About the People

 Current Coordinators (2019)

Jessica Alanis

Jessica is a rising senior at Rice from Will Rice College studying Environmental Science and pursuing the Master of Art in Teaching. She is from San Antonio, Texas and enjoyed frequent visits to her parents’ hometown in Santiago, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Jessica is her college’s Eco-Rep, a member of HACER (Hispanic Association of Cultural Enrichment at Rice), and is an intern at GirlStart where she teaches weekly STEM lessons to 4th grade girls. Jessica served as an advisor for YOLP in 2017 and coordinated YOLP 2018 and 2019.


Arabella Jenkins

Arabella graduated from Rice in 2019 with a BA in Spanish. During her time at Rice, she was very involved with the Rice Owls Dance Team and the Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice (HACER). She will be returning to her home town of Dallas, TX to teach Pre-K this fall. Arabella served as an advisor for YOLP 2016 and coordinated in both 2017 and 2019.


Luis Moreno-Nuñez

Luis is a rising senior at Rice from Duncan College. Originally from Kent, Washington, he is double majoring in Biochemistry and the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Luis is involved with the Rice chapter of QuestBridge, a national scholarship organization for high-achieving, low-income students. He is also a member of Queers and Allies, SER Scholars, and volunteers at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Luis advised in 2017 and coordinated YOLP 2018 and 2019!


Yonas Tekola

Yonas is a rising senior from Dallas, TX. He is a member of Jones College at Rice University studying Chemistry and Sociology. Yonas is involved in the Black Male Leadership Initiative and the Rice African Students Association (RASA). Coordinating YOLP 2019 is Yonas’s first time working with the program!



Board of Directors

Norma Torres Mendoza

Norma Torres Mendoza serves as the Director of Financial Literacy and Alumni Funding at IDEA Public Schools. Norma provides a wide range of resources to support the financial needs of our current students and alumni in their journey to and through college. Her role entails working with the College Success Team along with the Advancement Team to ensure we have funds for our annual scholarships and one-time emergency loans.
Prior to IDEA Public Schools, Norma worked for Deloitte Consulting LLP. She graduated from Harvard with her Masters in Public Policy and Rice University with a BA in Political Science and Hispanic Studies. She co-founded YOLP her sophomore year at Rice University.
Norma was born in Mexico and grew up in Houston Texas. In her free time, she mentors first generation college students, and is a pro bono consultant for non-profits on Latino initiatives.


Cecilia Liang

Cecilia Liang graduated from Rice University in 2015 with a double major in Hispanic Studies and Health Sciences. During her time at Rice, she was a shift leader for the BCM Patient Discharge Initiative (PDI) at Ben Taub General Hospital. During the summer she taught high school physics at an education center in Chinatown. Through her varied experiences with Houston and all it had to offer, she discovered an immense passion for empowering students to realize their potential, and continually hopes that all students will find the courage in themselves to reach for more. She had amazing experiences advising (2012, 2013) and coordinating (2014, 2015) for Young Owls and joined Teach for America after graduating from Rice.  Currently, Cecilia teaches 8th grade math in the Houston community of Gulfton.

Zachary Marx-Kuo

Zachary Marx-Kuo was born and grew up in the Washington, DC area.  He moved to Houston to attend Rice University in 2009.  While studying Political Science and Art History at Rice, he became involved in various service organizations and co-founded the Young Owls Leadership Program.  Zachary also had the opportunity to participate in the Gateway Study of Leadership as a student fellow and conducted research on leadership qualities found in members of the Rice and Houston community.  After graduating from Rice in 2013, Zachary taught elementary school at KIPP Explore in Houston’s East End through Teach for America. After three years of teaching, he started his current position as college counselor at Sharpstown High School in Southwest Houston.

Vanessa Morales

Vanessa Morales was born and raised in Houston, TX.  She attended Rice University and graduated in 2012 with a BA in Political Science and Sports Management.  She co-founded the Young Owls Leadership Program during her senior year at Rice.  Directly after graduating from Rice, Vanessa joined Teach for America and began teaching 7th grade math at YES Prep Public Schools.  She is currently in her sixth year of teaching.
She is deeply passionate about promoting diversity and culturally relevant conversations in the field of education.  Therefore, she served as a Social Justice Curriculum Writer during the summer of 2017 at YES Prep and currently serves as Diversity Ambassador at her campus.