VBEC ~ 3404 NORTH BEN WILSON ST, VICTORIA, TEXAS 77901 ~ (361) 572-8232

About Us

In 2002 a group of community leaders began to congregate with the purpose of improving the educational attainment level in the region. With over 100 people on board, the group named themselves the Human Capital Planning Team. This group developed a steering committee of eight community and business leaders who developed a vision and a mission statement. They also drafted a plan that would guide the larger group in identifying barriers to educational attainment, current efforts to address these barriers, and gaps that needed to be closed to overcome these barriers.

The Victoria Business and Education Coalition and the Victoria Chamber of Commerce Education Committee were developed as a result of the Human Capital Planning Team. The VBEC concept is the outcome of the efforts of these groups. The many facets of the program have been developed or implemented by the VBEC Team over the past several years.

Many businesses and individuals have collaborated to ensure the success of VBEC. With the help of The Victoria College, the University of Houston-Victoria, Victoria Independent School District and many area businesses and individuals these programs of VBEC are currently in place. These programs are designed to assist in many aspects of a student’s success in the workforce. They also address the essential need for adult and business involvement with the education community.

VBEC is completely grant and donation funded and has a 501(c)(3) status with the Internal Revenue Service. The program currently consists of five facets; Mentor Connect, Dream Big STEM Expo, YOUth LEADership Conference, and Junior Achievement. Our mission is to bring businesses and community members together to help students complete high school prepared for the workforce, higher education or training.

Program Awards

  • In 2005, VBEC was recognized by the current Texas Secretary of Education, Dr. Shirley Neeley, as the program to become the national model.
  • In 2007, it was a finalist for the United States Community Service Award in Washington by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
  • In 2008, it received the Texas Governor’s Volunteer Award in the Community Connector Category.

Victoria should be very proud and excited about these accomplishments.

We need your help. There are many other opportunities to volunteer for VBEC. The entire program is staffed primarily by volunteers!

Thank you for all of your support. Increasing the knowledge and skills of our workforce is vital to the local economy and to our ability to compete globally. VBEC is definitely on target and is truly making a difference for the students in our region.

Who Makes Up VBEC?

Volunteers

Hundreds of community and business volunteers commit their time and unwavering energy to make VBEC programs and activities available to the youth in our community. Volunteers share their time to mentor students, facilitate curriculum for Junior Acheivement Classes, server as job hosts.

Board of Directors 2017

Mary Simmons, President: Mary considers herself to be a diversified professional who has worked in the banking industry, higher education, oil, and gas production and in healthcare. Her experience in these industries has primarily been education and training which has led to her current position as Continuing Medical Coordinator at Citizens Medical Center. Being the daughter of a retired kindergarten teacher, Mary has always felt strongly about the importance of a strong education for children of all ages. After participating in career exploration events with VBEC for years, she was asked to participate on the Board to help promote mentoring, youth leadership and many other programs that VBEC offers to youth in the Victoria area. She is passionate about fundraising and enjoys assisting and organizing events and initiatives that financially benefit the organization. She is a native of Meyersville and then pursued a Bachelors at Texas A&M University. She currently resides in Victoria with her husband of 15 years. She enjoys traveling, camping and spending time with her family.

Keith Blundell, President Emeritus: Keith is the Vice President of Administrative Services at Victoria College (VC). He started at the college in 1998 as the Comptroller and moved to his current position in 2008. He oversees Business Services, Purchasing, Payroll, Risk Management, Technology, Security, Physical Plant, Bookstore and Food Services. Prior to working at VC, Keith worked at a local CPA firm where he specialized in governmental audits. He has previously served as the President of the Victoria Chapter of the TSCPAs and in 2000 was named the Young CPA of the Year in Texas. He has served on the boards of several local not-for-profit organizations. Keith received his bachelor’s degree in Accounting and a master’s in Business Administration from the University of Houston-Victoria where he was the recipient of the TSCPA Accounting Excellence Award and was named the Wall Street Journal and UHV’s Outstanding Business Student. He is licensed as a Certified Public Accountant and a Chartered Global Management Accountant.

Keith is married with three sons and he is active at his church, Parkway Baptist Church, teaching on Sundays to a class of special needs children.

Eline Moya, Vice President (City of Victoria Police Department)

Lauri Bednorz, Secretary (Victoria Independent School District)


Dr. Jeffrey Cass- Treasurer: Jeffrey Cass is currently Professor of English at the University of Houston-Victoria, where he has worked for nearly six years, and for four of those years he was Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. He has also been Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and Associate Provost at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, TX. He holds the doctorate in Comparative Literature from the University of California-San Diego. He is involved in University and community groups, including as a founding member of the local chapter of TACHE (Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education) and as a co-sponsor of the African Students Association. He has been a member of committees for the Chamber of Commerce and VISD and is an executive member of VBEC. Dr. Cass is an avid cyclist, supporting charity rides such as the MS 150, which raises money for multiple sclerosis. He has also competed in over thirty triathlons, and he avidly enjoys league bowling.


Jennifer Ernst: Jennifer Ernst is a 40 year resident of Victoria. She is married to her high school crush, Judge Travis H. Ernst. They share two boys, Ryan, 27 and Evan, 23. She is an avid volunteer in her community. Jennifer teaches an Adult ESL class through the Victoria Adult Literacy Center, is a sustainer of The Junior League of Victoria, a board member of Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity, The Nave Museum, Victoria County Chapter of Republic Women, and VBEC. Since she does not work outside of the home, she gives her time to the community she calls HOME.

After receiving a Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies, she taught third grade for 10 years at Chandler Elementary, where she loved each and every one of her students. As a former teacher, Jennifer became aware of the many issues facing our youth today and strives to be a positive role model and mentor for the children in our community.


Judge Ben Zeller: Ben Zeller is the Victoria County Judge and a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the University of Houston-Victoria, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. He also holds an MBA from Texas A&M University-San Antonio. As a strong believer in continuing education, Ben has taught various business courses as an Adjunct Instructor at Victoria College.

Ben has been passionate about public policy since his teenage years and is the past President of the South Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association. He serves on the boards of the Texas Association of Counties, County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, Victoria Business and Education Coalition, Victoria Economic Development Corporation, Victoria County Community Action, and the Victoria County Juvenile Board. He is also a member of Governor Abbott’s Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, TXDOT’s I-69 Advisory Committee, and the Victoria Rotary Club. Additionally, he serves as a mentor in VISD’s high schools.

As an avid sportsman, he enjoys the outdoors and being on his family’s ranch. Ben and his wife Jamie, a former VISD high-school teacher, have been married for eight years. They have three young children and are active members of Parkway Church in Victoria.


Pam Neuman:  Pam Neuman was raised in Michigan, but is a native of Texas. In fact, she likes to point out that she has an ancestor who fought for Texas Independence at Goliad. She received her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and her graduate degree from the University of Houston-Victoria. She has many years experience in both public relations and in education. Pam is married and has two children – both college students.

After staying home with her children while they were small, Pam re-entered the workforce in 2004 to work for Partners In Education for Calhoun County Independent School District, where she coordinated the tutoring and mentoring program, Texas Scholars and wrote multiple grants. Today, she is employed by Victoria College as Director of the KEY Center, a TRiO Student Support Services program that serves students who are either low income, first-generation or disabled.

Pam is passionate about helping students who may have barriers in their path reach their educational goals.

Glynn Castro (Wells Fargo- Business Relations Manager)

Tamera Keller: Tamara Keller grew up in Cuero, Texas. Graduated from High school in 1997. Attended Southwest Texas State University for two years where I cheered on the Bobcat’s. Graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Marketing, 2001. Worked in sales with Paychecks, and as a pharmaceutical representative for 5 years, in Houston, Texas. Mother of three handsome, full of life and energy, boys! Blessed to be home with them for 9 years, moved out of state to Alaska for several years. Very involved in church teaching Sunday school, and Pre-School program for 2 years. Moved back to Victoria in 2015 with my children. Got back into the medical industry working as a physician liaison for a local surgeon. Currently employed with DeTar as Director of Physician Outreach. Love time with my family and the outdoors. The boys’ activities bring me so much joy!

Heather Keller (Associate Advisor & Client Relations Rep. KMH Wealth Mgmnt)

Monica Rodriquez (Vice-President 1st Community Bank) Monica Rodriquez is a native Victorian. She has lived in this great little big city all of her life. She is a graduate of Victoria College. She is currently employed by First Community Bank as a Vice President/Branch Manager/Loan Officer. Previously she worked 23 years for First Victoria National Bank where she was Senior Vice President/ Retail Operations Support Manager.

She currently serves on multiple boards including: Food Bank of the Golden Crescent-Treasurer; La Camara de Comercio-Treasurer; Hope Child Advocacy Center; Victoria Business and Education Coalition; and Builders Association of Victoria. She is a former board member of Victoria Bach Festival.

Monica is married to Robert Rodriquez and they are the former owners of Robert’s Eatery and Bakeshop. They have two daughters: Arianna working on her Masters in Business with a concentration in Health Care Administration and Nadia who is a Junior in college. Both daughters attend Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Matt Glaze: Matt Glaze is a registered professional engineer and partner in Urban Engineering. Being employed by a small consulting firm, he has had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects from small site developments to large port expansions. He received his education from Texas A&M University with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. As a graduate from El Campo High School, he is a Ricebird.

Matt and his wife, Heather Glaze, have two young children. He is a board member of the Mid-Coast Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association. When free time is available, he spends his time on the water chasing speckled trout and redfish or in the woods at his family ranch hunting deer and hogs.

Matt believes education is the gateway to success, and some of the most important things are learned outside the classroom. He lives by personal goals: “learn something new every day” and “live every day like it’s your last”.

Victoria Business and Education Coalition Logo

Advisory Directors

Dr. Susanne Carroll

Rhonda Fotiades

David Paul McLarry

Henry Guajardo

Dr. Margaret H. Rice

Roger Fleming Welder

Dr. Fred Litton

Staff Members

Lanell Mantey (Executive Director)

Peter McNally (Program Director)

Allen T. Coffey (AmeriCorps VISTA – Public Relations Specialist)