BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Board President Gina Tillis, MA is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Texas School of Education. She teaches classes at the University of Texas and at Huston-Tillotson University. Former First Year Experience Coordinator at Huston-Tillotson University, Gina has a passionate calling for teaching Sociology, Anthropology, and Ethnic Studies and developing and directing educational empowerment programs. She received her M.A. from Grambling State University wherein she studied Sociology of Education and continued her graduate studies in critical pedagogy at California State University, San Marcos. She champions the idea that education is ultimately the practice of freedom and that all students deserve an engaging, enlightening, and empowering pedagogy that helps them envision the relationship between knowledge facilitated in the classroom, who they are, and who they ultimately aspire to become.
Board Vice President Oscar Garza has worked with the East Austin community for over 24 years to address a number of environmental issues including the cleanup of waste dump sites found in their neighborhoods. Two recent examples are the Red Bluff/La Loma site which is now being transformed into a nature preserve and a multi-year, major clean up and mitigation of an incinerator-waste dump found in a now transformed east Austin neighborhood, Homewood Heights. He has worked on a publication that highlights east Austin communities and environmental issues. Garza teaches occupational certification classes in asbestos abatement safety for the Spanish-speaking community. In Spring of 2018, Garza received the Texas Sierra Club‘s Environmental Justice Award for outstanding service to the East Austin community.
Board Treasurer Ben Kreyfitz (Bio. coming soon)
Board Secretary Matt Flores (Bio. coming soon)
Nell Peterson is Programs Coordinator for Blackshear Bridge. Ms. Peterson is a Registered Nurse specializing in work with people with developmental disabilities. She has lived in the Blackshear-Prospect Hill Neighborhood since 1956. She attended Blackshear Elementary School, the original L. C. Anderson High School, Huston-Tillotson University. She received her Bachelors Degree of Science and Nursing from the University of Texas at Austin and a Masters Degree in Health Professions Administration from Texas State University. Ms. Peterson served two years in the United States Air Force. She is a member of the Original L.C. Anderson High School Alumnae Association and Wesley United Methodist Church. She served for over twenty years as Vice President of the Blackshear-Prospect Hill Neighborhood, was formerly Director of OCEAN, the Organization of Central East Austin Neighborhoods, and volunteers for numerous organizations in central east Austin. Ms. Nell has a daughter Tara Peterson and son-in-law Chuck McGarity both of whom she loves and is very proud.
Micaela Murphy is Friendly Garden Sustainability Educator A native Texan growing up in a military family, Micaela spent most of her childhood exploring the outdoors and practicing sustainability. Micaela is very enthusiastic to further her mission in pursuing this work that makes a difference in the community through empowering children by being creative and flexible in her approach. Micaela enjoys connecting children with the outdoors while providing them an opportunity and space to explore, identify and learn about the world around them. Through her work in Friendly Garden, Micaela is helping to close the gap in educational equity through both traditional and Montessori education. She shares this same love for nature with her husband, an East Austin public school educator and her daughter, a Blackshear Elementary scholar who continuously helps them relive the joys of childhood.
Donna Hoffman, Sustainability Coordinator/Director for Blackshear Bridge earned a Bachelor of Science in Communications from the University of Texas at Austin in 1984 and has provided community organizing, advocacy communications, program management, fundraising and curriculum development services in the nonprofit sector. Donna has dedicated her career to undoing systemic racism, promoting social justice, cross-cultural reconciliation and unity, protecting and restoring the environment. She is currently most interested in exploring the expanded definition of sustainability as requiring human diversity and in developing support for the data-based programs of Blackshear Bridge. A former tenant organizer for Syracuse United Neighbors in upstate New York from 1987-89, Hoffman also lived in Dublin, Ireland where she produced a women’s cultural arts and public affairs radio program from 1992-94. Returning to Texas, Donna taught English language arts at Del Valle and LBJ High Schools. She served from 2004-2011 as Communications Coordinator for the statewide Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, then managed active transportation safety programs for nonprofit bicycle advocacy groups and the Texas Department of Transportation. In 2011, Hoffman began developing and delivering outdoors sustainability education at Blackshear Elementary School. Hoffman brought it all home to the neighborhood and co-founded Blackshear Bridge in 2013 with school administrators and faculty at Blackshear Elementary School and Huston-Tillotson University. Since then, Donna has coordinated Blackshear Bridge work with community partners and awesome crew chiefs and volunteers who planted 23 trees, created rain gardens at both hilltop campuses, and led a lot of cross-cultural fun, adventure, and learning in Blackshear Elementary School’s Friendly R. Rice Garden and playgrounds. Donna is a certified Wildlife Austin Habitat Steward and Sustainable Food Center-recognized Outstanding Austin Organic Gardener. Ella habla Español. Contact Donna: firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-Founder & Board Secretary ex officio, Amanda Masino, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Huston-Tillotson University, a historically black institution located in East Austin. Dr. Masino has a research background in genetics and developmental biology and teaches courses that range across biology, including Environmental Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, and Molecular Immunology. She has successfully developed inquiry-based and service learning projects that emphasize undergraduate research and community engagement with local and national partners, including the University of Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency. She advises or co-advises several student organizations, including the Minority Association of Premedical Students and the sustainability organization Green is the New Black. Contact Amanda: email@example.com
Tam Watkins, Director, Greater Black Chamber of Commerce
Bo McCarver, President, Blacklands Community Development Corporation
Amy Temperley, Head Honcho and Aging Optimist, Aging is Cool