AFCI 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
  • Teresa DiTore – Secretary

Board Member Responsibilities and Commitments


Larry D. Ponder – President

Dr. Larry Dwayne Ponder 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 and his Doctor of Education from Stephen F. Austin State University.

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.

Teresa DiTore – Secretary

Teresa DiTore 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.