Meet the Corps
The Southern California College Advising Corps is pleased to introduce our Program Manager, Ara Arzumanian, and our College Advisers for the 2014-2015 academic year.
Ara Arzumanian (B.A., University of California Irvine) is the program manager of the Southern California College Advising Corps for the USC Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice. Mr. Arzumanian comes to USC from Proyecto Pastoral where he oversaw three youth programs and the development of a new mentoring program in Boyle Heights.
Prior to Proyecto Pastoral, Ara was the Vice President of Programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles overseeing several programs and managing mentoring for over 1,500 matches. He developed a new corporate partnership model with Union Bank winning the National Rising Star Award.
Before joining Big Brothers Big Sisters, Ara had been tapped by the international non-profit, Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) to direct the Generation Next Mentorship Program (GenNext). As the director of GenNext, Ara assembled the team that grew the program five times in size and increased its services to students with the award of a prestigious US Department of Education Grant. During his tenure at GenNext, Ara served as the chair of the Glendale Healthy Start Collaborative and sat on Glendale Unified School District’s Student Attendance Review Board and the violence prevention committees of five schools.
It was his experience as a youth outreach worker with the City of Glendale’s Youth Outreach Program that brought Ara to AGBU’s attention. He was a member of the three-person team that developed it from the ground up, providing intensive case management to students facing high risk factors. Specializing in violence intervention/prevention, direct street outreach, runaway recovery and cross-cultural peace-making, Ara and the team worked with over 1,800 students in five years.
Due to his experience and expertise in the field of youth development, he has been invited to guest lecture at USC, CSUN and CSULA on youth development and issues facing at-risk youth. Ara earned a Bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of California, Irvine. A long time student of martial arts he has also achieved a black sash in Ying Jow Pai Kung Fu.
College Advisers will be placed at 16 schools across Los Angeles, Long Beach and Garden Grove Unified School Districts.
Magda Alejandra Arguelles (B.A., University of California Davis) is a graduate of UC Davis who grew up in Pasadena and later moved to Corona where she attended Corona High School. While at UCD, she worked as a Resident Advisor for Student Housing and later as a Peer Advising Counselor for the Educational Opportunity Program. It was as a Peer Advisor working with first generation, low-income, minority students where she realized her passion for being a resource for students as well as providing much-needed academic and personal support. Following graduation, she worked for the City of Riverside Parks and Recreation and is now excited to be back working with students for the purposes of assisting their higher education endeavors. She plans on applying to graduate school in the Fall to fulfill her long term goals of working in Higher Education. Alejandra is thrilled to be working for the Southern California College Advising Corp.
Shantel Brodhead (B.A., University at Albany, New York) is a product of the very successful EOP program of the University at Albany, New York. The second child of six, Shantel was inspired by her older sister to pursue higher education, which she did majoring in English and Communications and acting as a “real” model for her four younger siblings, who are all currently enrolled in college
She looks forward to building relationships and sharing her college experience, in hopes that her story sparks the minds of the students she will be working with. An athlete scholar, Shantel has played basketball since her early youth and coaches a camp every summer in her hometown of Kingston, New York.
Shantel feels blessed and honored to have received the opportunity to join the Southern California College Advising Corps and is ready and willing to be a key player in the success of the growing corps.
Dennis Funes (B.A., University of California, Santa Barbara) is a graduate of UCSB who grew up in South Gate, CA. His interest in counseling and education began during his adolescent years when he became a high school peer counselor. He continued this passion for education at UCSB where he majored in Sociology and Chicano Studies and minored in Education. Seeing a need to address language barriers amongst Latino families, he became a teaching assistant for an ESL class, where he taught beginning English skills to Spanish speaking mothers. Furthermore, Dennis became a research assistant for the UCSB School of Education, where he studied family relationships as it pertains to topics of education and sexuality. Upon graduation, Dennis became a Supplemental Educational Services (SES) Provider through Total Education Solutions and tutored numerous students with exceptional needs. As a member of SCCAC, Dennis is thrilled to use his experiences to help students overcome their own educational obstacles.
Pilar Dawson (B.A., Mills College) received her B.A. in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Mills College in Oakland, California. While at Mills, Pilar, observing her environment in Oakland, decided she needed to help improve the lives of at-risk youth in her community. In 2008 she began working with an organization on campus called Mills Educational Talent Search. As a Peer Advisor with the organization she provided information and resources involving the college application process to high school students.
In 2010 as an undergraduate, Pilar also volunteered with Peer Health Exchange, where as a Leadership Council member she was responsible for teaching health workshops in local inner-city high schools that could not afford health programs. She prepared her team of volunteers for in-class instruction and maintained positive relationships with the schools, students, and community.
In 2011 she became the College Counseling and Computer Lab Assistant at Convent of the Sacred Heart High School in San Francisco where she supported students in navigating the college application process and guiding them in drafting and editing personal statements, supplements, scholarship matching, and enrollment in college. Pilar plans to catalyze societal growth by helping teens actualize their life goals and aspirations through the Southern California College Advising Corps.
Jennifer J. Escalante (B.A., California State University, Northridge) is a graduate of CSUN majoring in Sociology with an emphasis in Criminology and Criminal Justice for the purpose of helping at-risk youth achieve success. Before coming to USC, Jennifer served in the Office of Scholarships & Financial Aid at Pasadena City College where she provided diverse students with financial aid information regarding FAFSA procedures, federal and state law regulations, eligibility criteria and satisfactory academic progress. Currently a graduate student in the USC Masters of Social Work program, she plans to provide student support services and to help improve schools and communities. She is excited to help underrepresented students with their journey towards higher education through the Southern California College Advising Corps.
Cynthia Le (B.A., University of California, Irvine) was born and raised in El Monte, California. She is a Women’s Studies graduate of UCI who is passionate about social justice and education and supports greater access and affordability of higher education. While at UCI, Cynthia worked at UCI’s Cross-Cultural Center as an Alternative Break Coordinator and organized weeklong community service programs in which students engaged with different communities to learn more about the issues that impact them. She also served as a Global Connect Intern and taught global studies to 9th grade Orange County high school students. Cynthia is excited to be a part of the Southern California College Advising Corps and to help students on their paths to college.
Tilo Lopez (B.A., University of California, Berkeley) is a recent Phi Alpha Theta honors society graduate of UC Berkeley majoring in History. Born to a single mother, he was raised in Inglewood, CA and is the first and oldest in his family to earn a college degree. He is an advocate of higher education and personal development. An entertainer and musician at heart, he professionally develops methods to engage students in questioning their personal ambitions while encouraging their intellectual curiosity. He is a firm believer that access to higher education should be attainable for all students. Tilo is thrilled to be part of our greater mission to assist students in Los Angeles achieve their goals by providing a reservoir of expertise and knowledge. He wishes to join the long line of mentors and key figures that played a central role in his personal journey to higher education.
Carmen Macias (B.A., University of California Santa Cruz) is a first generation immigrant student from Jalisco, Mexico. She grew up in East Los Angeles, CA.. After high school she enrolled at East Los Angeles College (ELAC) because of her AB-540 status. At ELAC, Carmen became involved with Students for Equal Rights to advocate for undocumented students, like herself. When she transferred to UCSC in 2010, Carmen continued her advocacy for undocumented students as AB-540 Caucus Coordinator and as a member of Students Informing Now. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Education in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs at the University of Southern California. Carmen is passionate about promoting higher education in first generation low-income communities.
Sarah Promnitz (M.A., United States History, UCLA) is a native of Colton, CA. As a first-generation college student, Sarah opted to stay local for her college education and graduated from California State University San Bernardino in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in United States History. Sarah then attended the University of California, Los Angeles and earned a Master’s degree in United States History in 2012. As a committed community advocate, Sarah most recently completed a year of service with AmeriCorps VISTA, where she worked to provide equitable access to college information in underserved high schools throughout Pasadena. As a member of the Southern California College Advising Corps, Sarah is eager to promote her passion for educational equality and to assist students in their pursuit of higher education.
Dylan Purdy (B.A., University of Southern California) is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California. Dylan grew up in Crete, IL, a small suburb of Chicago, graduating in 2010 from Crete-Monee High School. Driven to make big changes and take big chances, Dylan moved to Los Angeles to attend USC in August of 2010, one of only four students from his school to attend USC. During his time at USC, Dylan served as both an Orientation Adviser welcoming new students to the university, and a Resident Assistant guiding first-year students through their exciting transition into college life. Additionally, he volunteered with USC Troy Camp, a program dedicated to mentoring youth throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District. Through these experiences, Dylan has developed a passion for acting as a mentor, role model, and guide to students of all ages in their educational and social endeavors. Dylan is very excited to continue these efforts through his service with the Southern California College Advising Corps.
Max Reza (B.S., University of Southern California) is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California where he studied at the Price School of Public Policy. Currently a graduate student in the USC Rossier Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs program, Max aspires to one day work in higher education so that he can help increase college access for minority and first generation students. He graduated from Cypress High School (’09) and became a college adviser to assist local high school students identify colleges that fit them both academically and socially. Max is very excited to be a part of the Southern California College Advising Corps and looks forward to helping high school students navigate through the college admissions process.
Erick Sanzon (B.A., Loyola Marymount University) is a recent graduate of LMU who grew up in Baldwin Park, CA. He spent two years at Citrus College and was involved in numerous student life organizations. Erick also presented research at UC Irvine and Stanford University while at Citrus College. He transferred to California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), after his sophomore year and was an ambassador for the school at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) conference in 2011. While at CSUF, Erick received a rare opportunity to attend LMU on a full-scholarship as a rising junior. At LMU, Erick was part of the First To Go (FTG) program and served as a co-facilitator for the First-Year Seminar course for first-generation college students. He also served as Vice President of Corporate Relations for the Latino Business Student Association (LBSA) and participated in numerous activities that served Latinos/Hispanics.
Erick is a first-generation college graduate and hopes to pursue a career in higher education. He is excited to be a College Adviser for the Southern California College Advising Corps and wants to be a useful resource for high school students in multiple capacities.
Briana Smith (B.A., University of California, Riverside) is a recent graduate of the University of California, Riverside. Briana Smith became aware of her passion for education during high school while attending Palisades Charter High as a member of the Magnet Program. Briana served as the Secretary and ultimately the President of the Black Student Union during her freshman and sophomore years at Marymount College. While holding these leadership positions, Briana worked to promote the importance of being active in college academically and socially and also increased awareness of higher education by volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles. After transferring to the University of California, Riverside, Briana worked with students as a mentor for the POLISH and Fades 4 Grades program based in South Los Angeles Inner City Education Foundation schools. Briana is an advocate for equal access to education and equal quality of education. Based on these values she plans on assisting in closing the achievement gap, increasing diversity in higher education, and making the college dream possible for underprivileged youth. Briana is excited to begin her career in education with the Southern California College Advising Corps and hopes to serve in betterment of students holistically.
Reyna Valenzuela (B.A., University of California Santa Cruz) is a graduate from the University of California Santa Cruz who grew up in East Los Angeles, CA. Reyna majored in Latin American and Latino studies (LALS) and minored in Education. She is continuing her academic career in the Master of Social Work program at USC. She has worked for Santa Cruz County Community Coalition to Overcome Racism (SCCCCOR), researching the role of systematic oppression within the local community. As part of the College Advising Corps, Reyna hopes to inspire students to further their educational and professional goals, by emphasizing themes of social justice and empowering historically marginalized communities.
Davis Vo (B.A., University of California, Santa Barbara) is a graduate of UCSB who grew up in Garden Grove, CA. Following graduation, he conducted behavioral sciences research at Carnegie Mellon University and Northwestern University. Davis is an advocate of continuous learning and growth, and believes that everyone, regardless of socio-economic status, deserves the opportunity to achieve. It was these values that motivated him to begin spending time at the Tiger Woods Learning Center, where he connected with students through career orientation/exploration programs and academic support. As a part of the College Advising Corps, Davis is ecstatic to be a resource for students and educators at Los Amigos High School, and hopes to improve the college outcomes for the students from his hometown.