Meet the Corps

The Southern California College Advising Corps is pleased to introduce our team for the 2015-2016 academic year:

  • Program Manager, Ara Arzumanian
  • Program Coordinator, Benjamin Robles
  • 22 College Advisers


Some of our exceptional advisers have completed their two-year term and we would like to offer them for your hiring consideration. Please see our 2014-16 Profile Book for HR Professionals.

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 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.


Benjamin Robles (B.A., University of California, Los Angeles) is the program coordinator for the Southern California College Advising Corps for the USC Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice.

Most recently, Benjamin managed outreach efforts for a nonprofit serving minority communities within South Los Angeles. As head of community engagement, he implemented a community partnership strategy to recruit and train school and library personnel within the greater Los Angeles area interested in implementing new science education curriculum with underserved and underrepresented children.

Benjamin also leads a volunteer team of veterans, active duty service members, guardsmen and reservists. United by the common bond of military service, this group offers people the opportunity to make an impact in their community.

As a native of Los Angeles, a veteran, and a first generation college graduate, Benjamin enjoys working within culturally diverse and multidisciplinary teams that are committed to making a positive impact locally, and nationally. Service has always been important factor in Benjamin’s life, and he is very excited to join the Southern California College Advising Corps.

College Advisers are placed at 16 schools across Los Angeles, Long Beach and Garden Grove Unified School Districts.

Ayrn Alex

Aryn Alex placed at Wilson Classical High School, LBUSD.  (B.A., University of California, Riverside) is from Rancho Cucamonga and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Art in Psychology. Aryn aspires to one day work in higher education to increase the recruitment and retention of minority students in college. She became a college adviser in order to assist underrepresented and first generation students in pursuing the best path for them on their road to higher education. She is extremely excited about working with the Southern California College Advising Corps and looks forward to assisting students with the college application process.

Shantel Brodhead placed at David Starr Jordan High School, LBUSD. (B.A., University at Albany, New York) is a returning, second year adviser who received her bachelor’s degree in English and communications, spring 2014, from the University at Albany, New York. A month after graduation, she relocated to California where she began working with the newly expanded Southern California College Advising Corps.

After completing one year with the corps, Shantel had the opportunity to be a key resource in making college a reality for a predominantly first-generation college, low-income, underrepresented high school in Long Beach. Her greatest stories are not what she was able to teach the students about themselves and their abilities, but instead what they have taught her.

She continuously praises the Long Beach Unified School District and the David Starr Jordan high school community for welcoming her with open arms and allowing her to be a part of the school’s family; she couldn’t imagine being placed anywhere else.

In the coming year, Shantel plans on pursuing a Masters in the communication field. She hopes to continue giving back to the youth/community no matter where life takes her. The experience the Corps has afforded her is something she will always remember and carry with her forever.

Bryan Coreas placed at Santee Education Complex, LAUSD. (B.A., Mathematics, Pomona College) is a native of La Puente, California and a proud graduate of Bassett High School. While studying at Pomona College, Bryan coordinated various education outreach initiatives including Pomona Partners, a program aimed at connecting 7th and 8th graders to the prospect of college, the arts and current events. Always looking for new challenges, Bryan played the role of both mentor and actor as a part of Theatre for Young Audiences, an ever-growing transformative theatre program for middle and high school students at Fremont Academy.

After graduating with a B.A. in Mathematics, Bryan returned to Pomona College as the inaugural Post-Baccalaureate Fellow for Education Outreach at the Draper Center, gearing students in the Pomona College Academy for Youth Success to some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the nation. Bryan’s role as a college advisor allowed him to personalize the application process to meet the needs of students and their families. His passion for education stems from his goal to see communities become proud of their heritage and seek empowerment though each new achievement.


Pilar Dawson placed at Garden Grove High School, GGUSD. (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 placed at Jefferson High School, LAUSD. (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.

Victor Estrada placed at Roosevelt High School, LAUSD. (B.A., University of California, Irvine; M.A., University of San Francisco) is a native of East Los Angeles. Majoring in history, he began to reflect on his high school and college days where he grew to truly appreciate those people who helped him and students like him achieve their dreams of going to college. He decided to focus his future on education, and received his master’s degree in International and Multicultural Education from the University of San Francisco. While in the Bay Area, he worked for College Track San Francisco tutoring and helping some of the city’s young students get to college. Victor is very excited to join the Southern California College Advising Corps and hopes that his future career will allow him to serve similar students from underrepresented and underserved areas get to college or achieve greater success once in college.

Fairooz Faggouseh placed at Robert A. Millikan High School, LBUSD. (B.A., University of California, Santa Cruz) was blessed to receive a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from UC Santa Cruz in 2013. She grew up in Anaheim, CA as a daughter of Palestinian immigrants and is proud of her culture and roots. The passion for social justice and educational equity stemmed from growing to better understand her identity as a first-generation college-going person of color during her time at the university. She excelled in her dedication to volunteering to help organize with youth and students of color at a non-profit social justice oriented outreach & retention center on her campus. Since then, her love for working towards making a positive change in the lives of others has only grown and blossomed through diverse experiences working in schools and education based non-profits. She eventually hopes to return to graduate school with plans to attain her Masters and PhD in the field of counseling and community mental health. The opportunity to serve with youth once again in helping them attain their dreams through higher education is an honor and she looks forward to a rewarding year.

Dennis Funes placed at Robert A. Millikan High School, LBUSD. (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.

Omar Hernandez Omar Ivan Hernandez placed at Santiago High School, GGUSD. (B.S. California State University, Fullerton) was born in Guerrero, Mexico but raised in Garden Grove, CA since the age of one. He graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Services and is a DREAMER. His passion to advocate for higher education comes from the new opportunities and endeavors that became viable through the pursuit of his own professional career. Thanks to his supportive high school counselor and teachers who always believed in him, he avoided becoming a statistic of Latino males that do not attain a secondary education. He recently studied abroad in Vieques, Puerto Rico to better understand the low enrollment of higher education. This experience only reinforced Omar that his dream career is to one day be an academic guidance counselor at his local school district of Garden Grove. He wants to give back to his community by providing the resources and motivation needed to help students believe that anyone from any background can attain a college education. He wants to plant a growth mindset in students so they too can believe that college can be a reality. Omar is very excited to be a part of the Southern California Advising Corps at his former alma mater.

Mariah M. Kelly placed at Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo High School, LBUSD. (B.S., San Diego State University) is no stranger to the Long Beach Unified School District as a 2010 graduate of LB Wilson Classical High School. Mariah is elated to return to Long Beach as she believes that she would have never understood the process for applying to higher education without the guidance and assistance of near-peer counselors and now want to assist current students in the same way. She is very passionate about providing access pathways to college for students, especially those from low-income and minority backgrounds.

Mariah is currently a master of science candidate at the USC Marshall School of Business She attributes much of who she is today, both personally and professionally, to her time spent at San Diego State University where she was highly involved on campus. She expressed that two of her leadership roles proved to be most formative to her, student body government Vice President of Financial Affairs and President of the Afrikan Student Union, because she was able to make the largest impact in her campus community. She is very excited to now be in a role to help students realize their power and potential for success.

Cynthia Le placed at Lakewood High School, LBUSD. (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 week-long 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 placed at Rancho Dominguez Prepatory School, LAUSD. (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 placed at Esteban E. Torres High School, LAUSD. (B.A., University of California Santa Cruz) is a first generation immigrant student from Jalisco, Mexico. She grew up in East Los Angeles. 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.


Lila Mendoza placed at Diego Rivera Learning Complex, LAUSD. (B.A., Pitzer College) is a first-generation Pitzer College graduate who was born and raised in South Los Angeles. Having had an outstanding support and mentoring system throughout her educational trajectory, she has always shared a great passion for education. During her time at Pitzer Lila mentored, tutored, and taught students in K-12. Upon graduating she received a Fulbright to teach English in South Korea for a year. There, she lived with a Korean family and worked at an all-girls high school. As much as she enjoyed her time in Korea, she knew she wanted to become involved in education back home. She most recently worked with Motivating Our Students Through Experience (MOSTe), the college access and mentoring program that exposed her to Pitzer among other schools. Lila truly believes in the power of education and that it should be accessible to all individuals. She looks forward to working in her community, sharing her experiences and guiding students through their college application process.

Dajanae Palmer placed at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, LBUSD. (B.A. San Diego State University) is a graduate of San Diego State University majoring in psychology. While at SDSU she was able to take advantage of so many opportunities. Dajanae was able to study abroad twice during her time at SDSU, traveling to Oxford, London, Paris, and Kingston. Not only was study abroad a major experience for her she was also a mentor for the Harambee program. The program was focused on mentoring the first time freshmen African American students attending SDSU. She was able to give the freshmen a sense of guidance and family during their fist-year experience. After this involvement she realized that she wants to work in higher education and help students navigate their time at university to become as successful as possible. She is enrolled in the Postsecondary Education and Student Affairs program at USC.  She is very excited to start working with the College Advising Corps at USC, and is ready to help students achieve their higher educational goals.


Mitzi Rosales placed at David Starr Jordan High School, LBUSD. (B.A., California State University, Long Beach) grew up in the city of South Gate, CA. She is a psychology graduate of California State University, Long Beach. She is the first person in her family to go to college and is passionate about sharing her gained experience and knowledge with first generation, low-income, and underrepresented high school students. While at CSULB, Mitzi worked as a residential assistant for the Educational Opportunity’s Summer Bridge Program, as a college counselor for the University Outreach School Relations Department, and as a volunteer for the Latina Connection Conference. Through these jobs, she assisted students transition from high school to college, advised students how to successfully navigate through their college career, and helped promote a conference in order for Latina students to empower one another. Mitzi is very excited to be a part of the Southern California College Advising Corps and looks forward to helping students take the next step in their life.

Tori Saruwatari placed at Lakewood High School, LBUSD. (B.A. University of California, San Diego) is a first generation college student from South San Gabriel, CA. After graduating from high school, she attended Rio Hondo Community College where she found an interest in the studies of sociology and education. She then transferred to UC San Diego in 2013, where she continued her studies in Sociology and was able to further develop her passion within the field of education. She briefly worked at the Preuss Charter School where she served as the Student Services Intern and she also interned at a community center on campus known as SPACES (Student Promoted Access Center for Education and Service). A student initiated space which provides access and retention programs for historically underrepresented and underserved students.

Tori is so excited for this opportunity to work with the Southern California College Advising Corps providing students with better access to higher education.

Lilianne Tang placed at Wilson Classical High School, LBUSD. (B.A., University of California, San Diego) is an avid supporter of educational equity. Having double majored in political science and sociology: social inequalities at UCSD, she learned of the bureaucratic ins and outs of systems and structures in place and how these very same systems reproduce inequality for communities of color. Through her work as a tutor, a mentor, and a grassroots organizer, she became passionate about making higher education accessible and affordable for all students from diverse communities. As a low-income and first generation child of Southeast Asian refugees, she recognizes the challenges that communities of color face in the education system and actively seeks to foster social consciousness in education and in access to education. She hopes to empower students to become agents of social change in their own communities as well. Lilianne is incredibly excited for the personal and professional growth she will receive with the Southern California College Advising Corps.

Reyna Valenzuela placed at Bell High School, LAUSD. (B.A., University of California Santa Cruz) is a graduate from the University of California Santa Cruz who grew up in East Los Angeles. 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 placed at Los Amigos High School, GGUSD. (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, and is now currently pursuing his master of education in postsecondary administration and student affairs (PASA) at USC. Davis is an advocate of continuous learning and growth, and believes that everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, deserves the opportunity to achieve. 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 foster equitable educational outcomes for the students from his hometown.