Founder & Chair of BPUSA
Reginald “Reggie” Smith is the Founder and Chair of the Board of Building Promise USA. Raised in the Third Ward of Houston, Texas, he cycled through alternative schools and “at risk youth” programs only to be funneled into the juvenile justice system at the age of sixteen and the adult system at seventeen. This began a more than twenty-year odyssey of substance use and criminal justice-involvement, treatment programs and prison cells.
Finding himself in a federal prison in Beaumont, Texas for the second time, he remembered what his grandmother used to tell him as a boy, “If it is to be, it begins with me.” It was then that he realized that if he didn’t make an extraordinary effort to change, nothing was going to change in his life! Again, he remembered his grandmother told him, “If not now, when?” So, he made a commitment to himself that day to overcome any personal adversity, real or perceived, that would keep him from achieving his goals and reaching his full potential.
Reggie has gone on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work from the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. He was the Communities for Recovery, Hogg Peer Policy Fellow from 2016 – 2018 and a Policy Analyst for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition for 2018 – 2019. He is currently a Senior Advisor for the Peer Service Unit of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Reggie’s mission is to help build a community-based infrastructure of reentry support services to assist individuals with criminal justice involvement and behavior health challenges to achieve their goals and reach their full potential.
Hank retired after 6+ years as President and CEO of the Central Texas Food Bank in November, 2016, after completing a $25 million capital campaign and constructing a state of the art Food Bank to better serve the 21 counties in Central Texas served by the Food Bank.
Prior to that, Hank spent 38 years in the semiconductor industry in various roles – Senior Vice President at Zarlink Semiconductor, President and CEO of Legerity Inc., Vice President and CFO at Actel Corporation and in other financial positions at Applied Materials, National Semiconductor and General Electric.
Hank holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting from San Jose State University.
Courtney Robinson, PhD
Dr. Robinson is the Founder of the Excellence and Advancement Foundation a non-profit organization that is dedicated to transforming how communities combat the school to prison pipeline and mass incarceration. Excellence and Advancement Foundation uses an ecosystems approach to provide prevention, intervention and advocacy. The organization assists schools, justice systems and community organizations with critical, transformative and restorative solutions to culture, race, school discipline and incarceration.
Her research interests include the construction of the school to prison pipeline, racial equity, youth transitions from institutionalized school settings to community school settings, K-12 teacher preparation, the racial socialization of children and adolescents, and the impact of racial identity development on academic performance. Her newest publication is featured in the Black History Bulletin Vol83, No1. Black Lives Matter: from Enslavement to Engagement. Pursing Freedom: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline. She currently serves as an adjunct professor at Huston-Tillotson University. She appears in Seasons 3, 4 and 7 of BlackademicsTV on PBS and served as a Creative Consultant on Seasons 4, 5and 6 and Associate Producer for season 7. Dr. Robinson has also presented at SXSWedu in 2017 and 2018.
Dr. Robinson has served as an expert consultant for The Office of Capital Writs a capital post-conviction state agency charged with representing death sentenced persons in state post-conviction habeas corpus and related proceeding. She has consulted with Austin, Pflugerville, Portland and Denver Independent School districts.
She serves on the Austin Rosewood Community Development Corporation Board, Greater Austin Area My Brother’s Keeper Violence Prevention & Second Chances Committee, The Criminal Justice Committee of the Mayor’s Task Force on Institutional Racism and Equity Advocates.
Dr. Robinson received the Huston-Tillotson University Faculty Member of the year award 2014-2015. She was awarded the Gold Standard Award from Black Excellence and the Purple and Gold Community Leadership Award from Omega Psi Phi, Inc. in 2017. She also received the Education Advocate of the Year award from the Greater Austin Area Black Chamber of Commerce in 2016. She was also awarded the Texas Equity Award in Juvenile Justice by The Center for the Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities in 2015. Her civic engagement includes membership in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Leadership Austin. Dr. Robinson received her B.F.A. from Howard University, and both her M.Ed. and Ph.D. degrees in Education from the University of Texas at Austin.
Kenneth D. Thompson, Sr.
Kenneth D. Thompson, Sr., brings a talent for children's and fathers' advocacy cultivated in the public sector. Kenneth’ s experiences as a parent educator, facilitator, mentor and talk show host serve him well as Fatherhood Specialist for the Division of Permanency. His previous assignments include lead host for “The Dad-Show” and the featured facilitator for “Focus on Fathers.” Mr. Thompson is a certified facilitator in multiple national fatherhood curriculums.
Kenneth served as Director of “All American Mentoring Project,” a mentoring program with an emphasis on children from single parent homes and low social economic status. He is the former President of the Board of Trustees for the Pflugerville Independent School District where he was the first African American elected to political office in the Pflugerville community.
Kenneth is also the former Vice President of Texas Caucus of Black School Board Members. Kenneth served as the Vice-Chair for the Austin Advisory Committee addressing Disproportionality within the Welfare System. Kenneth served as the Director of the East Austin Youth Foundation which serves economically disadvantaged youth by providing sports activities while promoting high academic achievement.
Kenneth also served as Board Chair of “A New Entry LLC,” a program charged with providing counseling and transitional housing to formerly incarcerated men. Additionally, he served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for The Overton Group which focuses on multi-lingual education in Head Start. He served as Vice-President of Parenting Across Color, a Trans Racial Parent Support Group. Kenneth served as the Co-
Chair of the Austin Travis Reentry Planning council
Kenneth was appointed to the National Advisory Board which focuses on Non Resident Fathers in the Child Welfare System. Lastly, Kenneth was appointed to the Community Advisory Board for the Travis County Family Courthouse expansion project. Kenneth recently served the Chair of the Austin's African American Quality of Life Resource Advisory Commission. Kenneth is currently a board member for Solar Austin. Kenneth is a graduate of Southwest Institute of Technology.
Frank Ringer comes to the Board of Directors of Building Promise USA with over 20 year of executive management and administrative experience in Human Resources, Healthcare and Social Services. He currently serves as the principle of Frank Ringer & Associates a consulting firm whose client list included: Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation, GovLease Public Project Finance, IBM Consulting, Deloitte and Touch Consulting, Tyrex Manufacturing, Mental Health Management Services, and the Austin Travis County Re-Entry Roundtable. The firm’s primary focus is on Legislative initiative development, coalition building, best practices presentations, legislative education, data presentation and legislative testimony.
Frank received his BA in Psychology from East Texas State University (1971) and his Master Degree in Health Care Administration from Southwest Texas State University (1982). Frank passion is to mentoring at-risk youth, working with returning citizens and volunteerism.
Laura currently serves as the Executive Director for the Sobering Center of Austin/Travis County, a brief intervention aimed to curb usage of jails and emergency rooms. . She has used her multi-faceted social work skills in leadership positions in treatment centers, jails, schools, public housing projects, and government agencies. She dedicated 10 years of her career to working in prisoner re-entry in Austin, including serving as Executive Director for a re-entry focused non-profit organization called Crime Prevention Institute. Laura was a founding member of the Austin/Travis County Re-Entry Roundtable and has served as adjunct faculty for the University Of Texas Steve Hicks School Of Social Work. Laura holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master’s of Science in Social Work. She is a licensed master social worker with an advanced practice
As an undergraduate student at UT, she was awarded UT Austin Volunteer of the Year, and as a graduate student was awarded the National Association of Social Workers Student of the Year in Austin. Under her leadership, Crime Prevention Institute won a Ring of Honor award from the Mental Health Association of Texas and a Non-Profit Excellence Award from Green lights for Nonprofit Success (now Mission Capital). Laura’s work was mentioned in the documentary, Troop 1500: Girl Scouts Beyond Bars, and she appears in a documentary in progress called Return to Sender, a film about re-entry and redemption. She was nominated in 2017 for an Austin Under 40 award in the category of non-profit leadership and in 2018 for Mentor of the Year.
Amanda M Cassidy comes to her role as a member of the Board of Directors of Building Promise USA after a 20+ year battle with drug addiction. During that time, in order to sustain her substance abuse, she turned to crime, which landed her in prison time after time. Amanda was fortunate to have a support system in place to help her after her last incarceration and she has been clean from drugs and alcohol since October of 2018.
Amanda found her passion within a Recovery Coach training program which she began in early 2020. She learned about advocacy and that she could use her lived experience to help others get off to a better start.
As a member of the Board, she hopes to be an integral part of building a support system for men and women who are coming out of the criminal justice system. Amanda has completed the Recovery Support Peer Specialist curriculum and is attending Austin Community College to complete an Associate Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.
Carl F. Hunter II, M.Div
Carl F. Hunter II is a graduate of Morris Brown College and received his Master of Divinity Degree from New Brunswick Theological Seminary. He has over 20 years of experience in the non-profit and human service sectors. His unique set of skills include: community organizing, coalition building, legislative advocacy, project planning, programmatic design, group facilitation and public speaking.
In 2018, Carl became a Hogg Peer Policy Fellow. During the 86th session of the Texas Legislature, Carl provided technical assistance and was a subject matter expert for legislators and their staff. He also served on the Substance Use Disorder Coalition (SUDC) and the Texas Coalition for Healthy Minds (TCHM) during that same period.
In 2019 he was appointed to the Executive Committee of the Travis County Reentry Roundtable and the Travis County Substance Use Disorder Work-group. During that same year, the Austin Chapter of the NAACP recognized him for community leadership. His past awards include being recognized by the National Congress of Black Women, Trenton/Mercer Chapter and the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey for his leadership, volunteerism and commitment to the greater community.
Carl professes that his greatest accomplishment is being a person in sustained recovery from Substance Use Disorder, which has enabled him to be a father to Ashley and Isaiah, a grandfather to Khloe and Jules, a godfather to Candice and an inspiration to others.
Jessi Garza is the owner of JG Law, PLLC. Growing up in the small town of Palacios, TX, Jessi was
not raised to dream, to set goals, nor to be her true self. To the contrary, Jessi was taught to be
dependent on others, that education was insignificant, and that she and what she wanted in life didn’t
matter. This resulted in years of substance abuse, multiple treatment facilities and ultimately, SAFP-
F with a detour to administration segregation.
Rolling into the prison in Gatesville, TX to enter “treatment” at the SAFP-F unit, Jessi had to admit
she was not surprised this is what her life had come to. She recalled the day her mother came to visit,
and asked, “Damn, all you do is smoke weed, gamble, and sell drugs all day. Why?” As Jessi took a
puff, she thought to herself, ‘you taught me everything I know,’ but did not have the courage to say
it. In November in 2005, everything came to head and Jessi ultimately made the decision that her life
meant something and asked a power greater than herself, the APD, to intervene, and she has been
sober in a 12-step fellowship ever since.
Jessi has supplemented her recovery journey with Martial Arts since 2005. The combination of these
two spiritual practices have been life changing for Jessi. Jessi has since earned an AA in
Government from Austin Community College and BA in Political Science from Texas State
University, making history in her family in doing so. Jessi also fulfilled her childhood dream of
becoming an attorney and practices criminal defense law in Hays and contiguous counties.