Be a champion of a family’s future
Leaders with Distinguished and Broad Experience
AVANCE's leadership team is distinguished by its broad and deep experience and its unsurpassed focus on AVANCE’s mission of helping families scale new heights and achieve future success.
Susan Steves Thompson
Susan Steves Thompson is the new Executive Director of AVANCE – San Antonio (January 2018). Susan brings over 30 years of leadership experience in the nonprofit business, social services and healthcare sectors. She not only believes in the power of systems change and community partnerships, but also has faith in the power of individuals to create loving, nurturing and stimulating family environments - when given the education and resources to do so.
To accomplish AVANCE’s goal of developing strong families and ending generational poverty, Susan is focused on building strong internal teams, collaborating with like-minded organizations, and implementing a strategic vision that will allow AVANCE to transform the lives of the 5,000+ children and parents we serve each year.
Susan earned her BA from The University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from Rice University. She is a native San Antonian, is happily married to John - her high school sweetheart, has three grown boys of whom she is very proud, and actively serves her church and diocese.
Yesenia Alvarez-Gonzalez is the Chief Program Officer at AVANCE – San Antonio. Having been with AVANCE for 20 years, her experience includes teaching parenting classes, training on program leadership, supervision and management, referral and resource advocacy, and conflict resolution. She began her career as a Parent Educator in AVANCE’s Parent-Child Education Program. Through the years at AVANCE, she has administered and implemented alongside a dynamic team of educators and directors AVANCE’s Parent/Child center- and school-based, Services to Fathers, and Early Head Start and Head Start programs, to include family engagement services.
Yesenia strongly believes in the importance of AVANCE engaging low income families with young children, and that parents are their child’s first and most important teachers. Yesenia’s passion is to serve the community where she was raised - by a single parent on government subsidies, facing hunger and homelessness.
The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Yesenia attended SAISD inner-city schools and was her family’s first high school and college graduate. After studying at San Antonio College, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Sciences from Our Lady of the Lake University.
Yesenia enjoys spending time with her husband, three children and many friends; taking bicycle rides along the mission trails, zumba workouts, gardening and caring for their family’s pet rabbit.
Daniel M. Gonzales
Daniel M. Gonzales, Chief Operations Officer, has worked his entire 43 year career at nonprofit agencies whose mission has focused on bettering the lives of children and families through Early Childhood Education and Parental Involvement and Support. He joined AVANCE-San Antonio, in August 2009, and has used his vast work experience and knowledge to help grow AVANCE-San Antonio’s Head Start and Early Head Start Child Development Programs and its Parent Education Program. In devoting his career to bettering children’s and families’ lives through educational and support-based programs, he has seen firsthand the positive impact that education and caring support brings to families who are experiencing difficulties in life.
As AVANCE-San Antonio’s Operations Officer, Dan’s responsibilities touch every aspect of the Agency’s administrative, operations, and direct services work. As such, he understands the need to engage strong community partners to help AVANCE provide high quality services and maintain a safe and healthy environment for children, their parents, guests, and our staff. His approach to realizing the agency’s mission is to be proactive and to work together with all concerned to improve the lives of our present and future generations.
Dan is a proud product of San Antonio’s Westside. He is happily married to Esther, has a son with entrepreneurship aspirations, and a large extended family.
Michelle Hyde, CPA, is the Chief Financial Officer of AVANCE-San Antonio, Inc. (December 2017). Michelle has a BBA in Accounting from The University of Texas at San Antonio. She has more than 15 years of public accounting experience, primarily performing financial and compliance audits for government and nonprofit entities.
She is married to Jason, who is also a CPA, and they have a little girl in Pre-K. As a mother, she knows the importance of childhood education and is excited to be able to join an organization that helps families in the at-risk community of San Antonio.
Mrs. Jeri George joined the AVANCE San Antonio family as the Chief Human Resource Officer in April of 2018. She brings 15 years of HR, leadership, and education experience from her roles in non-profit, for-profit, and public education sectors. She also serves as the 2018 Board President for the San Antonio Human Resource Management Association, a SHRM affiliate, and serves as a 2018 voting member of the Texas SHRM State Council.
Jeri enjoys sharing knowledge and ideas, which is evidenced by her countless presentations on various human resource topics provided to numerous businesses, universities, and professional organizations. Within AVANCE, she uses her knowledge and experience to promote AVANCE’s Core Values in pursuit of Excellence, Empowerment, Community, and Integrity. Her goal is to always protect and encourage AVANCE’s growth by providing optimal solutions and positive changes.
Jeri’s hometown of Kerrville, Texas, is a quaint, cozy town nestled in the Texas Hill Country. The town hugs the beautiful Guadalupe River, which is lined with giant Cyprus trees. During the summer Jeri and her family enjoy getting away for days on the river which are not complete without the inclusion of rope swings, canoeing, paddle boarding, and dinner on the grill.
Jose Salinas is the Assistant Head Start/Early Head Start Director for the AVANCE Wintergarden Program. Jose has been working with Head Start for 28 years in the areas of Family Engagement, Fatherhood, as a National Reviewer for Head Start Programs, and currently as the Assistant Director. Jose is a strong supporter of the Head Start program and the lasting impact it has on families. Jose’s most heart-felt moments are when families attribute their successes to the experiences they had participating in the Head Start activities and goal-setting process.
Jose is married and he and his wife, Lisa, have four adult children in their blended family, along with four grandchildren. Jose, when away from work, enjoys spending time at home with his wife and grandchildren to keep him quite busy.
Sylvia De La Pena
Sylvia De La Pena is the Director of Head Start for AVANCE-San Antonio, in partnership with Harlandale Independent School District. Sylvia has been with AVANCE for 18 years, holding various administrative positions. She whole-heartily believes in the mission and power of AVANCE to make positive changes in the lives of the families and children that participate in AVANCE’s programs.
Sylvia feels fortunate to be a member of the AVANCE team and looks forward to every day that she is blessed to be a part of this organization. Sylvia’s commitment to AVANCE is the same commitment she has for her own loving family - to always be there for them. Born and raised in San Antonio, her family now consists of one sister, a brother, and many nieces and nephews she supports by embracing them with love and guidance.
Pricilla Ponce Henderson has proudly been with AVANCE for over 14 years. Her journey began as a Child Development Teacher and then progressed to Center Director, Manager of Center-Based Services, and Assistant EHS Director. Currently, she serves as the Early Head Start Director. Pricilla feels blessed to have the opportunity to give back to the community by educating and empowering the families AVANCE serves each day. Through leadership and role modeling, Pricilla strives to incorporate the AVANCE core values and AVANCE mission statement.
Pricilla is from San Antonio, married to her best friend – Lawrence, and has a very supportive family and extended family, which has prepared her to support all AVANCE families and staff. Pricilla has a passion for rescuing and fostering animals until they find loving, permanent homes. Additionally, through her strong faith, she firmly believes that all things in life are possible.
Eva Wedholm is the Director of Quality Assurance and has worked with AVANCE–San Antonio for over 25 years. Eva has over 36 years of experience working to support the health and development of young children and families. She has worked in multiple capacities - supporting direct program services, as well as serving in administrative management positions. Her work and attention to quality reflects her commitment to AVANCE’s mission in supporting children and families to reach their personal and educational goals and ultimately become productive, successful and happy members of our community.
Eva is an enthusiastic, mission-driven, team player, and is a proud member of the AVANCE family. She believes genuinely in our multi-generational model and hopes that AVANCE continues to grow across the nation to help at-risk families end the cycle of poverty.
Eva is a native San Antonian, and one of six children raised just south of downtown (S. Flores & Nogalitos). She has been blessed with three beautiful children and two grandchildren who are her pride and joy. In her free time she enjoys spending quality time with family and friends.
Beth Fawcett Walthall is a born and bred San Antonian, with a deep love for all the cultures and traditions our city offers for all of us to enjoy. With a public relations degrees in hand, Beth left UT Austin and pursued different careers from to retail to banking and realized her strengths were in developing relationships. As a mother of three, Beth was very involved in her children’s lives and was always drawn towards chairing their PTO fundraisers. For the past 16 years, Beth has realized her dream of creating new relationships while raising funds for educational non- profits. Beth is proud to be associated with AVANCE - San Antonio.
Beth has always believed that education is the key to success and that all life lessons are worthwhile. Success is achieved as we learn and grow and there are no limitations.