Our Team

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Our Founder


Ruben Alonzo is the Head of School of Excelencia Charter Academy, founded through the Building Excellent Schools Fellowship, a rigorous, yearlong, comprehensive training program in urban charter school creation and leadership. 

Ruben is a native of Crystal City, TX, located in one of the poorest counties in America. A third-generation migrant farmer, he worked throughout his childhood to help support his family, all while attending school and working toward his goal of attending college.

After completing his graduate degree in Massachusetts, Ruben relocated to Pharr, TX as a 2012 Teach For America Corps member. He was a founding teacher at IDEA Pharr College Preparatory School and has served in multiple roles ranging from grade team leader to content leader. In his first year of teaching, Ruben’s students achieved a 98 percent passing rate on their STAAR Algebra I EOC (compared to a 78 percent state average). He was then selected to serve as IDEA Pharr’s Assistant Principal of Instruction, where he coached and developed 14 teachers.

Ruben plans to maximize student learning and performance towards specific goals and is determined to build a team of adults who will provide all students with the tools they need to succeed.

Ruben holds a B.S. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an M.Ed. from both Harvard Graduate School of Education and Columbia University.


Founding Board of Directors

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Rodolphus Bethea is a proven business leader and entrepreneur. Mr. Bethea has over 25 years of financial services experience at companies including American Express, MetLife, Goldman Sachs, and LPL Financial. He has built successful businesses and led teams in investment advisory, financial planning, and employee benefits. He is currently the managing partner of Hancock Park Advisors, an insurance brokerage firm appointed with several domestic and international insurers. Mr. Bethea has a BA from Bowdoin College in Maine and earned an MBA from the University of Southern California as a Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Fellow. He also holds a Certificate in Personal Financial Management from the University of California, Los Angeles. 


Noramay Cadena, an engineer, entrepreneur and investor, brings experience in both finance and operations to the Board. Cadena is the Cofounder and Managing Director of Make in LA, an early stage hardware accelerator and venture fund in Los Angeles that has invested over $1MM in seed stage companies. Prior to cofounding Make in LA, Cadena spent over 10 years in the corporate sector overseeing technical projects. In the community, Cadena is active civically and in the nonprofit sector. Cadena serves on the Housing Authority Commission of Los Angeles and led the Latinas in STEM Foundation through 2015. Cadena holds an MBA, a Master’s in Engineering Systems and a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering – all from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 


Cristina Lowry is the Founding School Director at Equitas Academy #3, an elementary school in the Pico-Union community of Los Angeles. As School Director with Equitas Academy #3, Ms. Lowry oversees the performance of 175 TK-1 students and leads the development of a network-wide Curriculum Team. The Equitas Academy Curriculum Team is a group of master teachers eager to reflect upon, adjust, and strengthen the current Scope & Sequence. In this role, Ms. Lowry helps the network build a strong Common Core aligned curriculum to ensure college readiness for all Equitas Academy scholars, which encompasses students in grades TK-8.

Ms. Lowry has a BA in Sociology and Afro-American & African Studies from the University of Michigan and an MA in Educational Leadership from Columbia University.


Ben McLean, is a technology and media industry executive, currently at Netflix, where he focuses on the company's growth in emerging global markets. Prior to his role at Netflix, McLean was an attorney at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York, and went on to variety of legal and business development roles at Sundance Channel, Microsoft / Xbox, and NBCUniversal. Prior to his work in the private sector, he was a human rights legal consultant for UNICEF in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He has a BA in Philosophy and American History from Bowdoin College, an MSc in Political Theory from the London School of Economics, and a JD from Columbia Law School. 

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Jonathan Myers has devoted the majority of his professional career to improving the educational outcomes of students from low-income communities. Mr. Myers is currently the Vice President of The Edward Charles Foundation, a firm that offers strategic services for philanthropists and nonprofits. Previously, Mr. Myers worked for the largest charter management organization in Los Angeles – the LA Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools. As an Operations Manager, Mr. Myers managed student health, safety, insurance, and afterschool programs and acquired extensive knowledge of school operations, compliance, and management. Mr. Myers received his BA in History from the University of California at Los Angeles and is currently attending the University of Southern California to receive his Masters in Business Administration.  


Matthew Coombe, CFA®

Matthew is a Wealth Management Advisor and Portfolio Manager, currently at Merrill Lynch.  His focus is on developing strategies and providing investment guidance for individuals, families and their businesses by understanding their short-term and long-term financial objectives.  Matthew is a CFA® charterholder, and graduate of the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in Economics.  Prior to joining Merrill Lynch, he was a Director in Deutsche Bank’s Private Wealth Management office in Los Angeles with a focus on investment and lending strategies for ultra-high net worth clients and family offices.

 A California native, Matthew and his wife, Meredith, live in Marina del Rey and are active in the community, supporting various educational initiatives geared toward improving outcomes in underserved communities.


Dana Coronado is a commercial real estate agent with Keller Williams Commercial.  She has over 13 years’ experience selling multifamily and commercial property, mainly in Northeast Los Angeles and Boyle Heights.  She is a strong negotiator, analytical, and extremely well versed with contracts, deal structuring and marketing.  In addition to her extensive transactional experience and relationships with local and regional investors and developers, Dana holds a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation.


Mrs. Coronado holds a BA in Sociology and Public Policy from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). While at UCLA, she was the President of Lambda Theta Nu Sorority, Inc, the first Latina sorority at UCLA.  She has also served as chapter advisor and believes in the unlimited power of mentorship and education in raising up communities.

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Lori Atwater founded Techni Service Company in 1980s at the beginning of the information systems explosion. Over 30 years, the company served cities, school districts, colleges, top security police and military installation with quality technical and electrical infrastructure design and consulting services.

Lori Atwater’s professional work experience is entrepreneurial and quite diverse, including capital improvement project development, energy program management, federal and state government contracting, solar project engineering, construction project management, information systems management, communications consulting, and electrical/electronic systems integration.

After spending 25 years on California’s Central Coast, Lori Atwater returned to Los Angeles in 2011 where she joined the PV team at SolarReserve developing utility-scale solar power plants across the USA. In 2013, Lori joined Southern California Edison as Energy Program Manager. At Edison, she led commercial, residential, and institutional energy efficiency projects and programs. In 2016/2017, she developed renewable energy and sustainable community projects in the US, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Transformation Village Inc, a startup developer of master planned communities, is her latest initiative to build sustainable communities that transform lives. 

Activities outside her profession: Trustee of the California Homebuilding Foundation, Battalion 1 CERT Coordinator for the Los Angeles Fire Department, and troop leader/ service unit manager/trainer with Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles. Mother of 4 adult children and 3 grandchildren, Lori enjoys extreme sports, including scuba and camping.


Erica Rosales is the Executive Director of College Match, an organization that concentrates on serving high achieving, low-income high school students in Los Angeles inner-city public schools with two years of SAT Prep classes, visits to outstanding colleges nationally, and assistance with essays, college applications, and financial aid forms. Over the past 14 years, Erica has increased the number of youth served in the program by expanding the organization’s reach from six to 30 schools. 100% of College Match students attend 4 year colleges, 95% graduate from college. Before College Match Erica was assistant dean of admissions at Occidental College in Los Angeles. She was a founding teacher at Animo Leadership Charter High School, the first Green Dot Public School. At Animo she wrote social studies curriculum, was part of the WASC accreditation team, and hiring team. While at the charter school she served in various capacities: a teacher, a college counselor and principal. She has a BA in Political Science & Spanish from Wellesley College and a M. Ed. from UCLA. Today she indulges her passion for education by serving on the PTA board at her children’s elementary school, and by helping low-income, first-generation students pursue their higher education dreams