Board Members

The Board of Directors is comprised of community members who are dedicated to reducing  rejection and the consequences of rejection, including homelessness, among LGBTQ youth by educating families.

Coming from a variety of backgrounds and professions, each Board member brings a unique perspective to the organization.

  • Dr. Larry D. Ponder – President
  • Sara Fernandez – Vice President
  • Dr. Paul B. Mandell – Treasurer
  • Gregory Germain – Secretary
  • Robert J. Brewer, J.D. – Board Member
  • Teresa DiTore – Board Member
  • Juan Leija – Board Member
  • Holland Poulsen – Board Member
  • Rev. Gigi Rodriguez – Board Member
  • Barbara Sherrod-Dixon – Board Member
  • Dr. Huzefa Tayabali – Board Member
  • Thomas Chappell – Advisory Board / AFCI Founder
  • Michael Migura – Advisory Board

Board Member Responsibilities and Commitments

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Larry D. Ponder – President

Dr. Larry Dwayne Ponder was born in Corpus Christi, Texas. Being that his father was in the U. S. Navy and later a minister, Larry had many opportunities to live in many parts of the United States as well as Guam and Scotland. He moved back to Texas in 1979 and raised his children mostly in the Houston area. Family is very important to him and that includes his 3 sons, 3 daughters-in-law, 3 grandsons, and granddaughter.

Dr. Ponder Graduated from high school in Mineola, Texas and earned his B. S. degree from the University of Texas – Pan American with a major in Elementary Education and a minor in Mathematics. He earned his Masters of Education from Stephen F. Austin State University in Educational Leadership with Principal Certification. He also earned his Doctor of Education from Stephen F. Austin State University in Educational Leadership along with the Superintendency series.

Dr. Ponder retired from the Alief Independent School District in 2016 where he served for 25 years.  Combined with his work with other institutions and districts he has served a variety of positions that include: teacher, curriculum specialist, professor, and administrator.

Dr. Ponder recognizes that  LGBTQ youth are over represented among homeless youth and that rejection is a serious issue.  He believes the work of AFCI is a critical step toward educating families about gay people so that rejection is reduced, children and youth are supported, and lives and relationships flourish.

Sara Fernandez – Vice President

Sara Fernandez began working on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues when she joined Parents, Families, and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG) in 1997.  Looking for ways to carry out the mission of support, education and advocacy she began to work on handouts to distribute at meetings and events, this evolved into coordinating speakers, working on a newsletter, on Pride Events, and ultimately to producing video for the local public access channel, Houston MediaSource, Channel 17.   She served on the PFLAG board of directors for six years and sees AFCI as the next step in reaching out to families with LGBT members.

Paul B. Mandell –  Treasurer

Dr. Paul Mandell is Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Houston Downtown (UHD). Originally from Atlanta, GA, he went to college at Emory University where he completed a B.A. in Latin American Cultural Anthropology and Spanish and, subsequently, an M.A. in Hispanic Literature. He earned a Ph.D. in Spanish Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His most recent publications include the volume The Development of Spanish: A Guide for Teachers, that he co-authored with Dr. Terry L. Ballman in 2014. At UHD, he coordinates the Beginning Spanish Program for non-native speakers, regularly teaches grammar/ linguistics courses, courses in the Teaching of Spanish. He also has recently developed a study abroad program to Cuba and is working with colleagues on the design of a new Latino Studies academic program and Center.

Dr. Mandell has called Houston home since 1999. Aside from his academic work, he volunteers regularly at the Beacon, a day center for the critically homeless in downtown. His heart for education and advocacy for LGBT young people is manifest through the work he does with the AFCI Board. He also currently sits on the Out for Education (OFE) Board, the Houston Youth Network (HYN), the Cathedral Urban Service Experience (CUSE) Board and the Justice and Peace Council at Christ Church Cathedral, and participates actively in a number of support activities in the Greater Houston LGBT Community.

Gregory Germain –  Treasurer

Robert J. Brewer – Board Member

Teresa Di Tore

Teresa Di Torre is a writer interested in helping parents of gay youth build relationships of love and acceptance with their children. She has graduate degrees in English and Spanish Literature. Teresa is a member of PFLAG Houston who actively contributes to mentor and support parents of LGBTQ+ children. She has written a collection of short stories,The Journey to Celebration, which will be coming out in the near future.

Juan Leija – Board Member

Holland Poulsen – Board Member

Holland Poulsen is a native Houstonian who returned to Houston after completing her B.S. at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. After beginning her career as an elementary school teacher, Holland continued her education at the University of St. Thomas in Houston earning a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and later at the University of Houston where she received her Principal and Supervision Certification. She has been an educator for more than 25 years working with students and teachers in Alief Independent School District as well as other local districts in the Houston area.

Holland is also the mother to 15-year-old triplets who attend school in Fort Bend ISD. Two of her children identify as LGBTQ. When her transgender son came out a few years ago, Holland immediately looked for information about transitioning socially, medically and physically. She found an amazing group of parents of transgender children who helped guide her family and provided invaluable information and support.

Since then, Holland has worked to become a part of a support system to other parents and children as they navigate the adventure of transitioning especially as it relates to the public school system and legal aspects. She is excited to be a member of AFCI where she hopes to reach even more parents and school personnel by providing information and experience about the process.

Rev. Gigi Rodriguez – Board Member

Barbara Sherrod-Dixon – Board Member

Barbara Sherrod-Dixon has shifted her focus from design engineering towards education of future female innovators as a secondary Geometry and Math Model with Applications educator in Fort Bend School District.  She is a co-sponsor for Mu Alpha Theta National High School Mathematic Honor Society, which fosters creativity and valued inspiration through national math competitions for high school students.

Barbara is distinguished by her ability to identify and develop those students whose academic talent only requires fostering to their unique capabilities to excel.  She has a contagious enthusiasm and passionate belief in people that inspires them to become prouder in themselves and to a more valuable contributor to their own academics.

Her background includes dedication, along with her wife, Regina Dixon, as co-founder and Vice-President of Certain Women, LLC, a non-profit organization that provides education, financial, and supplementary resources to promote healthy same-sex female families with children.   She is also a partner in a construction company, BRS Builders, LLC that provides home remodel and repair to low income families.  Barbara holds a Bachelor of Science in Design Drafting Technologies and a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering Technologies from Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas.  Before entering the world of academia, she also acquired a Master in Teaching in Urban Academics and Child Development from University of Houston-Downtown, Houston, Texas.

Beyond her professional life, Barbara enjoys spending time with her three daughters and seven grandchildren.  During her spare time, she also loves repurposing and upcycling furniture.

Dr. Huzefa Tayabali – Board Member

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Thomas Chappell – Founder

Mr. Chappell served as President and CEO of INFOSYS until his retirement in 2009. INFOSYS Development Group is a management and software consulting firm. Tom served six years on the Alief Independent School District Board of Trustees. Mr. Chappell’s volunteer activities include 1) two terms on the  Alief School ISD School , 2)Exchange Club of Greenway Plaza, Involved in startup of Escape Family Resource Center – A project of the Exchange Clubs of Houston, 3) Greater Houston Partnership 2000 – 2006, Emerging Business Council, Chief Executive Office Roundtable #23.  He has been active in church work and volunteer organization for over 40 years. He has held management positions at State Farm Insurance Companies, NLT Corporation, Coastal Corporation and HMSS, Inc. After a successful tenure as CIO for HMSS, Mr. Chappell left to launch INFOSYS. He  focused much of his retirement time on AFCI, Inc., and Homeless Youth Network of Houston/Harris County where he served as a Board Member. During his adult years he has contributed thousands of hours in community service directed toward improving the dilemma facing underserved homeless and at risk children.

Keeping Families Together