Houston Public Media and Houston First are paying tribute to the diversity in our region by spotlighting Houstonians from various communities in conjunction with national awareness months.

  • Hispanic Heritage Month

  • Lunar Landing Month

  • Pride Month

  • Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Melanie Pang

Government Relations Officer | Houston Food Bank

Melanie advocates for equitable policies that drive efficiencies in service to those experiencing poverty. Melanie grew up in Missouri City as the youngest of four children to a Chinese father and Filipino mother. Pang earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010 from the University of Houston. She was one of the first students to minor in GLBT studies and served as president of GLOBAL, the school’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, inter-sex and asexual alliance. She went on to a master’s degree in social work, and was named social worker of the year in 2015 by the local chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. She has been featured in OutSmart magazine’s list of emerging LGBTQ women leaders.

Kirby Liu

Director of Development | Lovett Commercial

Kirby is a design and real estate developer that aims to reinvigorate Houston’s downtown neighborhoods and celebrate Houston’s diversity by creating arts, entertainment, dining and retail hubs that bridge the gap between culture and innovation. The impactful developer is devoted to building vibrant communities and enriching neighborhoods, and is currently involved in a project called POST Houston that is reimagining the former Barbara Jordan Post Office in Downtown. Liu graduated with distinction from Darmouth College and studied architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

Lorin "Lo" Roberts

President & CEO | Pride Houston

Lorin Roberts is a pediatric nurse, mother of two children, and the President & CEO of Pride Houston. Lo has been a volunteer with Pride Houston for more than ten years, and currently serves as the organization’s first black female queer leader. Lo is passionate about supporting people of color within the LGBTQIA community, and committed to giving everyone, including LGBTQIA allies, a chance to feel like they can be themselves.

Jessica Oswald

Grade Level Chair & History Teacher | YES Prep Public Schools

Jessica Oswald is a Grade Level Chair and an Advanced Placement U.S. History Teacher at YES Prep White Oak. Jessica earned a double major in public relations and sociology from Sam Houston State University, and a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on education policy from Stephen F. Austin State University. Jessica has taught students from elementary to high school and was named Teacher of the Year by Nacogdoches ISD in 2016. She previously served on the Delta Xi Nu Multicultural Sorority, Inc. National Board of Directors.

Juan "Tony" Castilleja, Jr.

Human Spaceflight | The Boeing Company

Raised in Baytown, Texas, Tony Castilleja, Jr. became the first in his family to become an engineer, and after completing a summer internship with The Boeing Company, was hired full-time as a systems engineer for the Commercial Crew Development Rotation Program. Tony continues to take on new challenges at The Boeing Company, and uses his engineering background to enable the next generation of leaders in human spaceflight. While at Rice University, he served as a college captain for Great Minds in STEM Viva Technology Program. His commitment to introduce STEM early on to students has resulted in publications at the American Society of Engineering Education, talks at the U.S. Department of Education, and a national distinction as a regional finalist for the White House Fellows Program. In 2011, Tony was recognized with the Boeing Volunteer Service Award, the highest award across all of Boeing for skills-based volunteerism. Tony also co-founded Designing with Rice Engineers, Achievement through Mentorship or DREAM program, which matches disadvantaged and minority students in the Houston area with Rice University engineering undergraduates who mentor them. Tony served as president of the Houston Boeing Hispanic Employees Group – Boeing Familia.

Kathryn McLaurin

Program Specialist | NASA

Kathryn McLaurin is an attorney, wife, mother, and a program specialist at the International Space Station Office at NASA – JSC. Kathryn guest hosts the web series Space to Ground, a short weekly wrap-up of the latest news and science from the International Space Station that showcases the diversity of activities taking place aboard the world’s only orbiting laboratory. She is involved in NASA Johnson Space Center’s community engagement efforts that help bring human space exploration to the community through immersive, multimedia experiences. Kathryn is passionate about diversity in STEM or STEM-supporting careers and encourages young people to be an active part of the Mars generation through volunteer-based activities. Kathryn is a graduate of Leadership Houston and United Way of Greater Houston’s Project Blueprint, and serves on Houston Public Media’s Young Leaders Council. In 2015, she was recognized as a national legal advisor by National Women of Achievement, Inc. and in 2016, she served as the African American Employee Resource Group Chair at NASA – JSC.

Deborah Lugo

Director | Arts Connect Houston

As director of Arts Connect Houston, Deborah Lugo oversees the strategic direction of a citywide collective coalition aimed at ensuring students in the public school system have access to high-quality arts education and creative learning. Previously, Lugo served as the founding executive director at Mercury for eight years, shaping it at all levels and growing it from an intimate ensemble focused on Baroque music to a lively chamber orchestra bringing a broad range of music to life across the region.

Lugo’s long-time passion for music and the performing arts goes as far back as her time at Libre de Música School in her hometown of Puerto Rico. As a violinist and mother to two children in area public schools, Lugo understands that the arts are vital to a complete and well-rounded education. She envisions a world where students are at the forefront of our community, and continues to be involved in efforts that pave the way for improvements in student outcomes. She’s an alumni of Leadership ISD, holds a Master in Public Policy from Princeton University, and a Bachelor in Violin Performance from Florida International University.

Daisy Mendoza

President | Latin Women's Initiative

Daisy Mendoza is a proud native Houstonian and first-generation America that celebrates her family’s roots in Guanajuato, Mexico, a community rich in folklore, culture, and the arts. Daisy is the eldest of three siblings to Serafin and Maria Mendoza.

As the first in her family to go to college, one of Daisy’s greatest accomplishments is earning a double major in finance and marketing from University of Houston on a full ride scholarship. She began her career in insurance and investment sales, and today serves as a portfolio manager at Amegy Bank in the commercial lending department.

In the community, Daisy serves as president of Latin Women’s Initiative (LWI). LWI works to make a difference in the lives of Latin women and children using fashion as a platform to bring awareness to the needs of the Latino community. Its signature fashion show has provided more than $2 million dollars in grants to local non-profits since its inception in 1995.

Daisy also serves on the fashion show committee for the University of Houston Hispanic Alumni Association and Rubbish to Runway. She is an active member of Dress for Success Houston, The Institute of Hispanic Culture of Houston, Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as well as a graduate of the Emerging Leaders Institute.

Daisy recently added fashion design student to her resume, setting in motion a once tabled dream of creating designs that make women feel empowered, feminine and beautiful.

Wendy N. Duong, Notable Asian Pacific American

Notable Asian Pacific American

Wendy N. Duong

As a teenager in 1975, Wendy Duong fled South Vietnam with her family during the Fall of Saigon. Eventually she came to Houston to make history of her own. Duong received a JD degree from the University of Houston Law Center, and an LLM degree from Harvard Law School. Then in June of 1992 at the Municipal Court in downtown Houston, Wendy Duong became the first Vietnamese American Judge in the United States.

Ray Hill, Notable Asian Pacific American

Notable LGBTQ Figure

Ray Hill

Ray Hill was an activist for gay rights from the 1960s until his death in 2018. Always a catalyst for change, Ray organized groups or protests to bring attention to LGBT issues. In the late 60s he co-organized the first gay rights group in Houston, and in 1976 helped start Houston’s first gay pride parade. Among his many other accomplishments, Ray Hill organized a protest of a 1977 Anita Bryant concert, created “Town Hall Meeting I” which inspired the creation of many other LGBT organiztions, and brought attention to the murder of Paul Broussard, arguing in the media that it was a hate crime. He once earned the derisive nickname “Citizen Provocateur” and ended up wearing it as a badge of honor.

Kalpana Chawla, Notable Astronaut

Notable Astronaut

Kalpana Chawla

In November of 1997, Kalpana Chawla, Ph.D. became the first astronaut of Indian descent to voyage out of the earth’s atmosphere when she flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia as a scientist and researcher. Dr. Chawla made her second space flight in 2003. On January 16, STS Mission 107 launched on a 16-day flight dedicated to science and research, with Chawla and the crew conducting over 80 experiments during the mission. On February 1, Dr. Chawla and the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia died during re-entry, 16 minutes prior to their scheduled landing at Kennedy Space Center.

Dr. Tatcho Mindiola, sociology professor

Notable Hispanic American

Dr. Tatcho Mindiola

Long-time Hispanic activist, sociology professor Dr. Tatcho Mindiola was director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston from 1972 to 2015. Under his direction the CMAS became one of the country’s premiere academic programs of its kind.