Meet the Corps
The Southern California College Advising Corps is pleased to introduce our team for the 2017-2018 academic year:
- Program Manager, Ara Arzumanian
- Program Coordinator, Benjamin Robles
- Program Coordinator, Dennis Funes
- Program Coordinator, Sarah Ruderman
- 31 College Advisers
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.
Benjamin Robles (B.A., University of California, Los Angeles) is a 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.
Dennis Funes (B.A., University of California, Santa Barbara) is a program coordinator for the Southern California College Advising Corps for the USC Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice. Dennis 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 Psychology and Sociology 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.
Sarah Ruderman (B.A., University of California, Los Angeles) is a program coordinator for the Southern California College Advising Corps for the USC Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice. She is an Oakland, California native and a graduate of the Oakland public schools. After high school, Sarah moved to Los Angeles where she has lived for the past six years. Sarah attended UCLA and spent four incredible years immersing herself in campus life, studying Sociology and Gender Studies, conducting research and working with student-athletes. Her academic and professional interests center around youth, education and diversity in all capacities. As a student and since earning her bachelor degrees, she has worked in various educational and non-profit settings and would like to pursue a career that allows her to engage with young people on a daily basis. Sarah owes her success to her wonderful family and amazing friends who have motivated and supported her unconditionally. She enjoys spending her free time with these people laughing, discussing, running, practicing yoga, traveling, cooking and trying new restaurants. In both personal and professional life, she seeks out new experiences and strives to engage with her community while building strong, positive relationships with those around her.
College Advisers are placed at 27 schools across Los Angeles, Long Beach and Garden Grove Unified School Districts.
Chidi Agu placed at Polytechnic High School, LBUSD. (B.A., University of California, Santa Barbara). His two years spent at Mount San Antonio College navigating the transfer process with the invaluable help of instructors and college advisers inspired him to get involved in helping students reach college and succeed when they get there. While at Mt. SAC, Chidi served as a writing and English language arts tutor and participated on the national champion forensics team, which informed his analytical approach to social justice issues. Upon transferring, he worked as a Mental Health Peer for UCSB’s Counseling and Psychology Services department, advised the Men of Strength club committed to promoting health masculinity, and served as a student worker in the Women, Gender, and Sexual Equity department. In addition to this, Chidi collaborated with the Black Student Union to support Black students on campus, reached out to high school students and incoming transfers, revamped a publication dedicated to giving a platform to the voice of Black students, and presented on the impacts of discrimination and the importance of diversity and inclusion. Through his work, he seeks to create a more equitable society that is fully invested in the social, economic, and psychological outcomes of all people.
Yvette Aguirre placed at Millikan High School, LBUSD is a second year adviser who received her bachelor’s degree in Politics and Latin American & Latino Studies (B.A., University of California, Santa Cruz). After graduating, she began working as an AmeriCorps Member with City Year Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization that provides support to students who are in danger of dropping out of school. During her time there, she took the initiative to create engaging college-related presentations about the extensive opportunities that an undergraduate education provides. Through this initiative she was awarded a certificate of recognition which displays her belief in the power of young people. As a daughter of Mexican immigrants and a Los Angeles native who grew up in the city of Compton, she recognizes the great need that there is to give back to the community. She is passionate about sharing her personal experience as a first-generation college graduate with young people who will soon become successful leaders of our nation. Outside of Yvette’s role as a College Adviser, she takes pride in being a member of the Belmont Shore Women’s Rugby Club in Long Beach. As she enters her seventh year of playing rugby she has learned how to relate her physical and mental strength to solving real world problems that require great amounts of endurance and perseverance. Her dedication to intentional planning to help students’ reach their goals has led her to become an influential asset to the USC College Advising Corps.
Raquel Alas placed at Cabrillo High School, LBUSD. (B.A., University of California, Berkeley) was born and raised in South LA to immigrant parents. She’s an avid believer that learning is a lifelong process and that every moment and every experience we have is an opportunity to learn something new: about ourselves, about something or someone else. This commitment to learning has given her a wide range of professional, educational, and life experience. At Berkeley, she took advantage of the education abroad program and studied abroad in Russia; she was immersed in a new culture and learned how to better adapt to situations when she was out of my comfort zone, all while improving her Russian language skills. As part of her major, she also had the opportunity to be part of a team at the International Rescue Committee in Oakland that facilitated ESL classes for recently resettled refugees. Upon graduating, these experiences led her to become an English and Math Tutor for students in grades K-12 who were at-risk for not meeting grade level performance standards. Her goal was to serve those communities she had been a part of just years ago. As a college adviser, she wish to inspire the same thirst for knowledge, experience, and personal growth by making post-secondary education – and all of the opportunities it provides – more accessible to underserved communities.
Stacey Badger placed at Garden Grove High School, GGUSD. (B.A. University of Southern California) placed at Garden Grove High School, GGUSD is a first year adviser with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She spent her senior year at USC as an advising intern in the Dornsife Academic Advising Office, as well as her four years volunteering in the Engemann Student Health Center as a Wellness Advocate. Whether she was president of the Women’s Rugby Club at USC, or leading meditation and counseling sessions for her peers at the health center, she was always trying her best to keep people motivated and seeing their best selves. She had more experience with this when she was tutoring underserved elementary schools around USC with the hope of improving reading scores. This showed her that a strong foundation can lead to successful and confident students. Once she graduated, she spent some time as an advising assistant for the Dornsife Advising Office where she was able to help the incoming freshmen decide how they wanted their next four years to look. This is when she knew she enjoyed guiding students to finding their interests. Working with the college students was her favorite part of the advising office, but she wanted to be the person who could guide them before they got to college. Since she was lucky enough to have people in her life who were able to help her receive a higher education, she wanted to be able to do the same for others who may not have the same resources. This is what drew her to towards the Southern California College Advising Corp. She knew she loved guiding students to what their possible futures might be, and the Corp. is going to be the place to let her do it.
Georgina Bernal is a Latina first-generation college graduate. She earned her Bachelor’s of Science degree inSociety and Environment from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to attending UC Berkeley, she attended Rio Hondo Community College for three years. Taking the non-traditional route to college by far has been the best decision she has made in her educational journey. Rio Hondo helped her develop discipline and the necessary skills to succeed at an institution like UC Berkeley. Her parent’s inability to relay knowledge on higher education and information onto to her, molded her into a persistent and curious individual. Seeking mentorship comes naturally to her as she is determined to succeed in both her personal and career goals. The influential role that her mentors have played in her journey, has empowered her to promote change within communities of underrepresented students who may or may not resemble her. Georgina finds it necessary for advocates like herself to bridge the gap between youth and the access to higher education. Collaborating with an educational support system such as SCCAC will further aid her in advocating for low-income and/or first-generation students including their families, by making college a viable option. As a person who comes from a background where college was not a main focus, her education journey has transformed the value she places on creating educational pathways for future generations of youth leaders.
CJ Cabbil placed at Rancho Dominguez, LAUSD. A proud member of the Southern California College Advising Corps. The son of two educators, one who has coached for over 20 years and another who has transitioned to high school counseling, which was played a huge part in wanting to work for USC and the Corps. CJ believe that communities who have been historically underserved deserve our best effort in correcting the past and building a stronger future, whether that is hands on or hands off. That belief has led him to teach English in the Cantogalo favela in Rio de Janeiro and in Cali, Colombia with programs whose purposes are to provide the population with an in-demand skill to help them in the future, whether they choose to use English to work or study. This is the same purpose that brought him to Los Angeles and USC. He wants to play his part in providing college access to students who otherwise might not go. CJ is excited to be here as a part of the Corps and as a new Angelino.
Jennifer D. Cardoza placed at Firebaugh High School, LYUSD. (B.A., University of Southern California) Being a South Central Los Angeles native has definitely influenced the work that she involves herself with. She firmly believes that a neighborhood and high school does not define the value and abilities of a student and should not be the determining factors of whether or not they graduate and go on to college, that is why she has been vigorously involved in serving high schools with underrepresented and underserved students. When she was in high school she was very fortunate to be a part of the USC Upward Bound programs, that is why when the opportunity to server as a residential summer advisor presented itself, she took it in a heartbeat. During and after her time at USC, she involved herself in organizations and groups that shared her same passions and visions. Through these organizations and groups, she has worked as a mentor, college access councilor, youth conference organizer, tutor and English teacher for undocumented students. Her involvement with undocumented students made her realize the scarcity of resources available to them, which is why she started the Daniel R. Jimenez (DRJ) scholarship, to be able to better support them. It is truly a beautiful and heart warming thing when the fruits of her labor have blossomed and the students that she has once worked with are now at various highly prestigious institutions across the nation. She’s beyond excited to work with the Southern California College Advising Corps because the corps is just as dedicated as she is in helping low-income, first-generation students better themselves and their communities by obtaining a college degree.
Rebecca Carreon placed at Dominguez High School, CPUSD. (B.A., University of Southern California) Is returning this year to USC Rossier’s Educational Counseling Program for her graduate studies. She was born and raised in South L.A. Both her parents emigrated from Mexico and did not receive a level of education higher than grade school. Her father worked hard; working long, arduous hours to provide for them. Her mother was a seamstress who met her quota from her personal sewing machine at home so she wouldn’t have to leave the kids alone (paying a babysitter was not in the budget). Despite her lack of education, her mother was determined to instill in her a love for education. It was through her that she learned that education is not a privilege for a select few but an essential human right for all. It wasn’t until later on in high school and through her experiences like volunteering at a preschool in South Central and helping at a grade school in Guatemala, that she realized that this essential human right is not exercised freely and equally across the country and the rest of the world. During her time at USC, she worked with Americorps as a preschool teacher, became the leader of the youth ministry at her church as well the leader for the girls ministry the following year, volunteered in alternative spring break trips in Hawaii and Guatemala, and advised several high seniors during the college application process at her church. She most recently, worked as a bookkeeper at West 27th Place Apartments. Currently, she remain the leader and one of the teachers for the girls ministry at her church. All of these diverse positions have not only given her hands-on experience in working in a classroom setting, they have also taught her valuable lessons on teamwork, leadership, and the value of mentorship. Currently, as mentioned before, she will be studying at USC Rossier while working as a college adviser through the Southern California College Advising Corps, she looks forward to her time as a USC Rossier student and a college adviser. There are many more lessons to be learned.
Kassandra Destiny Casillas placed at Jordan High School, LBUSD. She is a 2nd year college adviser serving at Jordan High School in north Long Beach. She grew up in Inglewood and Santa Ana with a very close-knit family that encouraged her to challenge herself. Destiny attended Amherst College and graduated in 2015 with a double major in psychology and history with a concentration in European History. She attributes her success to her support system and aims to create functional support system others. As a college adviser, she has taken on the role of advocating for and empowering my students to see themselves beyond the borders of the labels that they been given. Destiny will be a full time student in the Educational Counseling Program at USC’s Rossier School of Education in the fall of 2017.
Elisa Castillo (B.A., from California State University, Long Beach) Elisa is a first generation college graduate with a goal in pursuing a profession in Higher Education. She began her academic journey as a community college student. At Long Beach City College, Elisa was an active participant in the EOP&S program. This program provides students of low-income status with further financial assistance and hassle free academic counseling. With the support of her EOP&S mentor, Elisa learned how to navigate community college GED requirements and successfully transferred to CSU, Long Beach (GO BEACH!!!). With the skills that she learned from her mentor, Elisa was able to transfer her knowledge and assist her peers in successfully supporting them along their transfer journeys out of community college, by creating a 2-3 year academic plan that satisfied both GED and transfer requirements. After transferring to CSU, Long Beach, Elisa went on to completing her degree in Anthropology. She believes that her anthropology knowledge will help her succeed as a College Adviser because of the exposure she has had in learning and researching various cultures and subcultures that can be present on high school campuses. On her spare time, Elisa enjoys to read romantic novels, ethnographies, and Cleopatra related biographies. She also enjoy outdoor actives such as hiking and horseback riding.
Hyewon Cho placed at Millikan High School, LBUSD. (B.A., from the University of California, Los Angeles). During her time as an undergraduate student, Hyewon participated in several internships and jobs to raise awareness about higher education and help students with their college applications. She worked with mainly first generation and minority high school students, mostly Korean, to help them overcome the language and cultural barriers and successfully complete their college applications. She has been passionate about the field of education as her previous teachers, mentors, and counselors helped me during my journey trying to learn and work with the education system in the United States. As a member of the SCCAC and a College Advisor, She is thrilled to provide the same resources that helped her change her life and share the experiences with the students.
Emily Coton (B.A., University of California, Irvine) grew up in Lynwood, CA and is a first-generation, low income Latina who received her bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Education Sciences. During her undergraduate career she was a Student Assistant for The Paul Merage School of Business, helping with admissions and students affairs for the Part-Time MBA Programs. She was also involved in outreach and retention programs on campus. She was a Peer Educator for Student Support Services, which assists with the personal, academic, and professional support for low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented college student at UCI. She was also a Mentor for the Anteaters for College Excellence, an organization that introduces low-income high school students to the benefits of attending college. It was with these programs that she grew passionate about having a career in guiding and advising underrepresented students. She wants to share her gained experiences and inform students that obtaining a higher education is possible no matter what background they come from. Upon graduating, she was given the opportunity of becoming a Program Advisor for the Fully Employed MBA Program. Although she enjoyed being an advisor for MBA students, she is ready and excited to refocus on her career goals with the Southern California Advising Corps and hopes to make an impact on these students’ lives and guide them to reach their higher educational goals.
Jessie Cruz placed at Compton High School, CPUSD. (B.A., University of California, Irvine) is from South Central Los Angeles and a proud Anteater where he earned a Bachelor’s of Art in Anthropology and a minor in Archaeology in 2014. He is the son of immigrant parents and is proud of his culture and indigenous Mayan roots which motivates him to break down barriers. His interest in education and college access began during his high school years at West Adams Preparatory HS as a College Ambassador, informing and guiding his peers to campus resources. Thanks to the proactive impact of his college counselors, Jessie developed a “pay it forward” mentality, as he saw the necessity to be an active member in his community and college to promote higher education and retention. He used his experience as a UC Irvine Bridge Scholar—a program which gave early access to academic and social experience to incoming freshman, as foundation for higher education advocacy. During his sophomore year, he organized and led bilingual workshops at his local church in order to educate his students and parents about college access and value of a higher education (higher education option, financial aid, etc). After his life changing experience while studying abroad in Bordeaux, France, Jessie aspires to one day work for the Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer (e.g. diplomat) in order to promote and advocate for multicultural education. While abroad, he had the privilege to volunteer and speak in U.S. Consulate outreach events at French high schools discussing with students about American culture but most importantly, the uniqueness of being ethnic, that is Mexican-American. He is excited to join the Southern California College Advising Corps to empower students to discover their potential and start the journey towards a higher education.
Briana Delgado placed at Wilson High School, LBUSD. (B.A., California State University, Long Beach) is a first year college advisor, she majored in Communication Studies and minored in Sociology. All four years of college she worked at an after school program and this created her passion for wanting to help our youth realize that they can amount to anything they set their minds to. This job encouraged her to be more ambitious and be an advocate for students who want to go to college. Her dream is to be a school counselor so she can continue to help students discover their strengths and help guide them to go to College.
Nancy Escobar (B.A., University of California, Irvine) is a first-generation college student and the first in her family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. During her time at UC Irvine, she studied both Sociology and Political Science and concluded that education is the only way to break through the socioeconomic barriers that are so prevalent in underserved communities. Through her study of American society and politics, as well as her own experience as a minority, her passion for education grew. Upon graduation, she be gan her career in higher education as the Program Advisor for MBA students at The Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine. While she enjoyed working with graduate students, she also recognized there was a higher need getting students onto the college-bound track. She is excited to have joined the SCCAC team and the opportunity to pay forward the college advisement her own AVID teacher shared with her when she was applying to college. Simultaneously, she will be starting her graduate program in Educational Counseling at Rossier.
Cindy Gaytan placed at Fremont High School, LAUSD. (B.A., University of California, Santa Cruz) was born and raised in South Los Angeles and is a first generation Latina. She focused her undergraduate degree in psychology and education so she could return to her community to give students the opportunity to improve their chances of success for themselves and their families. She believes that every student can be successful, but some may lack the support or knowledge to further their futures. She has a passion for enriching the community and giving students the chance to explore their education, themselves, and the world.While she was working at a non-profit organization called Strive L.A., she witnessed the struggle many young students face in South Los Angeles. Reflecting on her past struggles, she was able to understand and really connect with her students. This experience working with underrepresented youth as a teacher and a tutor has not only increased her interest in the community, but has sparked a fire to send more students to college. The College Advising Corp at USC has given her the opportunity to learn and grow in the field of advising, and is excited to be part of an amazing team.
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.
Erika Huerta graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a B.A. in Sociology, Chicano/Latino Studies and Education Sciences. She is a low income and first generation college graduate. When Erika was at UC Irvine she was a student coordinator for the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) at Santa Ana High School for two years where she was able to provide college knowledge, academic advising and guidance to students from the same background as herself. In addition, she was a volunteer for the Boys & Girls club of East Los Angeles and Kid Works in Santa Ana where she was able to work with students from different age groups. Her continuous contribution to higher education led Erika to become a mentor for the Bridge to Employment (BTE) Johnson & Johnson, Retention through Impact Solidarity & Empowerment and Summer Up Programs in the high schools at Santa Ana, Los Amigos and Compton. Erika was inspired by outreach programs just like the College Advising Corps which provided the same help that she once needed when she was in high school. She plans to become a high school counselor and dedicate the time and commitment to those in her community.
Flavio Guzmán Magana placed at Thomas Jefferson High School, LAUSD. (B.A. Cal Lutheran University) was born in Colima, Mexico and was brought to the United States by his mother at the age of six. Since the age of six, Flavio has grown up in the San Fernando Valley. Flavio is a proud graduate of Arleta High School. Despite the obstacles Flavio faced because of being a first generation student, being undocumented, and coming from a family that could not afford to send him to college he was able to attend California Lutheran University upon graduating from High School. At Cal Lutheran, Flavio was a leader in starting the first ever MEChA club at Cal Lutheran, worked closely with the Center for Equality and Justice, helped establish a union for the food service workers, and spent a semester in DC interning with an immigrants’ rights organization. Flavio also played defensive end on the University football team, which won two league championships and made it to the NCAA playoffs twice. In only three years, Flavio graduated Magna Cum Laude and with departmental honors in both of his majors, Spanish and Political Science. Flavio is now attending the University of Southern California to earn his Master of Public Policy and is a Norman Topping Scholar. In High School, Flavio never envisioned himself working in education. However, in his senior year Flavio participated in a workshop put on by a college access nonprofit. That sparked in him a passion for education. Upon graduation from High School Flavio began volunteering for and worked for that nonprofit, College Summit. Over the course of five years working with College Summit Flavio was able to work his way up from workshop participant to Regional Point of Contact and Community Engagement Manager for the Southern California and Northern California Regions. In the five years that he worked for College Summit, Flavio had the privilege of working with over 10,000 students from Southern and Northern California. Flavio credits much of his success to passionate educators, organizations like College Summit and mentors like his High School College Counselor, Beth Winningham, who believed in him when he was not able to believe in himself. Apart from education and volunteering in the community, Flavio enjoys politics, playing and watching sports, taking road trips and attending music festivals with his wife.
Mutoni Ingabire (B.A., California State University, Long Beach) with a Liberal Arts Degre in sociology. She first started her higher education at Sacramento City College and Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, CA. After high school, she began a work experience program that allowed her to intern at David Reese Elementary. Through this time, she worked closely with children, parents and the community. Her experience working with kids in the field of Education as an after school program teacher, team leader, and tutor she learned to correspond quickly to the different needs of students. Furthermore, she moved forward to work at Sacramento City College as a Student Ambassador. That is when she grew a burning desire to assist seniors in the college process. She worked in the counseling office, facilitated new student workshops and helped in the transfer center. There she loved to connect with staff, counselors, and students on a daily basis. In 2015, she transferred to California State University, Long Beach she worked on campus at the Career Center and also became a program leader at the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach. She is excited to be a part of Southern California Advising Corps this year. It is her goal to impact youth to become proactive with dreams to a brighter future.
Nadine Isaacs placed at Jordan High School, LAUSD. Nadine is a recent graduate from the University of California, Riverside with a degree in Political science. During a life changing internship in South Africa, she was given the opportunity to be of service to destitute communities. Within these communities she interacted with extremely bright students who excelled academically despite the lack of resources within their schools. These students were capable of being exceptional assets to society within the future, however they were not given the opportunities to maximize their potential due to their economic circumstances. Nadine then realized it was her life’s mission to help underserved students obtain the resources they required necessary to succeed in life. Since then she has been an active force in her community and has been thoroughly invested in gearing high school students toward higher education institutions. She firmly believes that students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds do not have to a product of their environment because it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.
Khtija “Kat” Khair placed at Polytechnic High School, LBUSD. (B.A., University of California, Irvine) was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh and moved to the United States when she was three years old. Kat is a first generation college graduate from Central Los Angeles, CA, and is also the first person in her family to successfully complete K-12 schooling. For four years, she was an active member of the Muslim Youth Group (MYG), where she served as the Community Service Director for two years. As the Community Service Director, she hosted collaborative fundraising and service events to combat hunger and poverty in various communities around Los Angeles. During her undergraduate career, Kat studied abroad in Bali, Indonesia to study public health principles with the Bali Institute for Global Renewal. During her time there, she interned for a non-governmental organization (NGO) called PUSPADI Bali where she helped provide educational access for children with physical disabilities. Working closely with underprivileged families helped solidify her passion to develop a career in mental health, wellness, and counseling. On her free time, Kat enjoys cooking, reading, and taking her cat out on walks. Through the Southern California College Advising Corps, Kat hopes to empower students to achieve their dreams, build a bright future, and strengthen their communities.
Stephanie Lopez (B.A,. University of California, Los Angeles) is a first year college advisor for the Southern California College Advising Corps. Stephanie was born and raised in East Los Angeles and is a first generation college graduate. Before attending UCLA, Stephanie spent three years navigating the transfer process at Pasadena City College. Her commitment to achieving education equity began when she started working as an undergrad for UCLA’s Center for Community College Partnerships (CCCP). As a Peer Mentor, Stephanie worked tirelessly to increase transfer rates and success of underserved community college populations at East Los Angeles College, Los Angeles South West College, and Santa Monica City College. After graduation, Stephanie completed an internship in Sacramento at the Chancellor’s Office of California Community Colleges with the Student Services and Academic Affairs divisions. Later, she began working with Proyecto Pastoral, a non profit organization in Boyle Heights, supporting the Academic Case Management Program at Roosevelt High School. Stephanie firmly believes in the transformative power of higher education and its impact on low income communities. As a college advisor, Stephanie is excited to share her experience with students to increase college readiness and retention rates. Stephanie is excited to share her experience with students in hopes to increase college readiness and retention rates.
Camille Medrano (B.A., University of California, Davis) is a first year adviser from Pomona. With encouragement from her hardworking Latino parents, she was fortunate enough to be the first person in her family to attend and graduate from college. She went to college in Northern California, where she received a degree in English and Communication from UC Davis. While there, she worked two jobs and was vice president of the club gymnastics team. After college, she returned to Southern California to serve as an AmeriCorps member with City Year Los Angeles, an education non-profit organization that mobilizes to reduce the high school drop out crisis. As a tutor and mentor to middle school students in South LA, she helped students set and achieve both academic and personal goals. As a result of her patience and faith in her students, she received certificates of recognition for embodying the value of ubuntu—humanity—in engaging with students, as well as for her belief in the power of young people. With a passion for combating educational inequities by working directly with students, she hopes to continue helping students see the power of investing in their education. She believes it is a privilege to work with young people and appreciates the diverse perspectives students offer; they are reminders of the often forgotten challenges teenagers face as they try to find their place in life. She is excited to work with the College Advising Corps and create positive relationships with students.
Adeeva Myers placed at Wilson High School, LBUSD. (B.A., University of California, Berkeley) is from the city of Carson, CA. While attending Berkeley, Adeeva took an active role in her community as an intern for the Black Recruitment and Retention Center, aiding to increase acceptance and graduation rates of African American students at UC Berkeley. Most recently, Adeeva worked with the LA’s Promise organization as a Community Representative offering education resources at John Muir Middle School in South LA. As a product of an under-resourced high school, Adeeva understands the plight of students needing added support in their efforts to achieve. Her goal is to see our education system grow into a more equitable institution where students of all backgrounds can achieve equally. Her dedication to this has urged her to diligently work in spaces that have put her in the position to help cultivate young lives, especially concerning their academic success. Therefore, she is very excited about working with the College Advising Corps, guiding our next generation of students to higher education.
Asani Myers placed at San Pedro High School, LAUSD. Asani was born and raised in Carson, California. From a young age, her parents raised her on the foundation of hard work, education, and faith. With this foundation, Asani found the importance of being an asset to her community. She attended San Francisco State University, earning her BA in Psychology in 2016. Along with working with SFSU’s Residential Life, Asani was apart of B.R.U.H (Black Residents United in Housing) and Gospel Gators. Asani is excited to be apart of SCCAC and the Trojan family, and is planning to use her experience to serve her community.
Omolara Oluyemi placed at Lakewood High School, LBUSD. Nicknamed Lara, first year adviser received her Bachelors in English with an emphasis in creative writing in 2015. Her parents migrated to the United States from Lagos, Nigeria after winning the lottery for the diversity visa hosted by the United States Department of State. Lara strives to make her parents proud by being an active member in her community an advocating for those that cannot advocate for themselves. Her passion for service has led her to the education and non-profit sector. Prior to becoming a college adviser with Southern California College Advising Corps, Lara was the program coordinator of Knowledge Revealed, a college and career readiness mentoring program hosted by Arrowhead United Way in San Bernardino, Ca. Lara and her team of volunteers worked to motivate young students to pursue higher education and exceed their life goals and aspirations. She is excited to use her previous experience mentoring and providing college assistance to non-traditional students from diverse backgrounds to provide college access to students in the greater Los Angeles area.
Estevan Palomino placed at Torres High School, LAUSD. (California State University, Long Beach). Beginning as a student at Pasadena City College, Estevan transferred to CSULB in 2013. While working towards his degree in Communication Studies, he acquired a job with CSULB’s Outreach department. It was his time with Outreach that served as the catalyst for his interest in college advising. When not working, Estevan spends his time writing music and endlessly watching movies.
Cassidy Plair placed at Compton High School, CPUSD. (B.A., University of California, Riverside) is a first year College Adviser. Her interest was sparked in education and youth development during their time at Community Colleges across the Los Angeles area as well as University of California, Riverside where she studied Political Science & International Relations as well as Philosophy. Studying Politics developed for Cassidy an interest in the processes of justice, social mobility and the various policies surrounding them. As higher education is at the core of these interests, Cassidy dreams of demonstrating to all of the positive things about a college education while working to increase that opportunity for as many people as possible. When they are not thinking of ways to make the world a better place Cassidy enjoys record collecting, beat-making, art and fitness. An artist at heart, Cassidy takes a creative approach to getting young people on the path to college success.
Richard Ramirez placed at Dominguez High School, CPUSD. (B.A., San Francisco State University). Richard is a South Los Angeles Native in which he is proud of. During his time at San Francisco State he was on the board for Hermanos Unidos a non-profit student organization that strives to give back to the local community and youth, through various community services and school outreaches. Richard coordinated and facilitated numerous student outreaches for underrepresented , low income and first generation youth and that is when he realized his passion for helping the youth get to college and remain in higher education. He is excited to embark in this new journey as a college adviser and cant wait to implement what he’s learned in his undergraduate career. His goal is to one day be a College Counselor in similar neighborhoods that he grew up in to further help first generation, underrepresented youth with the process of going and staying in higher education.
Stephanie Ramos immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 3 with her family. Her parents raised her and her sister in the city of Gardena. From pre-k to 12th grade she attended schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. As a product of the Los Angeles Unified School District, she is more than aware of the lack of resources and lack of college culture it has for their students. Unfortunately, because of the lack of resources and the lack of college culture some students are not invested in their academics and may steer in the wrong direction. In middle school, Stephanie was one of those students. She was easily influenced by her peers and made poor decisions. Fortunately, she had a counselor who cared about her. The counselor, Ms. Ortiz, was the first one to ever speak to her about college. Thanks to Ms.Ortiz’s support and encouragement Stephanie began to apply herself to her academics. By junior year of high school she was college bound. As a low-income first generation immigrant college once seemed intangible for her. In June 2017, she graduated from the University of California, Riverside. During her four years at UC Riverside she completed a degree in Sociology and Business Administration, was part of numerous organizations on campus, and held three part-time jobs. Stephanie’s background, education, and experiences have steered her passion in helping youth that are in the same position she was once in.
Adriana Reyes placed at Los Amigos, GGUSD. (California State University of Dominguez Hills) is a second year advisor who attended CSUDH for her undergrad and received a bachelor’s in Kinesiology-Teaching Option. She is a product of the Garden Grove Unified School District and is proud to be back serving and making an impact within her old school district. Adriana has always had a passion in college advising, coaching sports, and being a leader. Her advising career began at CSUDH where she was a Major Peer Advisor for the Kinesiology department. There she worked with a large group of diverse students, athletes, and amazing staff/faculty. At the same time, she worked for the Boys & Girls Club as a Youth Developmental Professional/Head Volleyball Coach where she mentored underrepresented students. As an advocate for the LGBT community, Adriana wishes to one day to do research within the community in hopes of increasing enrollment numbers and their success rate at a higher education institution. She is currently attending USC Rossier for her Masters and aspires to one day become an Athletic Counselor at a postsecondary institution. Adriana takes pride in being able to personally break barriers instilled on young LGBT Latinas and enjoys leading our youth in doing the same, respectfully. She looks forward to helping our future generation become the successful, educated, and prideful human beings they are destined to be. Adriana spends her off time fishing, boating, bbq’ing with family, and playing/watching sports. “HAVE PRIDE & FIGHT ON!”
Alexander Rincon is a Los Angeles native, set on working in underserved areas and creating pathways for youth to success and empowerment. Growing up in a family of 8 children, being a first-generation college student graduating from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, he has now begun the Masters of Science in Social Entrepreneurship program at the University of Southern California. Previously Alex has held many different roles and responsibilities in educating youth. F rom being an English teacher in Bogota, Colombia, an academic tutor, and helping the SPCA educate youth about animal advocacy, his passion for youth empowerment has only grown. His most recent position was the Internship Coordinator for LA Promise Fund recruiting students for internships, mentorships, partnering with local community organizations and supporting the Intern Project program that matches over 75 students with paid internships all over the LA area. Having these backgrounds in youth education, Alex has witnessed the need for supporting struggling communities and their youth in achieving higher education to break down barriers of opportunity. He is overjoyed and excited to work with SCCAC and achieving the mission they have set of getting students to college.
Roger Rivera placed at Lynwood High School, LYUSD. (B.A., University of Santa Cruz). After college, Roger worked for a non-profit organization called Proyecto Pastoral as an after school program coordinator called IMPACTO at Felicitas & Gonzalo Mendez High School. Roger created opportunities for students to participate in various physical, academic, and educational enrichment activities after school. After his service at Proyecto Pastoral, he continued his work in youth development with students in the South Los Angeles area through the Service Works program at CD Tech. Roger coordinated and facilitated the Service Works program at Santee Education Complex and Maya Angelou Community High School, offering students the opportunity to learn personal and professional development skills that would assist students in accomplishing their personal and academic goals. As an educator and advocate, Roger strongly believes that every student deserves the right to receive the highest level of education. He is honored to continue to support students in achieving their academic and professional career goals through the Southern California College Advising Corps.
Christine Rocha placed at Bell High School, LAUSD. (B.A., University of Southern California) grew up in South Los Angeles and graduated from Manual Arts High School (MAHS). She recently earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. As an undergraduate, she continuously worked on research projects, such as the I AM Mentoring Program and SummerTIME Program at the Pullias Center for Higher Education at USC’s Rossier School of Education. At her time there, she mentored numerous graduating high school seniors with their college and financial aid applications. She also served as the lead advisor for two school sites (i.e. Manual Arts Sr. High School and Foshay Learning Center). Most recently after graduating, Christine served as the College Knowledge Instructor for the USC SummerTIME writing intensive four-week Program. As the Instructor, her duty was to teach students the importance of GRIT, college planning and preparation, and college and financial aid applications. Aside from teaching a class, Christine continued to mentor her SummerTIME students after school to make sure they were on track and address any questions or concerns they had about the application process. Christine believes education is key to moving society forward and creating a new foundation for the following generations. Being a first-generation student at MAHS, she took part in outreach programs to get the guidance and support needed to be college bound. Therefore, she believes giving back to her community by providing the same support to her students, she is contributing to help society move forward.
Vanessa Rojas (B.A., University of California, Berkeley) is a first-generation Latina who grew up in Lynwood, CA and received her degree in Social Welfare with an Education minor. During her undergraduate years, Vanessa was involved with organizations like Y.E.A.H. and Stiles Hall Mentoring where she had the opportunity to volunteer as a mentor and tutor at public schools in Berkeley. Through this experience she was able to work closely with elementary and middle school students as an academic support system while providing early college awareness. Vanessa also had the opportunity to participate in college workshops and campus tours for underrepresented, first-generation high school and middle school students who visited UCB. While at Berkeley, Vanessa was still involved with her hometown Lynwood, as she helped organize and facilitate workshops for the Annual Lynwood’s Alumni College Conference. The purpose of the conferences is to inform and support students and parents of the community with college/post-high school resources and readiness. After graduating UC Berkeley Vanessa began a full time job as a caseworker at a nonprofit in San Francisco. She was in charge of enrolling low-income, minority families to free or low-cost early childcare education services. Although her time as a caseworker was very rewarding, Vanessa’s continuous passion for education and guidance brought her to apply to the college adviser position. She wants to serve students directly and support those underrepresented individuals who may have the slightest doubt in their academic endeavors, just as she had.
Carla Ruiz (BA Cal State University Northridge) was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. As a first generation, low income student, she uses her past experiences to relate to her students she shares the same background with. She strongly believes in equity of education and collaborating with teams in creating this equity into reality for underrepresented students. Prior to working for SCCAC, Carla worked for GEAR UP, a college access program for the past 5 years. Through GEAR UP she worked as a college intern to a site coordinator for her program at North Hollywood High School. During her time she followed a cohort of 400 students from the Class of 2017 since they were in 8th grade up until they graduated this past June. She hopes to become a college counselor at the high school level or college level that assists underrepresented students facilitating their academic and personal successes.
Natalie Ryan (B.A., University of Pittsburgh) is a first year adviser and Philadelphia native who graduated with her degree in Rhetoric & Communication with a concentration in Media Studies and Marketing. Although she focused heavily on marketing related ventures earlier in her career, she has since found a deeply-rooted passion for serving others and building communities. In efforts to expand her foundation in this area, she spends her time volunteering in the community and pursuing a Master’s degree in Education at The University of Southern California. As a former Track & Field athlete at PITT, she has grown especially passionate about serving student-athletes in a life-skills, career-building, and mentorship capacity. Being a former D1 athlete has allowed her the tenacity to persevere through difficult stages in her life, and she loves to share that knowledge of the link between physical and mental strength to real life circumstances. Prior to becoming a College Adviser, Natalie tutored children and managed athletic participation at the non-profit, A Place Called Home, in South Central Los Angeles. She also spent the past year serving for AmeriCorps VISTA and working for the Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP). Through LAEP, Natalie was placed at Bethune Middle School in South East Los Angeles as the College and Career Pathways Coordinator. Her overarching objective was to help decrease the drop-out rate in LAUSD and to encourage at risk communities to pursue higher education by integrating college readiness and sustainability into the curriculum.
Sharqaua Smith placed at Centennial High School, CPUSD. (B.S.S., Ohio University) is a first generation college student from Cleveland, OH. During her collegiate career, after seeing the powerful impact peer leadership had on her first year of undergrad, she served as Peer Mentor for Ohio University’s Office of Multicultural Student Access and Retention. In this role she mentored first year multicultural students, holding them accountable to maximizing their full potential. Eager to reach more students, with several peers, she co-founded the Urban Renaissance Achievement Program (URAP) for low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented high school students in low performing schools. In this role she presented the importance of a college education to high school students through workshops in college admissions and financial aid, as well as hosting an overnight campus visit. Upon relocating to California she worked as a Promise Corps Member at the Academy of Scientific Exploration at Cesar Chavez Learning Academies, improving STEM skills among High School students. She is very excited to continue working with students, and looks forward to helping them on their journey to higher education.
Edwin Valencia (B.A., University of California, Irvine) is a first year adviser who recently earned degrees in both Criminology and Education Sciences. Edwin’s first exposure to college access was during his senior year at Glendale High School, where he took part in AVID. With the guidance and direction provided by his teacher, he was able to pursue a college career at UC Irvine. During his four years in Irvine, Edwin found interest in classes that dealt with socioeconomic status, achievement, and opportunity. He was fortunate enough to conduct his field study at a local non-profit organization called THINK Together. There, he volunteered at Utt Middle School in Tustin, where he collaborated with the site coordinator and program leaders, creating activities that were crucial to the students’ physical and mental health. THINK Together’s positive impact on the students is what inspired Edwin to apply to the Southern California College Advising Corps. He wants to continue to be a support system for students and help lead them toward the benefits of higher education.
Carla Veliz (B.A. Biola University) Born and raised in South East Los Angeles to parents from Central America, Carla is a first generation Latina with a degree in Intercultural Studies and minors in International Development, Music, and Biblical Studies. While at Biola, Carla was a member of Multiethnic Outreach in Admissions as a student ambassador engaging local school and church youth to learn about the process of going to college. For four years she served as President of the Unidos Latino Club creating a space for community amidst Latino students on campus. She was also a TELACU Scholar, a scholarship recipient and member of the college success program. Her interest in international development led Carla to an internship in Bolivia with Samaritans Purse, an International relief and development organization where she gathered date from community needs assessment’s to implement an After School Program in the city of El Alto while also translating for doctors on a medical boat in the Amazon. Upon graduation, Carla served as a Program Coordinator for Joya Scholars, a non profit in Fullerton with a mission to inspire and prepare students for college success. In her role at Joya she managed the day to day operations and relationships with students, volunteers, parents, and school personnel. Overall, Carla’s experiences have shaped her passion to see communities transformed by the power of education. She hopes to be an advocate for college access in communities of need as a first year College Advisor with the Southern California College Advising Corps and dedicate her life to see, know and develop youth to dream beyond their surroundings and obstacles.