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.). 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. He 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 and leader of the organization, George is committed to DiscoverU's mission of providing resources and learning experiences that broaden the worldview of economically disadvantaged youth.

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.

ASHLEY LAUMEN WILLETT

Director of Development

Ashley Willett 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, 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.

ABBY MOLLOY

Assistant Director of Programs

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.

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.

WHITNEY CASEY GRIFFIN

Partner Alignment 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 our Partner Alignment Manager, she is a liaison between our advisors and HISD College Readiness advisors to ensure a direct connection to provide FLO opportunities to the students.

PRESLEY SLAUSON

Operations Manager

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.

CHEIKH BEYE

FLO Advisor

Cheikh immigrated to the United States from Senegal in 2005. After graduating from Lee High School (now Wisdom) in 2009, he obtained his BA at Texas A&M University and entered the classroom shortly thereafter. He taught Government and Economics at YES Prep and KIPP Houston High School for 5 years before transitioning into a college and career Readiness advisor. Cheikh joined DiscoverU because the organization aligns with his passion and North Star: giving back to the community by helping others achieve their potential.

DAVID FAGGÉTT

FLO Advisor

A native of Longview, TX, David comes to us a Veteran of the United States Military. He brings over 5 years of experience from working in the Kansas City and Overland Park Public school systems in Missouri and Kansas. He will achieve his BA in Kinesiology from Prairie View A&M University in May of 2022. David has a strong passion for the youth, and as he has coached youth sports for the last 10+ years of his life, giving back to the community any way that he can. Every day he looks to grow his career in the education field, as he looks to bring a ton of energy, love, and passion to the DiscoverU team.

RODRICK HAWKINS

Program Coordinator

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

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

TFI Coordinator

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 the TFI Program Coordinator focusing on bringing young men of color into the tech space in an effort to diversify the growing field.

STEPHANIE TURCIO

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.

CARLOS VALERO

TFI Coach

Carlos Valero is a first generation college student pursuing a career in consulting at Texas A&M University. A FLO alumnus himself, he discovered knowledge that empowers younger men/women professionally, and through FLOs he found a learning place where growth and support is the objective. Today as a TFI Coach, he bonds with younger men and shares the knowledge needed for growth and success in the future. Ultimately, Carlos hopes to transform dreams into goals and possibilities for the upcoming generations through his passion and determination for helping others.

GAZZMINE WILKINS

FLO Advisor

Gazzmine Wilkins graduated from Houston Baptist University with a BA in English and History and from Texas State University with an MFA in Creative Writing. They taught collegiate-level writing and literature, focusing on historically marginalized voices. As a member of the DiscoverU team, they hope to continue to uplift and support students in their educational pursuits.

SIERA WILLIS

FLO Advisor

Siera Willis is a graduate of The University of Houston- Downtown (B.A) and The University of New Orleans (MS) She has a background in developing, implementing, and monitoring outreach programs for children and adolescents. While teaching abroad she learned the importance and effectiveness of positive reinforcement and how access to appropriate resources can directly impact student lives. She is passionate about empowering students to find their purpose and walk in their power. Working as a FLO advisor gives her the opportunity to encourage creativity, build confidence, and spark student interest in pursuing higher education. She understands that with the right resources and support students stand a greater chance of reaching their highest potential.