AVID’s mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society.

Advancement Via Individual Determination

Speakers Bureau

AVID speakers deliver important, yet motivating messages for educators and students.  Whether for a districtwide administrator launch to the new school year or a student assembly, our speakers will inspire your audience to recommit themselves to education.  They provide “how-to’s” that create a successful college- and career-ready campus. Moreover, they share personal stories of adversity and triumph that can relate with all AVID educators and students. For more information or to book one of our speakers, please contact Annabel Zakay at [email protected] or call (858) 380-4804.  

Dr. Aliber Lozano, Senior Director, Professional Learning


Dr. Aliber LozanoTitle: “First Generation College-Goers: Advocating for Latino Students”
Description: Having been a first generation Latino college student, Aliber knows firsthand the journey to successfully navigate through the educational system. He will embed his personal and professional experiences into his captivating speech about starting off as a migrant-student farm worker. He will provide national data and statistics, and his motivational message will address the needs of Latinos.

Audience: Teachers, Administrators, Counselors, Parents, Students, Higher Education Students

Length: 30-60 minutes

Bio: Aliber has been an educator for over 15 years. As a first generation college graduate, he credits his professional accomplishments to his teachers, colleagues, and mentors for helping him navigate through the educational system. A son of Latino migrant farm workers who possessed a third-grade education from Mexico and an eighth-grade education from the U.S., he has dedicated his career to being an advocate for students, parents, and educators.

Aliber is a member of AVID Center’s professional development team and is primarily responsible for overseeing the facilitation, redesign, and refinement of AVID District Leadership (ADL) sessions. The AVID College Readiness System (ACRS) is also part of his responsibility, as he oversees projects in AVID Secondary and serves on both the AVID Elementary and AVID Postsecondary steering/advisor/planning team(s). Aliber is involved with Equity initiatives at AVID Center and is helping incorporate blended learning into AVID’s professional development sessions.


Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Communication from the University of Texas-Pan American
Master of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Texas-Pan American
Doctor of Education in Educational Administration from the University of Texas-Pan American

Dr. Dennis Johnston, Senior Director, Chief Research Officer


Dr. Dennis JohnstonTitle: “College for All: Really?

Description: Setting high expectations and affording rigorous academic opportunities has been shown to dramatically increase the college-readiness of all students. The million dollar question… How do we get there? Dennis will take you on an introspective journey into your world of expectation, opportunity, and achievement gaps. Using data, he will provide strategies that will help to identify and minimize these challenges so as to promote college and career readiness across your campus.

Audience: Teachers, Administrators, Counselors, Parents

Length: 45-60 minutes (as requested)

Bio: Dennis is responsible for overseeing AVID Center’s research agenda and coordinating the certification processes of the various components of the AVID College Readiness System. Prior to joining AVID, Dennis served as Director of Assessment, Accountability and Research at the San Diego County Office of Education; was the Director of Assessment and Evaluation at Grossmont Union High School District; the Senior Research Associate of the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System; and was part-time faculty at the College of Education at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania.


Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, San Diego State University
Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, Loyola University Maryland
Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis on scaling and psychometrics, Temple University

Jonathan Grant Brown, Program Manager, AVID for Higher Education
and Marketing/Communications


Jonathan Grant BrownTitle: “People Like Me: Opening Doors to Opportunity”

Description: Jonathan has dedicated himself to encouraging students to pursue a future by obtaining a college degree. As a product of a foster care system, Jonathan’s mission in life is to help open doors of opportunity for students and support them when society dictates that they should never go through them. As an instructor for higher education, Jonathan believes building and maintaining proper relationships with students will accelerate their learning while helping them to gain more of a responsibility for it.

Audience: Educators, Students, Parents, Administrators

Length: 45-60 minutes

Bio: Jonathan is a Program Manager for AVID for Higher Ed and Marketing/Communications. As a former high school AVID student from Killeen ISD Jonathan has had the opportunity to experience the roles of an AVID student, tutor, and more recently one of the first AVID instructors in higher education. While attending college, Jonathan traveled the U.S. as a motivational speaker sharing his experiences as an AVID student and how it opened doors of opportunity to his future. In 2009 Jonathan began working with the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in developing an AVID First Year Seminar where students learned how to navigate college and grow their critical thinking skills. As a teaching assistant in all eight freshman seminars, Jonathan used his experience as a former AVID student to share with students and the instructors how to use the AVID strategies he implemented throughout his college experience. After getting his degree from UTPB, Jonathan became the AVID Liaison.


Bachelor of Arts in Communications, University of Texas of the Permian Basin
Master of Education, University of Texas of the Permian Basin

Mervin A. Jenkins, Eastern Division Assistant Director


Mervin A. JenkinsTitle: “Engaging the Reluctant Learner”

Description: Mervin’s motivational presentation is designed to move young people in a positive direction, by embracing initiative, persistence, and self-discipline, through support and connections with the adults in their lives. Built on life experiences and best educational practices, Mervin uses storytelling to encourage adults to engage with young people and to inspire young people to take charge of their own future.

Audience: Educators, Parents, Middle School Students, High School Students, and College Students

Length: 45–60 minutes (as requested)

Bio: Mervin inspires students, their parents, and their educators on the importance of student learning and education. He has worked as a middle school teacher, high school assistant principal, middle school principal, and central office administrator. He is currently the Eastern Division Assistant Director at AVID Center. Mervin has received numerous accolades for his work in education. He was awarded the Zeta Phi Beta Southeastern Regional Education Award twice, named Tar Heel of the Week in Raleigh’s News & Observer, interviewed on NPR (The Story with Dick Gordon), and honored as Chatham County Schools Principal of the Year.


Bachelor of Arts in Art Education, Benedict College
Master of Education in Secondary Education Administration, Charleston Southern University

Patrick H. Briggs, M.Ed. Texas State Director


Patrick H. BriggsTitle: “All Means All: Bridging the Achievement Gap”

Description: Patrick Briggs is a thought-provoking and motivational speaker. He will encourage adults to examine their mindset and practice when considering if “all means all” in regard to educating students. His high-energy presentations will move listeners to positive action, both in and out of the classroom.

Audience: All educators

Length: 30-90 minutes

Bio: Patrick is the AVID Texas State Director. He comes to this position after five years as the AVID Texas State Assistant Director. Before that he spent 15 years as a teacher and administrator in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD in Texas. Patrick believes that any perceived “achievement gaps” are the result of opportunity gaps and expectations gaps that adults must work together to close. He serves on the Dream Team of AVID’s African American Male Initiative, which is going into its fourth year of working with predominantly African American schools to decrease the opportunity and expectation gaps by focusing on an asset model and Culturally Relevant Teaching for all populations of students. This work led to the highly successful Culturally Relevant Teaching course that is offered at AVID’s Summer Institutes. Patrick’s passion lies in helping all learners achieve at high levels so all students are college- and career-ready upon completion of high school. He believes that all students deserve a high quality education that will enable them to make choices in life that will lead to success in any field of their choosing.


Bachelor of Science in Biology, Prairie View A & M University
Master’s in Education in Educational Administration, Prairie View A & M University

Rob Gira, Executive Vice President, AVID Center


Rob GiraTitle: “Campus Transformation is Not Magic; Effort Matters”

Description: Rob offers insights and data regarding college and career readiness and campus transformation, based on 25 years of AVID experience. His remarks focus on the importance of principal and teacher leadership, gleaned from his many publications for AVID Center and elsewhere. He also focuses on creating an effort-based culture. He has been with the AVID Center for nearly 20 years and is a founding member of the organization.

Audience: All educators

Length: 30–60 minutes

Bio: With nearly 20 years at AVID, Rob is the Executive Vice President overseeing quality, communications, and research. During his tenure at the AVID Center, Rob has led a variety of curriculum and professional learning projects, including AVID Path to Schoolwide materials, tutorial curriculum, critical reading, and leadership trainings. He has also been instrumental in creating AVID’s equity, English language learner, schoolwide, and AVID for Higher Education initiatives. He is currently responsible for AVID Center’s communication outreach, including alumni outreach and social media. Rob also oversees the quality and research teams that help schools ensure fidelity to the AVID College Readiness System and participates in conducting research and evaluation projects to assure AVID’s continued leadership in the field. Rob created AVID’s journal, Access, and continues in his role as its lead writer and interviewer. Rob writes regularly about equity, student development, the brain, resilience, and school culture, among other topics.


Bachelor of Arts in English, UC Santa Barbara
Teaching Credential, San Francisco State University
Master’s in Education in Educational Administration, San Diego State University

Dr. Valerie R. Peterson, Partner Engagement Manager


Valerie PetersonTitle: #JustWatchMe (Students)
           “The Power of One: Making a Difference in Students' Lives” (Adults)

Description: Dr. Valerie Peterson will take you on a high energy, captivating journey of her personal story of “Advancement via Individual Determination.” Centered in real world experiences of facing obstacles and persevering, Dr. Val demonstrates that action and resiliency are key factors in pushing anyone, despite their challenges, to reach their goals.

Audience: Students (Grades 7-12), Adults (All)

Length: 30-90 minutes

Bio: Dr. Valerie Renee Peterson was born and raised in the Roseland community on the Southside of Chicago. She received her degree from Northern Illinois University, and obtained a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Roosevelt University in Chicago. She recently earned her Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership from Argosy University-Chicago. Early in her career as a certified teacher, Dr. Val moved to work with and mentor students in Chicago Public Schools. She also played a very integral role in the expansion of AVID in more than 200 sites in Chicago Public Schools. Currently, Dr. Val serves as a Program Manager for Central Division and mentor to students across the nation; she inspires and encourages others to achieve their goals through any means necessary. Her mantras of “Just watch me” and “I Believe, I Trust, I Let Go” speaks to her commitment and passion for living what she speaks.


Bachelor of Science: Community Health/Health Education: Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL
Master’s of Art: Elementary Education: Roosevelt University-Chicago, IL
Doctor of Education: Organizational Leadership, Argosy University-Chicago