OUR STAFF

GEORGE VANDER VEER

Executive Director

George Vander Veer is a graduate of Southwestern Adventist University (B.S.), Walla Walla University (M.S.W.), and South Texas College of Law Houston (J.D.). George has ten years of experience in the nonprofit sector. The majority of George's nonprofit experience has been developing, piloting, and growing direct service programs serving disconnected opportunity youth in a high school and college setting. George has also served as a grant officer for a large Houston area nonprofit where George raised and managed over $2.5 million in grants annually. As a first-generation college student George greatly believes in the power Fantastic Learning Opportunities can have in giving students perseverance and helping them to develop a vision for their future. George credits his own mission work in Africa and Asia during high school as the fantastic learning opportunity that steered his professional career towards the nonprofit field. As Executive Director George is charged with managing and fundraising for the organization and is committed to DiscoverU's mission of providing resources and learning experiences that broaden the worldview of economically disadvantaged youth, while equipping them with the attitudes and skills to become advocates for their own success. 

EMILY SKETCH HAINES

Director of Programs

 Emily Sketch Haines is a graduate of Cornell University (B.A.) and the University of Washington (M.F.A.), and has ten years of experience teaching in a variety of settings, from low-income public high schools to private tutoring programs and undergraduate courses. As a Teach For America Houston alumna who has held a number of program leadership roles since her time in the corps, Emily has ample experience in working with disadvantaged youth, establishing and sustaining strong working relationships with schools and community-based organizations, and managing complex projects with strategic, measurable outcomes. Emily works closely with DiscoverU’s school partners and FLO Coordinators to ensure that students gain the personal, social, and emotional skills they’ll need for college success, through FLO participation.

ASHLEY LAUMEN WILLETT

Director of Development

Ashley Willett has over fifteen years of experience in the education and nonprofit fields.  She is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas (B.A.) and Texas Christian University (M.A.). She taught for five years at Lee High School in HISD (now Wisdom), serving students who hailed from all corners of the globe.  She then helped to found KIPP Generations Collegiate, where she served in a variety of leadership roles including teacher, department and grade level chair, district curriculum lead, instructional coach, and even as FLO Coordinator.   Formerly DiscoverU's Director of Programs, she firmly believes that it is through FLO participation that students develop the grit, savvy, and courage to allow themselves to seize the opportunities that can open doors to their futures.

WHITNEY CASEY GRIFFIN

Direct Service & FLO Program Manager

Whitney Casey Griffin is a proud product of Houston ISD and is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University (B.A.), Sam Houston State University (M.Ed), Northcentral University (Educational Specialist), and is currently in the dissertation phase of her Doctor of Education degree. Whitney believes in building and strengthening the mindsets of teens through building relationships, advocating and empowering them towards personal and future professional goals. Serving as Program Manager and team lead of Direct Service, she is a liaison between our advisors and HISD College Readiness advisors to ensure a direct connection to provide FLO opportunities to the students. With over ten years of experience in college and career readiness and post-secondary student success, she specializes in our college readiness-FLOs promoting college and career readiness and closing postsecondary gaps.

ABIGAIL MOLLOY

FLO Success Manager

Abby Molloy is a graduate of Southwestern Adventist University with a degree in education. She is dedicated to educating and empowering students to take chances on their educational future. Since joining DiscoverU in 2018 Abby has served as middle school FLO Advisor and is entering year two as FLO Success Manager working with our Access and Standard FLO partners. Prior to joining the DiscoverU team, she taught Bilingual Special Education for 9 years, an experience that has equipped Abby to help connect students of special populations with FLOs.

PRESLEY SLAUSON

FLO Program Coordinator

Presley Slauson is a graduate from the University of Houston (B.S.), Go Coogs! With her background in Human Development, she understands the importance of social-emotional learning and the impact it has on the lives of students. She is passionate about equal educational opportunities for all students and believes that everyone should have access to experiential learning programs. Connecting students to local FLOs and ensuring DiscoverU's portfolio has a FLO option for all students is what drives her. Being a part of the DiscoverU family allows her to work with her passion for education and impact the lives of Houston students.

JULIUS BAYONE

TFI Program Manager

Julius Bayone is a native of Alexandria, Louisiana and a graduate of Southern A&M University (B.S.). With his background in nonprofit management he understands the importance of and needs of students and faculty. He is driven to see each student have an opportunity to excel scholastically and believes that it takes a collective group to ensure that each student has the support needed to succeed. This is why he is excited to make the transition to manage DiscoverU's newest program in conjunction with JP Morgan Chase, The Fellowship Initiative.  As Program Manager, Julius oversees all TFI activities, including student, parent, and mentor relations.  

ROSALVA 'ROSE' CASTILLO

Direct Service FLO Advisor

Rosalva "Rose" Castillo graduated from Southwestern Adventist University with a B.S. in Psychology and earned her M.A. in Human Services Counseling from Liberty University.  Since she was a little girl, Rose had a passion and desire to serve at-risk youth in an effort to provide them with a bigger picture of how having a higher education can propel them to greater things.  Rose believes that providing youth with Fantastic Learning Opportunities can equip them to reach their higher potential and become successful and more productive members of society.  

RODRICK HAWKINS

Direct Service FLO Advisor

Rodrick is a graduate of Texas A&M University (B.S.). He has two years of experience in HISD high schools as a college advisor to underserved youth. Integrity, self-advocacy, resilience, and selfless leadership are a few of the many moral values he stands on as he serves a very diverse population of students.   Rodrick believes everyone should have equal opportunity access to various personal, career, and educational pathways through FLOs while also building interpersonal relationships skills, giving back to their community, and investing in themselves.

NYRA TANNER

Virtual FLO Advisor

Nyra Tanner  is a graduate of Texas State University (B.A). During her time at Texas State University, she served as a peer mentor, guiding students through their first year of college. She is an energetic individual with a passion for instilling self confidence and ambition in students, as well as establishing individualized relationships with the student and their families. DiscoverU gives her the special opportunity to positively impact students' lives by helping them see the greatness in themselves.

MARIA THOMPSON

Virtual FLO Advisor

Maria Thompson has been with DiscoverU since 2017 and has served as a Summer Support Specialist and FLO Advisor. She believes in the mission of DiscoverU and the barriers to success we work to eliminate. She will serve as a FLO Advisor for the Virtual Support Team focusing on bringing students of color into the tech space in an effort to diversify the growing field.

STEPHANIE TURCIO

Virtual FLO Advisor

Stephanie Turcio is a graduate of the University of Houston (B.S.). With her educational background in Psychology, Nonprofit Management and Development, she recognizes the need for gaining the necessary experience and valuable life skills to expand students' knowledge. She is passionate about bringing under-served youth opportunities that will lead them into successful career paths. In her current role as a Virtual FLO Advisor, she loves highlighting college immersion FLOs for students.

ARELY CASTILLO

TFI Program Coordinator

Arely graduated from the University of University of Louisiana at Monroe with a B.A. and M.A. in Communication. She has worked in the non-profit sector securing funds to help children and families in need. Arely has 13-years of experience working with students at the college level and she is passionate about education, cultural awareness, and diversity.  She currently serves as our TFI Program Coordinator.  Arely is outcome-oriented, self-motivated, and enjoys working with individuals and teams to achieve collective goals.  She knows the importance of nurturing relationships that help build positive character and promote strong community.  Being a dual citizen of both Mexico and the United States along with her extensive travels abroad, Arely brings a rich cultural background and worldly outlook to the team.

"DiscoverU mixes experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm to push forward a team that believes in students and their potential to achieve. We consider each other and our communities when we do this work!"

Maria Thompson

DiscoverU FLO Advisor