Communities In Schools of San Antonio in 2016 and has served many children and families across NEISD, Judson, East Central, and SAISD. She was a Site Coordinator, Social Worker on the SEEDS Team and has served on the CIS-SA Clinical Crisis Team. Sabrina is currently a Field Manager in SAISD, supporting and coaching Site Coordinators in building relationships and positively impacting their students, campus, and community.
Victor Villarreal, LP, LSSP, NCSP
Associate Professor, UTSA
Victor Villarreal, Ph.D., is an associate professor of school psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio and a nationally certified school psychologist (NCSP) and licensed psychologist. His research interests include meta-science and practice in school psychology, including school-based screening and mental health services.
Richard Harris, PhD
Professor, UTSA Department of Social Work
Dr. Richard J. Harris is a Professor of Sociology in the Department of Social Work and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). He received his B.A. with honors from Macalester College, with M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Sociology/Demography from Cornell University. In 2002 he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Klagenfurt in Austria. From 2009 to 2010 he served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Dr. Harris specializes in social demography, demographic techniques, quantitative analysis and qualitative research focused on topics of current concern such as sexual harassment and assault and domestic violence. His publications and research focus include work on U.S. Census data analysis, survey research, social stratification (poverty), military sociology and the influences of gender, race/ethnicity and age on contemporary social issues.
Chief Strategy Officer, CIS-SA
Lauren’s professional background began in organizational development with a private investment firm before transitioning into education. She spent over four years supporting the launch of a San Antonio-based education non-profit and an education-consulting firm with national reach. As Chief Strategy Officer for CIS-SA, Lauren manages the agency’s Grants & Contracts, Community Initiatives, and Strategic Projects departments. Lauren graduated from Health Careers High School in San Antonio and attended Texas State University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in English and History and a Master’s in Literature. Lauren is a certified ACE Interface Master Trainer who collaborates with local and national organizations to amplify youth development strategies. She lives in San Antonio and spends her free time reading and exploring nature with her husband, 8-year-old son, and their Border Collie, Hank.
Dr. Carol Harle
UTSA and CAST Schools Network; Northside ISD Trustee
Dr. Carol Harle has been a public-school educator for over four decades: taught elementary and secondary levels; school and district administrator, including Staff Development Coordinator for Northside ISD, Executive Director for School Improvement in NEISD, Assistant Superintendent for San Antonio ISD and Harlandale ISD. She is currently a COHED adjunct professor on the CAST School Network Leadership Team, a Northside ISD School Board Trustee, and a member of the City of San Antonio Commission on Education.
Melanie Awtry, LMSW
Director of Field Programs and Operations, CIS-SA
Melanie graduated with her Masters in Social Work at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She has worked with Communities In Schools of San Antonio (CIS-SA) since August 2008. During her career at CIS-SA, Melanie has served as an elementary and middle school Site Coordinator and is currently serving as Director of Field Programs and Operations. Melanie strives to provide training and guidance to CIS-SA Site Coordinators and Clinical Caseworkers through leadership and strategic direction. Melanie also serves as a liaison between CIS-SA, school principals, and school district staff. She serves as a Master Trainer with CIS-Texas, and utilizes these skills to provide agency-wide trainings to new and established CIS-SA staff in professional development, program requirements, and operating standards.
Austin Bonecutter-Knight, MA
Education Specialist, The Academy for Teacher Excellence Research Center
Austin studied English, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and Linguistics at the University of Texas at San Antonio. After leaving the publication and assessment industry, he has supported future and practicing teachers as an education specialist with the Academy for Teacher Excellence Research Center and explored ESL instruction with diverse learners.
Beth Jones, MA, LSSP
Senior Executive Director SEAD & Restorative Practices, San Antonio ISD
Beth Jones is the Senior Executive Director for SEAD & Restorative Practices, Student & Academic Support Services, and Family & Student Support Services. Her role in the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) includes supervising services related to counseling, mental health, social emotional growth, behavior and crisis intervention, student code of conduct and bill of rights, and related areas. Formerly, she has overseen programs for Special Education, Dyslexia/504, behavior intervention and student discipline. She is completing her 26th year with SAISD and 30th in education. She is deeply committed to ensuring that all students have access to an education that prepares them for post-secondary education, employment, and independence. Ms. Jones is concerned with the use of exclusionary discipline and the effect on mental health, drop-out, academic failure, and the student-school relationship.