I am so excited; the AVANCE- Annual Luncheon was a resounding success. More than 200 community leaders and supporters joined us April 7 at the Junior League of Houston. We talked about this year’s achievements and our plans going forward. It also provided the opportunity to hear from graduates of the program and to learn about their successes since participating.

Emcee, Vicente Arenas captured a heartwarming moment with AVANCE graduates, Alexandra (5 years old) and Fatima (4 years old) as they shared their memorable AVANCE moments. Our deserving honorees, the Cruz-Rogel family, and Carizma Young talked about how AVANCE has transformed their lives.

Photo 1Classical Violinist and Composer, Kai Kigh and AVANCE Graduate, Carizma Young-
Classical Violinist and Composer Kai Kight and Carizma Young

Classical Violinist and Innovative Composer, Kai Kight gave a brief motivational talk and introduced our keynote speaker, Houston ISD Superintendent Richard A. Carranza.

Carranza spoke about the HISD and AVANCE partnership and how vital it is to the future of Houston’s children. He emphasized how AVANCE empowers parents. He said that by giving them the ability and skills and tools to nurture their children at home, to empower their children to be active learners, we truly empower parents.

We were extremely pleased to have our National Board Chair, Olga Rodriguez, Dr. Stephen Klineberg, Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, several members of the HISD Board of Education, and other community leaders among our guests.

We raised nearly $80,000 at the luncheon, which will ensure the continuation of our educational and family-strengthening programs. Some of the funds will be used to award college scholarships for adult GED graduates.

We are fortunate to count on the support of many donors who continue to believe and invest in our programs. A special thank you goes to Chevron for acting as the Presenting Sponsor for the luncheon again this year. I also want to thank our good friends from Kroger for their continued support. They donated the beautiful floral arrangements for our luncheon.

I extend my gratitude to the AVANCE-Houston Development Committee and staff for their extraordinary work organizing the luncheon.

After the luncheon, I was on a plane to Chicago, Illinois. There, I attended the National Head Start Association’s (NHSA) 44tth Annual Conference and Expo. I was honored to lead the conversation at the Building Bridges Learning Community (BBLC) meet-up. The meeting covered topics on individual agency concerns, additional information and resources needed from NHSA, and access to immigration law and attorneys.

The BBLC is an invitation-only NHSA community initiative. The BBLC shares ideas and inspirations with agencies, providing us with strategies on how to deal with potential issues while supporting all families.

One of our concerns in the current political climate is how best to effectively engage our immigrant and refugee communities. As the presidential administration settles in, there are many uncertainties about the future. The NHSA has been working to create ways for various programs to connect effectively, particularly in the communities we serve, to address these uncertainties.

I was so pleased to represent AVANCE-Houston at the convention, and with the insights gained, we will be able to make our Head Start program even better.