Keynote Speakers

We are proud to present such inspiring and trailblazing speakers at the AL1GN 2018 conference.

In order of appearance…

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An education policy expert, Gil is president and co-founder of The Gilbert & Jacki Cisneros Foundation, an organization committed to strengthening public schools, and creating college opportunities for students and veterans. Gil’s dedication toward philanthropy began when he purchased a winning California Mega Millions lottery ticket in 2010. Gil and Jacki partnered with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the city of Pico Rivera, California to create Generation First Degree Pico Rivera, with the goal of putting a college degree in every household in the city.

Gil serves as Secretary of the Latino Donor Collaborative, and a board member of The Wooden Floor, a non-profit dance studio based in Santa Ana, California. He is a member of the Southern California Advisory Council for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, a member of the Advisory Council for the Dean of Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at The George Washington University, a member of the Brown University Diversity Council, and previously served on the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for The Kennedy Center under President Obama.


Appearing at our lunch on Saturday during the conference, GW President LeBlanc has talked about his experience as a first-generation student and how first-generation students should realize the power their stories hold.

Prior to serving as the 17th President of the George Washington University, Thomas J. LeBlanc was the executive vice president and provost at the University of Miami. He was appointed to that position in 2005 and served as the chief academic officer and chief budget officer for the University responsible for overseeing and coordinating academic programs and enhancing the educational mission of the University. He served as a professor in the Departments of Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Previously, LeBlanc served as dean of the college faculty in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering at the University of Rochester. His publications include writings on operating systems, parallel programming, and software engineering.

He holds a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from State University of New York at Plattsburgh.

Maria_Gomez_-_Marys_Center_17_t670x470 Maria Gomez

Speaking on Saturday, Maria Gomez is the founder of Mary’s Center created in 1988 in order to build better futures for District residents by providing quality health care, family literacy and social services to culturally diverse communities throughout the Washington metropolitan region.

Mary’s Center advocacy efforts led by Maria were recognized by the National Council of la Raza (NCLR) in July 2011 with the Affiliate of the Year Award, the highest honor bestowed on an NCLR Affiliate in recognition of the exemplary work in serving the community and supporting NCLR’s policy and programmatic initiatives. In February 2011 Maria was recognized as one of the 19 Upstander leaders in DC for serving as an inspiration to others by making a positive difference in their communities and around the world. In October 2011 Maria was awarded the Inaugural Diane Bernstein Children’s Champion Award by DC Action for Children and the Health Champion Award by the National Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program.

In the October 2010 edition, the Washingtonian Magazine named Maria as one of the 45 individuals who shaped Washington DC between 1965 and 2010. The magazine also acknowledged Mary’s Center for its role as a “critical piece of the region’s healthcare system.”

Desmond-600x800 Desmond Ellis

Desmond is a Co-Founder of the Sierra Leonean Empowerment Network (SLEN). SLEN, established in July 2013, is a nonprofit organization that maintains a professional network of Sierra Leoneans and is focused on professional development. The organization provides both human and material resources to aid individual professional development and improve professionalism in Sierra Leone. This is achieved through building a database of new and experienced professionals, along with initiatives that foster mentoring, knowledge sharing and professional networking among Sierra Leoneans of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

Desmond Ellis is a financial professional with over a decade of extensive experience in varying areas of finance. Currently, he serves as the Financial Controller at Sterne Kessler Goldstein, Fox, PLLC, one of the largest law firms in the US, specializing in the protection, transfer and enforcement of intellectual property rights. Desmond designs, improves and implements finance and accounting processes and systems that produce complete and accurate financial and accounting information. He is directly responsible for the financial reporting, summarizing the firm’s financial standing in accordance with regulatory guidelines and ensures accounting allocations are appropriately made and documented. As the Controller, Desmond also oversees cash management functions accounts payable, accounts receivable, cash disbursements, payroll and bank reconciliation functions. As an intentional leader, Desmond manages a team of highly driven professionals and is wholly invested in their professional development and growth within the firm.