Board of Directors

Carter Higley

Founder and Board President

A native Houstonian, Carter’s day job has him in a suit and tie every day. Thanks for at least taking the tie off for this pic, Carter! When not working, hanging out with his wife, or chasing after his soon to be four kids, Carter can be found somewhere outdoors. Carter’s work as a Teach For America Corps Member in Compton, California and his Acton MBA education inspired him to start LEAD. As a Dream Team member, Carter is focused on strategic development and community partnerships. Like our LEADers, his favorite part of the LEAD year is the summer adventure.

Parker Atherton

Parker Atherton is a native of San Antonio and has been a Houstonian for the last ten years. He has spent most of his career in banking with a primary focus on the energy sector and is currently a Senior Vice President with Jefferies Energy Group focused on Leveraged Finance transactions. He is the oldest of three siblings and has two daughters (5 and 6). He received his undergraduate degree in Business from Southern Methodist University. He enjoys travel, skiing and hanging with friends and family.

O.P. Banks II

O.P. Banks II is CEO at SilverLine Distributors, a company that warehouses and sells non-perishable food items. Mr. Banks offers his customers the benefit of over 20 years in the food distribution business. Mr. Banks received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Loyola University New Orleans.

He is an active member in the Houston Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. An organization of more than 9,000 business owners in 46 different countries. Mr. Banks has served on the board of the Houston EO chapter.

Carvana Cloud

Carvana Cloud is a native Houstonian. She was raised in Acres Homes and understands the plight of our LEADers. Carvana graduated from The Kinkaid School, then continued her passions for law and the Spanish language at De Pauw University in Indiana. She earned her juris doctorate from South Texas College of Law and was reared to serve others. Carvana’s grandmother was a school principal, her mother an educator, and all three generations public servants.

Currently, Carvana leads the Special Victims Bureau of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. As Bureau Chief, she is responsible for the prosecution of all interpersonal violence cases (domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking) filed in Houston, Harris County.

Carvana formerly served as an Assistant District Attorney and Division Chief of the Family Criminal Law Division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. She managed a multi-disciplinary team of prosecutors, criminal investigators, and social workers committed to seeking justice for victims of domestic violence. In December of 2017, she established the Harris County Strangulation Taskforce to develop a county wide protocol for the investigation and prosecution of strangulation cases. Carvana’s journey has prepared her to serve and advocate for the disenfranchised.

In addition to serving the community, Carvana loves quality time with her family. You can find the Clouds at church, Girl Scout meetings, soccer games, traveling, and eating good food.


David deRoode

David joined Lockton in September 2010. He focuses on providing his clients in the global energy and marine industry (onshore and offshore; upstream, midstream and downstream) with experiential and data-driven risk management and risk finance consulting, which is inclusive of commercial insurance, surety and employee benefits consulting and brokerage. David prides himself on delivering traditional as well as alternative insurance and non-insurance, risk management-based solutions to his client’s that address their unique corporate risk challenges while promoting the execution of their corporate objectives and earnings expansion.

David is very active in the industry he serves and is an active member of, and sponsor to the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), the Petroleum Equipment & Services Association (PESA), the Permian Basin Petroleum Association (PBPA), the Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA), the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC), the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), the Louisiana Energy Conference, LAGCOE and the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD).

David serves on the Membership and Political Action Committees of NOIA, the Membership and Energy Educators Committees of PESA, the VIP Transportation Committee of LAGCOE and the Roast Committee for the Youth Development Center’s annual Energy Roast & Toast event.

David also serves his Greater Houston community as an active board member at the Center for Hearing and Speech and L.E.A.D. (“Letting Everyone Achieve Dreams”) as well as an Advisory Board member to the University of Houston-Downtown’s College of Business and the Insurance & Risk Management Program, of which David was the principal catalyst, fundraiser and co-founder of in 2008.

Jeff French

Jeff French is a lifelong Houstonian and currently serves as Senior Area Vice President for Arthur J. Gallagher. He started his career in Employee Benefits in 1995, and his 20 years of industry experience have resulted in Jeff being highly recognized and respected in the field of Employee Benefits Consulting. Prior to Gallagher, he held sales positions with CIGNA, The Hartford, and NYLCare.

Jeff is passionate about and he brings to the table a personal and professional commitment to wellness, including his past service as a board member of the Houston Wellness Association. As a member of Gallagher’s Corporate Strategic Planning Team, he is a valuable contributor to the many objectives that are initiated in that process, which ensures that his clients are always receiving fresh and cutting-edge advice. Jeff also serves on the national advisory councils of three major health insurance companies where he is able to interact with the senior leadership of those organizations and to glean valuable market perspective.

Jeff graduated from the University of Texas Business School with a BBA in Marketing. He is committed to serving the local and international community as a board member of two Houston based nonprofits, LEAD (Letting Everyone Achieve Dreams) and Millennium Relief and Development Services. Jeff has been married for 19 years to his wife Mary and they have three children. Together they enjoy cross-cultural travel, outdoor activities and entertaining in their home.

Adam Lyons

Adam Lyons is a Senior Associate at Willkie Farr and Gallagher LLP, focusing on private equity transactions, mergers and acquisitions and corporate financing transactions. Adam previously practiced at Kirkland & Ellis LLP in New York and Vinson and Elkins LLP in Houston. He grew up in Austin, TX, the youngest of five siblings, who are spread out across the country. He received his undergraduate degree in Physics from Harvard and taught AP physics, AP calculus, pre-calculus, ethics and middle school science for two years in Perth, Australia and taught SAT prep in Seoul, Korea before returning to Harvard for graduate school, pursuing a joint degree in law and international development (JD/MPA-ID). He enjoys travel, hiking, HGTV and tennis, but spends much of his free with his two rescue dogs, Barton and Parker.

Tonia Jones

Tonia Jones is the current owner and operator of 2 Pure Barre fitness studios in the Houston area. In 2014, Tonia opened her first studio in Houston and has continued to grow the brand. Prior to Pure Barre, she held sales and management positions with Salix Pharmaceuticals and Pulte Homes.

Tonia is heartfelt about helping children achieve their dreams as her grandmother and mother were role models who engaged in community service and served an educator in HISD. Tonia has a desire to serve as a model for healthy living. These skills combined with her business acumen are valuable to our community and youth.

Tonia received her Bachelors in Business Administration at the University of North Texas. She is an active member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Alumni. In her spare time, she enjoys taking Pure Barre classes, international travel and reading.

Stephen A. Littleton

Stephen is Vice President of Downstream Business Services & Downstream Controller at ExxonMobil. His tenure at Exxon allowed him and his family to reside in numerous countries, including Angola and Hungary.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. The importance and values of both character and education permeated in Steve's childhood, which were established by his parents, both successful entrepreneurs and professionals. The legacy continues, for he is a father of a son in science and a daughter who is a senior at St. Agnes Academy. Additionally, Steve has been blessed with his wife Kimberlye who is currently progressing in a consulting career in interior design after a successful career in corporate America. Steve has a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Texas and a degree in business from the University of Missouri – St. Louis.

He remains an avid supporter of his alma mater and numerous local and national organizations, such as Sigma Pi Phi – Boule and Kappa Alpha Psi. Steve and his wife Kimberlye enjoy hosting friends, traveling, and supporting causes dear to them.

Knox Nunnally

K. Knox Nunnally is a former U. S. Marine Corps infantry officer and Harris County Prosecutor. Today he is a law partner with the civil trial and appellate firm of Ware Jackson LLP and focuses his practice on oil and gas related disputes and general commercial litigation.

Knox is passionate about Houston and education. Both his grandmothers were teachers and his mother was a teacher. He understands the value of mentorship and support for young students and is delighted to endorse and be involved with LEAD.

Knox received his undergraduate degree at the United States Naval Academy and his law degree from the University of Texas.

Outside of work, Knox enjoys spending time with his family and pursuing his two favorite hobbies of cattle ranching and bird hunting.


Lisa Walters-Perdew

Lisa is a full-time mom and volunteer. For the last 20 years, she assisted programs such as Reading One to One, Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC), and Home of the Innocents. Additionally, she has helped numerous schools and church and joined a host of social organizations. Her passion has always been children and families. This led to her career path working where she worked for Communicare Inc. as an early childhood interventionist. She also worked for Child Protective Services and the Crimes Against Children’s Unit of the police task force. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and her Master’s in Social Work at the University of Louisville. Lisa and her husband have four children. They frequently travel as a family between the mountains and beaches where they enjoy all outdoor activities. Paddle boarding, surfing, skiing, and bike-riding are some of their favorites. Lisa believes that the best therapy is a good yoga class!

Brad Smith

UH Principal Investigator

Bradley H. Smith earned his Ph.D. in psychology from the American Psychological Association Accredited Clinical Psychology track at the University of Arizona in 1996. During his clinical internship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, under the supervision of William E. Pelham, Jr., Dr. Smith began collaborating with Brooke Molina and Steven Evans to develop interventions for middle-school students with learning and behavior problems.

Work in this area has included the internationally recognized Summer Treatment Program for adolescents with ADHD, school wide interventions middle school students, and the Challenging Horizons after-school Program (CHP), which is on the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices.

After serving on the faculty of the University of South Carolina from 1998 to 2013, Dr. Smith was hired as a professor in the College of Education at the University of Houston. His current teaching emphasis is training School Psychology Doctoral students to be sensitive community partners who advocate for the development and use of evidence-based practices. His research continues to focus on youth development programs, particularly those with a wilderness component.

He is currently leading an evaluation collaboration of LEAD (Letting Everyone Achieved Dreams) funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. He is also striving to create a mindful college of education, studying ways to make mindfulness a part of the educational and social culture in diverse educational communities.

Iris Tian

Iris Tian is the Director of Strategy and Operations of the Assessments Division at the Texas Education Agency and a current Broad Resident. In her role, she oversees a $100M+ operating budget, directs strategic planning of the division, and incubates and manages pilot programs and special projects. She formerly worked as a Consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, focusing on education and social impact work. While at BCG, her projects included leading the strategic planning process at a state-level education advocacy organization, developing strategy to improve collaboration between the higher education and business communities in Houston, and analyzing the digital learning technologies market for a large Foundation.

Iris has been strongly committed to the Houston education ecosystem for over 8 years. She has worked at KIPP Houston, Teach For America, and the Houston Independent School District as a classroom teacher, department chair, coach, and curriculum writer and has served as a KIPP PALs Board member. Iris holds an MBA from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, where she graduated as a Siebel Scholar, and graduated cum laude from Harvard with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Science and Public Policy.

Amaka Unaka

Amaka firmly believes that an individual’s zip code should not determine their destiny. She currently works for Teach For America Houston as the Director of Alumni Leadership & Engagement. Prior to joining TFA she worked for KIPP Chicago as the Director of Advocacy & Community Engagement where she was instrumental in helping KIPP Chicago secure facilities for six new campuses and developed a plethora of partnerships to meet the diverse needs of the communities KIPP Chicago serves. Amaka holds a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, a MSW from the University of Chicago, and a M.Ed. through the KIPP Summer Leadership Program at New York University. Amaka is a first generation Nigerian-American and was reared in sunny Southern California. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, reading, and traveling.