About Us

Cynthia Smith, Founder and Executive Director of Sparks for Success!

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Arriving by limo for a Sparks for Success! performance.

Cynthia founded Sparks for Success! in 2016 after serving for three years as the Texas branch Director for an out of state organization, also serving children of inmates. To have a lasting impact on ending inter-generational incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline, we saw the need to reach our students at an early age. This ignited the spark that has become Sparks for Success!

Cynthia holds a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance and a Master of Business Administration. She has studied piano at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, the University of Delaware, the Mozarteum Sommerakademie in Salzburg, and The University of Texas at Austin, and studied business administration at St. Edward’s University (Austin).

For more than 40 years, Cynthia’s teaching career has encompassed private piano lessons, class theory, and general music classes. She has also directed children’s choirs throughout that time. Her experience includes working with children in early childhood development skills through music. On the business side, Cynthia was the Director of Administration and Operations for 19 years for the RGK Foundation. Throughout the years she has served on several boards and has been active as a volunteer in her community.

Psalm 90:17 NASB

Jim Ebbitt, President

Jim Ebbitt was Senior Vice President for Life and Health Care Products. Prior to joining Answer Financial, Ebbitt served as Executive Vice President of Developmental Markets of United Healthcare in Minneapolis where he built a national channel alliance strategy and partnerships with major companies such as American Express. Ebbitt also served as President of United Healthcare-Individual Business, and managed the Individual Business Unit for Blue Cross of California at Wellpoint Health Networks, Inc. Prior to Wellpoint, he directed Health Care operations in North and South Carolina for The Prudential Insurance Co. of America. Ebbitt attended the University of Minnesota, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.

Cynthia Smith, Secretary

Roshini Patrick, Treasurer

Roshini Patrick started her charitable activity in 2005 when hurricane Katrina visited Texas. Simply supporting charities financially was no longer an option and she was actively looking for a local charity to volunteer her time and get to know the inner workings of a charitable organization. In 2013 she happened to cross paths with Cynthia Smith to help support the work of changing the trajectory of children of inmates. Roshini joined the board of Sparks for Success! to focus on our own backyard here in Texas.

Roshini Patrick has spent the last 20 years in the accounting field in corporate environments, working for both small and large corporations. She received her Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Finance in Australia and earned her Certified Management Accountant designation here in Texas.

Larry Steele, Board Member

Larry Steele is a retired US Air Force Senior Master Sergeant who spent 22 years as a Weather Observer, Weather Forecaster, and Weather Superintendent.  After retiring from the Air Force Larry launched a second career in the Information Systems arena, serving as a Tech Writer, Programmer, Operational and Computer Auditor, and Security and Disaster Recovery VP.  Larry earned his BS in Business Administration and Management from the University of Maryland while in the Air Force.  He earned his AA in Computer Programming Technology from Metro Tech of Omaha after his discharge. Larry spent many years as a programmer, an operational and computer auditor as well as a disaster recovery professional.

After retiring from VISA in 2007, Larry entered the volunteer community by joining the Austin Disaster Relief Network (ADRN). He immediately became a Core Team member and a grant writer. Larry has been deployed a number of times to help the survivors of floods, fires, tornadoes, and plant explosions.  Larry is on the ADRN Advisory Board.

He has served as President and board member of several non-profit organizations.

Noah Crider, Board Member

Noah Crider is a graduate of Texas State University and a lover of all things Austin. He is a Business Advisor with Insperity, working with business owners to create better lives for them and their employees. Noah’s main goal, both in the long- and short-term is to always be helping people. He does this at work, through community service, by sharing his faith, and even by just being a good friend.

Noah and his wife, Lauren, enjoy living a balanced and healthy life centered on faith and family. At any time you can find them hiking, camping, playing sports, or just enjoying time with their two rescue dogs, Cooper and Indie.

Bianca Neal, Board Member

Bianca Neal is a music industry executive with over 15 years in the field of arts, entertainment, entrepreneurship and multi-media production experience, as well as a portfolio of varied accomplishments including education initiatives, community public art and successful cultural arts project management. She is committed to advancing equity in the arts and cultural spaces.

As a teaching artist, she hosts workshops throughout the country through H.O.P.E.F.U.L. Art (Helping Other People Experience Fulfilling Unlimited Lives). In this capacity, she curated and facilitated the exhibition of 30+ incarcerated artists. Bianca has illustrated 10 children’s books, has been featured in the notable E.A.S.T. exhibition (5 years+) and is an award winning filmmaker. Her film credits include the award-winning film Chasing Smoke, and the critically acclaimed film Tower to Tower.

As a media maven, she has also choreographed performances presented at SXSW and Austin City Limits. She has also spoken at SXSWEdu, USC and recently, Harvard University on the Art and Power of Storytelling. She has served as the Lead Juror for the City of Austin (COA) National Arts program, and the COA Cultural Arts Division board for Cultural Funding Program. Bianca received her BA from USC and an M.F.A. from UT Austin.

Kimberly Rigsby, Advisor

Kimberly has worked with disaster relief organizations, national and international pregnancy help centers, sustainability initiatives, and the Texas legislature. She has served nonprofit organizations for 20 years in various leadership roles as: Board Member, Executive Director, Relationship Development Consultant, Program Director, Operations Director, and Volunteer. She has a Master of Public Administration degree from Walden University. Her desire to see all children have access to fresh food led to her thesis on food security. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Liberty University. She has been married to Marc for 24 years and has 4 children and 1 English bulldog.