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 – Chair/President
- Sara Fernandez – Vice Chair/Vice President
- Dr. Paul B. Mandell – Treasurer
- Dr. Mari Nicholson-Preuss – Secretary
- Robert J. Brewer, J.D. – Board Member
- Gregory Germain – Board Member
- Juan Leija – Board Member
Larry D. Ponder – Chair/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, 2 daughters-in-law, and 3 grandsons.
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 Chair/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.
Mari L. Nicholson-Preuss – Treasurer
Mari L. Nicholson-Preuss, Ph.D., is the founding director of the University Honors Program at the University of Houston-Downtown. The University Honors Program is one of the most diverse honors programs in the United States and a quarter of its students identify as LGBTQIA. She advises four academic honor societies and several student organizations including the student chapter of the Texas Freedom Network. She is a vocal ally and supporter of UHD’s “Safe Zone” program for LGBT students. Mari has nearly fifteen years of experience in higher and secondary education working with gifted students. Throughout her career, she has advocated for the right of all students to learn in an environment that supports intellectual curiosity, celebrates diversity, and is free from discrimination.
Mari received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from Texas Tech University and her doctorate from the University of Houston. She is a passionate Red Raider football fan and proud Texas Tech alum. An active historian, her areas of expertise are the history of modern institutional medicine and infectious disease. Her professional memberships include the West Texas Historical Association (Board Member), Texas State Historical Association (Education Committee), and the National Collegiate Honors Council (Advising Committee and Committee on Diversity). Mari joined the Association for Family and Community Integrity’s board in March 2017.
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.