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The Ellevation Policy Advisory Group brings together a select number of policy and education experts with deep experience working on behalf of English learners. By coming together and drawing on the input and advice of this group of passionate leaders, we believe we can play a more meaningful role informing and shaping education policy at a critical time for both the country and English learners. 

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Antonio Tijerino

CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation

Antonio Tijerino is president and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, a national nonprofit focused on education, workforce, social impact, and culture through innovation and leadership.  HHF is acknowledged as a creative, agile, impact-focused org which has been recognized by The White House, US Congress, Fortune 500 companies, other nonprofits, and the Government of Mexico presented Tijerino with the Ohtli Award,the highest honor outside of Mexico. Tijerino also serves as executive producer of the Hispanic Heritage Awards at the Kennedy Center broadcast on PBS Stations. 

Tijerino has made tech one of HHF’s priorities through programs such as Code as a Second Language (CSL) which has introduced and taught up to 100,000 underrepresented youths to coding, built a sustainable pipeline of Latinx tech talent developed through their education and into careers and in leadership. On the policy side, through his TechEdquity effort, Tijerino been a has a strong advocate of addressing the inequity in access to tech in education and the workforce which earned him the MMTC’s Digital Hero Award.

Prior to HHF, Tijerino was an executive at Fannie Mae Foundation, Nike, Burson Marsteller, and Cohn & Wolfe which provide a comms lense to the orgs’ process.  Tijerino serves on various national and local boards and has been honored with awards for his impact in his 20 years heading HHF.  He graduated from the University of Maryland and was honored with a Doctorate of Humane Letters from The Chicago School.  Tijerino is also a Salinas Fellow at the Aspen Institute.


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Lisette Nieves

President of the Fund for the City of New York

Lisette Nieves is currently the President of the Fund for the City of New York (FCNY), an
institution charged with developing and helping to implement innovations in policy, programs, practices and technology in order to advance the functioning of government and nonprofit organizations in New York City and beyond. Key FCNY programs include the Cash Flow Loan Program, The Partnership Program, and the Sloan Public Service Awards. Prior to the Fund Lisette was the Director of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and a Full Clinical Professor at NYU Steinhardt where she co-led the design and implementation of a new doctoral program in Educational Leadership and Innovation as well as taught Organizational Theory and Behavior and Educational Policy Analysis. Lisette remains a Clinical Professor with NYU, overseeing doctoral students and supporting research initiatives. Lisette holds a B.A. from Brooklyn College, a B.A./M.A. from the University of Oxford, an M.P.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and a doctorate with distinction in Higher Education Management at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a Truman Scholar, Rhodes Scholar, Aspen Pahara Fellow and a 2020 Richard P. Nathan Public Policy Fellow.


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Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds

Vice President of Policy for ExcelinEd

Lizzette has nearly three decades of policy and legislative experience at both the state and federal level. In her home state of Texas, she served as deputy legislative director for then-Governor George W. Bush and, most recently, as Chief Deputy Commissioner for the Texas Education Agency. Under Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Lizzette served as Special Assistant in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs, where she guided the reauthorizations of IDEA and Head Start. She also served as the Secretary’s Regional Representative under Secretary Margaret Spellings. Her career reflects deep experience in education policy development and implementation as well as the “how-to” of legislative work needed to advance education reforms. Among her numerous appointments, Lizzette is acting chair of the KnowledgeWorks Foundation board, the chair of the IDEA Public Schools Florida Board and on the IDEA Austin advisory board, the board of Generation Citizen and the advisory board of UTeach. She received her undergraduate degree from Southwestern University.



Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez

Deputy Director for Californians Together

Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez is currently Deputy Director for Californians Together, a statewide
coalition focused on improving policy and practice to improve educational outcomes for
Californian’s 1.1 million English learners. In this role, Xilonin manages the organization’s policy
and programs teams. She also guides and supports the organization’s growth and sustainability, including strategy development, fundraising, communications, networking and coalition building. Prior to her current role, she served as a project director and launched the “Support for Immigrant and Refugee Students” project, which focuses on developing resources and training for educators to better support immigrant students.

For many years, Xilonin has been an education equity advocate. She has served on the school board for Azusa Unified School District since 2001, and in that role she has focused on expanding high quality educational opportunities that prepare Azusa students to graduate college and career ready. She believes strongly that the economic success of our country will only truly be achieved through educational equity, and that belief drives her educational advocacy work.

She also serves as the Immediate Past President of the California School Boards Association.
In the past, Xilonin has served as President of Californians Together and President of the
California Latino School Boards Association. She has also served on a variety of national and
state nonprofit boards, including the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, Education Trust-West Allies for Equity, Opportunity Action, and the San Gabriel Valley Civic Alliance. She has extensive experience in the development of local, state and federal education policy with a focus on connecting policy to successful local implementation.


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Brian Sponsler

Vice President, Policy Education Commission of the States

As vice president of policy, Brian provides strategic leadership to Education Commission of the States' (ECS) portfolio of policy products. Brian brings nearly two decades of experience in education policy research and practice, helping an array of policy decisionmakers craft sound policy to support student outcomes. Brian is dedicated to helping people develop and refine their ideas, and believes wholeheartedly in the promise of good government and strong civic society to improve people’s lives.  Prior to his work at ECS he served as Vice President, Policy and Research at Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education – NASPA and previously worked at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP).  He holds a doctorate in higher education administration from the George Washington University.

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Chris Gabrieli

Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education

Chris Gabrieli is the Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (MA BHE), the Co-Founder and CEO of nonprofits Empower Schools and Trio New College Network and a lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. He has served as Chair of the MA BHE since being appointed by Governor Charlie Baker in 2015.  Empower Schools is a leading national non-profit that has helped foster, design and launch fourteen Empowerment Zones in five states encompassing more than 25,000 students including the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership, whose Board Chris Chairs. In the twenty years since he began his second career in education policy and innovation, he has co-founded five education non-profits.  He began his career as the founder and CEO of a health care software company and was a Partner of Bessemer Venture Partners for twenty years helping other entrepreneurs start and build biotech and healthcare enterprises. Chris has authored the book Time to Learn and is a co-author of more than twenty scientific and policy papers. Chris is actively involved in civic life in Massachusetts and beyond and serves on a variety of Boards of Directors. He is a graduate of Harvard College and lives in Boston, MA where he and his wife Hilary have raised their five children.

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David Holbrook

Executive Director of Federal Compliance and State Relationships, TransACT

Dr. David Holbrook now serves as  Executive Director of Federal Compliance and State Relationships for TransACT. He is a nationally recognized leader in federal programs administration and monitoring with expertise in Title I, Title III, Native American Education, and Federal Programs. Dr. Holbrook has also worked as a consultant with Title III of the US Department of Education.