About the People


Current Coordinators (2017)

Cierra Duckworth
CierraCierra was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and graduated from Lamar High School. She is a rising senior at Rice from Wiess College double majoring in biochemistry and psychology. Cierra is a member of the Rice Owls Dance Team and the Black Student Association. She is also an intern this summer with EMERGE, a non-profit organization that connects Houston students with educational opportunities. Cierra served as an advisor for YOLP in 2015 and coordinator in 2016, and she is happy to be back coordinating the 2017 program!


Bradley Hamilton
BradleyBradley is a senior at Rice from Duncan College. Originally from Plano, Texas (near Dallas), he moved to Houston to attend Rice, where he is majoring in Mathematical Economic Analysis and Managerial Studies. Bradley is very involved at his residential college, where he is a Peer Academic Advisor, O-Week (Orientation Week) Advisor, and O-Week coordinator. Bradley served as an advisor for YOLP in 2015 and as a coordinator in 2016. He is hard at work getting ready for YOLP 2017 to be a huge success!

Dana Smith

DanaDana is from Livingston, Texas and graduated from Livingston High School. She is now a rising senior at Rice studying Statistics with minors in Business and Financial Computation and Modeling. Dana is very active at her residential college, Wiess, as a coordinator of many events, as an O-Week advisor, and as a STRIVE (Students Transforming Rice into a Violence-Free Environment) Liaison. She has also served as a coordinator for Rice’s Spring & Fall Outreach Days. Dana has been an advisor for YOLP in 2015 and 2016; she is excited to coordinate YOLP 2017!

Arabella Jenkins

ArabellaArabella is from Dallas, Texas, where she has lived up until moving to Houston for college. She is a sophomore at Rice from Lovett College, double majoring in Spanish and Managerial Studies. Arabella likes to be involved on campus; she serves as Vice-President of HACER (Hispanic Association of Cultural Enrichment at Rice), a member of the Rice Owls Dance Team, and a leader with the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship. Arabella served as an advisor for YOLP in 2016, and is so thrilled to be coordinating for YOLP 2017!

Board of Directors

Norma Torres Mendoza

Norma Torres Mendoza was born in Querétaro, Mexico, and moved to the U.S. with her mother when she was eight years old. Norma graduated from Lanier Middle School, Lamar High School, and Rice University with a double major in Political Science and Hispanic Studies. Norma was also an active community member during her time at Rice: she participated and coordinated Urban Immersion, an intensive service-oriented program designed to introduce incoming Rice students to the social needs of Houston. Norma also led and participated in three Alternative Spring Breaks focusing on health disparities, domestic violence and immigrants’ rights. During her summers, Norma interned at the Baker Institute, volunteered for Mayor Annise Parker’s campaign, and received a full scholarship to a summer program at Princeton University. In addition, Norma was the president of the Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice University (HACER) for two years and the co-chair of the Minority Interest Committee. Norma co-founded the Young Owls Leadership Program (YOLP) in 2012 after the idea came to her from a class assignment. She has worked at Deloitte Consulting LLP as a Human Capital Analyst and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Cecilia Liang

Cecilia Liang was born in Shanxi, China and moved to Stockholm, Sweden at the age of four. After spending three memorable years in the land of snow and ice, she moved to Houston, Texas with her family, where she has lived for the past 13 years. She graduated from Rice 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 and also helped other Rice students choose classes as a Peer Academic Advisor. During the summer she taught high school physics to disadvantaged students at an education center in Chinatown. She discovered an immense passion for empowering high school 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 August 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, interviewing and talking to leaders from Rice and the Houston community.  After graduating from Rice in May 2013, Zachary joined Teach for America as a Corps Member.  Currently, he is a college access counselor in Houston ISD.

Vanessa Morales

Vanessa matriculated into Rice University the Fall of 2008 and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Sports Management and Political Science in May 2012. During her time at Rice, Vanessa was active in the English as a Second Language Tutoring Program, educational community outreach with HACER and taught at Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano. It was through these experiences that she discovered her passion for education. As a result, during her senior year, Vanessa had the honor of co-founding the Young Owls Leadership Program. She currently teaches 7th Grade Math and aspires to become a strong educator and administrator in the Houston public school system so that she can help provide students with numerous and fulfilling life opportunities as teachers, friends, family members and mentors have done for her.