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 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.