OUR TEAM

Board of Directors

Alfred Anthony Annunziato (Tony)

Founder

Since 2007, Mr. Annunziato has been a board member of Texas Aspires (formerly Texas Institute for Education Reform ‘TIER”) a non-profit organization that advocates for education policies that focus on students first. 

 Tony is President of the Annunziato Family Foundation, which is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization and includes a Scholarship Fund to assist students/families with college tuition, etc. Currently, he is trying to find young people with potential, but are disadvantaged because of circumstances, and help them become exceptional productive adults. 

Mr. Annunziato believes economic opportunities will continue to be abundant for those who know how to position themselves for access and therefore success. As so many of these skills are not taught in schools, he would like to show those young people what is necessary to give them greater access to long term financial and emotional success.

Background:

Tony Annunziato is Sole Member of Annunziato Holdings, a privately held company which was formed in March 2015 as a vehicle to trade and invest personal funds. He founded AAA Capital Management in 1997 wherein energy futures were traded on a private platform for Citigroup / Smith Barney as a Commodity Trading Advisor, where he served

as President and co-owner until his retirement at the end of 2014. In the year 2005 AAA Capital reached a billion dollars under management. He was a member of the NYMEX until his retirement in 2015. 

Mr. Annunziato has over 40 years of experience in the commodity trading business beginning in the early 70’s with the Chicago Board of Trade. He then moved on to Citigroup/Smith Barney and its predecessors supplying energy futures services to a wide range of commercial traders and individual commodity accounts. He retired from Smith Barney in 2005 to focus on his AAA Capital Advisors business. 

Tony is a board member for EIV Capital which he co-founded in 2009; EIV is a private equity firm based in Houston, Texas, specializing in the energy industry. EIV focuses on the midstream and downstream segments of the market. EIV Capital is an investor-centric private equity firm, with diverse team experience. 

He was born in Buffalo, New York in 1948, and attended St. Bonaventure University graduating in 1971 with a BS in Business Management. Mr. Annunziato has three grown sons. 

His hobbies include dinners with family and friends, reunions with his siblings, playing golf and attending Astros games.

Rick Gornto

Founder

Rick Gornto, CFP is President of First Financial, INC., an investment management company that manages investments for county governments. He is nationally recognized for his development , implementation and management of the ALTERNATE PLAN, sometimes called the Galveston Plan, which has had a 38 year record as successful privatized alternative to Social Security.

Additionally, he has been managing partner of DRDA, LLC, a midsize CPA firm and he was co leader of the consulting service division with one of his partners specializing in M&A activity, tax strategies, retirement planning and executive assessment. He sold his interest in DRDA in March 1, 2015 and is now chair of the two founding Houston groups of Tiger 21. He is also a past member of the Tiger 21 New York City group.

Since college at University of Louisiana Lafayette he has continued his education and received certifications in financial planning, business value building, retirement planning, Birkman Assessments, and personal coaching as well as licenses in Insurance Counseling, P&C insurance, life insurance, securities, and real estate.

He has a passion for helping people develop both personally and professionally and to that end he mentors and works with at-risk and abused children through Communities in Schools – Bay Area a non-profit organization.

He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of HCA Clear Lake Regional Hospital, Special Spaces, LLC. For terminally ill children, and Emertis Board member of Communities in Schools – Bay Area for at-risk children. His past boards include Alvin National Bank, Alvin Community College, the Nolan Ryan Foundation and Houston Child Advocates for abused children.

He has been married to Janice since 1971 and is an avid “Poppy” to his five grandchildren.

Hobbies are reading and research of Hebrew and Christian history, family trips, philanthropy, golf, hunting, fishing, skiing and scuba diving.

Marc Levine

Board Member

Marc Levine is an advocate and philanthropist committed to fighting antisemitism through involvement with leading nonprofits and initiatives that promote Jewish advocacy, support American-Israel relations and strive to contain extremism that target all civilized people. He currently serves on the boards of directors for The Clarion Project, Higher Up Texas and the southwest regional boards of the American Jewish Committee and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Additionally, he is Chairman of the Board of Traction Specialists and was recently appointed as a trustee for the University of Houston Moores School of Music.


Marc is also a plastic resins industry expert with more than 50 years of experience. In 1981, he founded Plantgistix, the

premier provider of handling plastic resin, where he served as CEO. Marc recently sold the company to A&R Logistics and currently serves in a consultancy role with them. As a plastics industry leader, he has represented the Society of Plastics Industry (SPI) in testifying to the U.S. Congress and Presidential Inquiry Panel. He also received recognition from the Small Business Council of America as the National Small Businessperson of the Year in 2009 and the Houston Business Journal Award for Innovative Practices.


Marc lives in Houston, Texas and has three grown children, Shelley, Ami and Ben, and five grandchildren, Alex, Elliot,

Olivia, Riley and Jaden. In addition to his commitment to non-profits, his hobbies include photography, cinematography, guitar, piano and golf.

Hillary Gramm

Executive Director

Hillary Gramm has been empowering youth for past 13 years through her work in the non-profit sector. Growing up, Hillary experienced home life issues, which inspired her to delve into the issues children face that may hinder their chances of success. She works towards achieving her goal of assisting youth in breaking the cycle both professionally and voluntarily through her role in community organizations.

Originally from Chicago, Hillary came to Houston after graduating from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing. She managed the Bay Area Branch of Big Brother Big Sisters of Greater Houston where she matched youth with adult role models for the mentor program. Hillary, inspired by the program became a volunteer mentor herself and continues to serve as a Big Sister to Emily.

Hillary’s desire to do more to help stabilize the lives of children in need led her to a 10-year career at Communities In Schools – Bay Area. She worked directly with students in Clear Creek ISD for 5 years before transitioning to the Resource Development Director role where over her tenure, she helped raise over $1M. Also, during this time, Hillary received her Master of Arts from University of Houston – Clear Lake in Cross Cultural Studies.


When the opportunity arose to help develop and implement the HIGHER Up Texas program, Hillary knew this was the next step in her life-long goal of positively impacting the life trajectory of children. She is eager and excited to be on this journey to kick start the program during its pilot year at Dickinson High School. 


Hillary has received the Houston Business Journal’s 2015 40 Under 40 honor as well as the Galveston Daily News 2019 40 Under 40 honor. She never takes a day for granted and serves in any way she can to brighten the days of others. 

  

Amy Berger

HUT CTE Program Facilitator

Amy Berger is a certified Texas Teacher and has been a Career and Technology teacher at Dickinson High School for 12 years. During her time at DHS, she has taught a variety of subjects from textiles, nutrition and human development but the highlight of her time at Dickinson was starting and growing the district’s Ready, Set, Teach program.

As a graduate of Blinn College and Sam Houston State University, she has also spent time working in various development capacities at Texas A&M University and the University of Houston – Clear Lake.

Amy is also an entrepreneur and started her own business called Creatively Yours Design Studio. Amy is the mother of three teens, has been married to Doug for 5 years, and values family above all else.

Kim Williamson

HUT Virtual Program Facilitator

Kim Williamson is a certified Texas Teacher who taught for 12 years, including 10 years teaching at Dickinson High School.  While at Dickinson High School, Kim was an instructor for numerous courses, including Principles of Business, Entrepreneurship, Sports and Entertainment Marketing, and eventually became the AVID teacher at Dickinson High School.  AVID is a college preparation class that teaches critical thinking, organization, collaboration, reading and writing skills and guides students through the process of enrolling and succeeding in college.  Kim was the AVID Site Coordinator for 5 years while at Dickinson ISD and on the Campus and District Improvement Committees.   

While AVID teacher at Dickinson High School, Kim helped double the enrollment of students participating in the AVID program.  Dozens of Kim’s students ended up accepted into four-year colleges, including 100% of the AVID class of

2019.  Kim’s experience with her community includes being the team captain for her students for Relay for Life and raising thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society, purchasing gifts for Jio’s Footprints – an entity who

gives Christmas gifts to hospitalized children at Christmas time, starting a “senior prom” for assisted living facilities, and making blankets for burn unit patients at Shiner Hospital.  

Kim was raised in Corpus Christi, TX and graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from McMurry University in Abilene, TX.  

Kim is married to Shawn Williamson, and they have two children.  Kim’s hobbies include trying new coffee shops, photography, and travelling.

Robyn Reichle

HUT Media Manager

Robyn Reichle has a diverse background and experience in telecommunications. She is currently a Communications Major at The University of Houston Clear-Lake.

Her background includes working in radio with a concentrated discipline in Audio Engineering: Music Recording. She has always had a passion for people, and to be able to channel her abilities of utilizing social media and creating engaging audio and visual content through that passion, she is beyond elated to be a part of an amazing organization such as Higher Up Texas.

Higher Up Texas have always mirrored the same values Robyn shares, and values she continues to achieve everyday. She cares about this young generation because they are the ones who are going to blaze the future for everyone that comes after them.

Robyn shares that she is honored to be a part of the Higher Up Texas family, and cannot wait to see what we will achieve (and the lives that will be changed) when everyone works together!


Robyn is also an alumni of Dickinson High School and had previously served as the HUT Social Media and Communications Intern.