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). 

 

Matthew Gethers has always taken an interest in educational equity. He earned his BS in Biological Engineering at MIT and during his time at MIT, he worked with Tutoring Plus, an organization that worked in Cambridge Public Schools to develop an engineering program for their students who came from traditionally underserved communities. He was honored to win a Rhodes Scholarship which enabled him to study Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford University. After completing his degree at Oxford, he started a PhD program in bioengineering at Caltech where he currently focuses on precision nanoscale placement of molecules. 

 

Ana Lasso brings a broad background in urban design, city planning and real estate development as General Manager of Exposition Park. In her previous roles, Ms. Lasso developed a strategic plan for special facilities projects, cultivated relationships with federal, state, and local elected offices and worked with community and nonprofit organizations to bring resources to schools with specific needs. 

In addition to her expertise in real estate development and strong commitment to public service, Ms. Lasso has worked at the international level on issues such as economic development, education, city design, and housing. 

Ms. Lasso holds an MS in City Planning and Urban Design Certificate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and dual BA in World Arts & Cultures and Chicano/a Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). 

 

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.

 

 
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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.  

 

Marco Ramirez is currently a senior manager in community development and programs for BRIDGE Housing Corporation. Mr. Ramirez has specialized in strategy development, leadership and management, event coordination, and civic engagement/participation 

Mr. Ramirez is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, where he received a Ph.D. in Policy, Planning, and Development, M.A. in Leadership, and a certificate in Public Management..