We are the 2017-18 USC College Advising Corps!
For 2017-18, our USC CAC team of 47 advisers and four supervisors serve 41 high schools in 9 school districts. We are very proud that our USC CAC advisers hail from diverse backgrounds and are recent graduates from colleges across California (and across the US), who bring their passion, skills, and talents to enrich the lives of their high school students.
Get to know each member of the team with the short bios and photos below. Advisers are featured by the school district that they serve.
- El Monte
- Garden Grove
- Long Beach
- Los Angeles
- West Covina
Administrative TeamOur USC College Advising Corps (USC CAC) is led by a program manager and three program coordinators. They supervise our college advisers, ensuring that they have the guidance and support to do their best advising possible. Our administrative team also works closely with our high school partners, meeting with on-site liaisons and providing updates on our advisers’ progress towards program objectives and goals.
Ara Arzumanian (B.A. University of California, Irvine) is the Program Manager of USC CAC for the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice. Ara 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.
Dennis Funes (B.A. University of California, Santa Barbara) is a Program Coordinator for USC CAC for the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice. Dennis served as a college adviser at Millikan High School in Long Beach Unified during the 2014-2016 academic year. During his adviser tenure, he supported over 1,200 students with their college applications and financial aid applications. Prior to his adviser position, Dennis worked as an ESL teacher assistant at UCSB where he taught English skills to Spanish speaking mothers. At the same time, 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. Thereafter, Dennis became a Supplemental Educational Services (SES) provider through Total Education Solutions and tutored numerous students with exceptional needs. As a result of these unique experiences, Dennis decided to pursue his Master of Education in Educational Counseling at USC to continue learning about the ever-changing education landscape. His future goal is to continue working in education, in particular the California Community College system. As a member of USCCAC, Dennis is thrilled to use his experiences to help continue advocating for student success.
Benjamin Robles (B.A. University of California, Los Angeles) is a Program Coordinator for USC CAC for the 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 be a part of the Corps.
Sarah Ruderman (B.A. University of California, Los Angeles) is a Program Coordinator for the USC College Advising Corps for the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice. Prior to this position, Sarah served as a College Adviser in the Downey Unified School District. Before her time with the USC Corps, Sarah worked in multiple educational settings including with UCLA's student-athletes and English language learners at Vista Middle School in Pacoima, CA. Sarah is an Oakland, California native but has been living in Los Angeles for the past six year. She graduated from UCLA with degrees in Sociology and Gender Studies, where she spent four incredible years immersing herself in campus life and conducting research. Her academic and professional interests center around youth, equity, higher education and diversity in all capacities. She would like to pursue a career that allows her to serve her community and engage with young people on a daily basis. Sarah enjoys spending her free time cooking, running, practicing yoga, traveling and trying new restaurants with her friends and family. 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.
USC College Advising Corps: Alhambra Unified School District
Our USC CAC college advisers are recent college graduates who work full-time at our partner high schools, helping students achieve their college dreams. We are very proud that our advisers hail from diverse backgrounds but are united in their passion to help youth realize their educational potential.
Get to know our advisers better who serve in Alhambra Unified School District in three high schools.
Maritsa Negrete (B.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology), placed at Mark Keppel High School, is a first-generation, low-income college graduate from Lynwood, CA. While studying aerospace engineering and working with robots and satellites at MIT, she also developed a passion for student outreach. She credits the mentors and college access programs that helped her in high school with the motivation she needed to apply to and attend MIT, and has worked throughout her college career to help students from similarly underserved backgrounds. She mentored high school students in the Boston area, taught physics courses in Veracruz, Mexico, and worked as a teaching assistant and mentor for MIT’s Office of Engineering Outreach Programs. Working directly with students and learning about their passions and college goals has led her to appreciate the immense potential that all students can fulfill when given the right resources. She is excited to guide more students toward achieving their higher education goals through USC CAC.
Cassandra Padilla (B.A. Union College), placed at Alhambra High School, is born and raised in East Los Angeles to a single parent. Cassandra is a proud first-generation Latina and a One Voice Program Scholar with a degree in Theatre and minor in Film Studies from Union College. While at Union, her experience as a student in the Academic Opportunity Program inspired her to look into careers that motivate high school students to succeed in their college career. Cassandra was a Facilitator at her college’s annual Next Step Social Justice Retreat where she worked with the Office of Multicultural Affairs to give students a forum to develop knowledge and skills to become better change agents and leaders in regards to diversity, equity, power, privilege, prejudice and discrimination. For three years, she served as a mentor to incoming Academic Opportunity Program first-year students of color in the hopes of providing academic guidance and feeling connected to the college campus. She has also received awards for her social justice activism, such as the UNITAS Diversity Leadership and the LGBTQIA+ Leadership Award. These wonderful opportunities wouldn’t have been possible without the support of her family, the One Voice Scholars Program, the Academic Opportunity Program at Union, and her mentor and second mom, Carolyn Fielder. Their support also pushed her to apply and now work for USC CAC where she is excited to guide students in their future endeavors.
Sarah Reyes (B.A. Occidental College), placed at San Gabriel High School, was born and raised in Highland Park, CA and is a first-generation college graduate who believes every student should have the opportunity to go to college. Having navigated the higher education system as a first generation student, Sarah can pass on that knowledge and support to others. After graduating from Occidental with a bachelor’s degree in Latino/a and Latin American Studies and a minor in Education, Sarah joined the Public Allies AmeriCorps program, where she learned about community development and personal empowerment. Sarah was placed at Legacy LA where she worked with youth from Boyle Heights in the Student Success Program and helped create a volunteer mentoring program. These programs exposed middle school youth to college for the first time and connected first-generation college students to mentors in graduate school. She went on to work at CD Tech in South Central Los Angeles where she implemented a leadership development curriculum at Maya Angelou High School and other schools on the LA Trade Tech campus. Through this work, she is most proud of providing opportunities to low-income, underrepresented youth to take their future into their own hands and create their own paths to success. Sarah is excited to join USC CAC and continue this work of getting students to college.
Alexander Rincon (B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz), placed at Alhambra High School, is a Los Angeles native, dedicated to working in underserved areas and creating pathways for youth to success and empowerment. Growing up in a family of eight children and a first-generation college student graduating from UC Santa Cruz with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, he has now begun the Master of Science in Social Entrepreneurship program at USC. Previously Alex has held many different roles and responsibilities in educating youth. From 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. In his most recent position as the Internship Coordinator for LA Promise Fund, he recruited students for internships, mentorships, and partnered with community organizations to support the Intern Project program that matches over 75 students with paid internships all over the LA area. With these experiences in youth education, Alex has witnessed the need for supporting struggling communities and their youth in achieving higher education. He is overjoyed and excited to work with USC CAC and achieving the mission of getting more students to college.
Natalie Ryan (B.A. University of Pittsburgh), placed at Mark Keppel High School, is a first-year adviser and Philadelphia native who graduated with a degree in Rhetoric & Communication with a concentration in Media Studies and Marketing. She has discovered a deeply-rooted passion for serving others and building communities. Expanding her foundation in this area, she spends her time volunteering in the community and pursuing a Master’s degree in Education at USC. As a former track and 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.
Edwin Valencia (B.A. University of California, Irvine), placed at San Gabriel High School, 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 USC CAC. He wants to continue to be a support system for students and help lead them toward the benefits of higher education.
USC College Advising Corps: Compton Unified School District
Our USC CAC college advisers are recent college graduates who work full-time at our partner high schools, helping students achieve their college dreams. We are very proud that our advisers hail from diverse backgrounds but are united in their passion to help youth realize their educational potential.
Get to know our advisers better who serve in Compton Unified School District in three high schools.
Rebecca Carreon (B.A., University of Southern California) placed at Dominguez High School, is returning this year to USC Rossier’s Educational Counseling program for her graduate studies. 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 parents both worked hard to provide for the family. Despite her lack of education, her mother taught Rebecca that education is not a privilege for a select few but an essential human right for all. Through her experiences like volunteering at a preschool in South Central and helping at a grade school in Guatemala, Rebecca 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 as 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 remains the leader and a teacher for the girls’ ministry at her church. All of these diverse positions have not only given her hands-on experience in the classroom setting, they have also taught her valuable lessons on teamwork, leadership, and the value of mentorship. She looks forward to her time as a USC Rossier graduate student and a college adviser. There are many more lessons to be learned.
Jessie Cruz (B.A., University of California, Irvine), placed at Compton High School, is from South Central Los Angeles and a proud Anteater where he earned a Bachelor’s 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. His interest in education and college access began during his high school years at West Adams Preparatory as a College Ambassador, 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 to promote higher education and retention. He used his experience as a UC Irvine Bridge Scholar—an academic and social experience program for incoming freshman—as a foundation for higher education advocacy. During his sophomore year, he led bilingual workshops at his church to educate students and parents about college access and the value of a higher education. After his life-changing experience while studying abroad in Bordeaux, France, Jessie aspires to 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 U.S. Consulate outreach events, where he spoke at French high schools to discuss with students about American culture and most importantly, about the uniqueness of being ethnically Mexican-American. He is excited to be a part of USC CAC to empower students to discover their potential and start the journey towards higher education.
Cassidy Plair (B.A., University of California, Riverside) placed at Compton High School, is a second-year College Adviser. Her interest was sparked in education and youth development during her time at community colleges across the Los Angeles area as well as University of California, Riverside where she studied Political Science and 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 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 (B.A., San Francisco State University), placed at Dominguez High School. Richard is a proud South Los Angeles native. 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 outreach. Richard coordinated and facilitated numerous student outreach efforts for underrepresented, low-income and first-generation youth—which is when he realized his passion for helping youth to get to college and remain in higher education. He is excited to embark in this new journey as a college adviser and can’t wait to implement what he’s learned in his undergraduate career. His goal is to one day become a college counselor who works in a similar neighborhood to the one he grew up in to further help first-generation and underrepresented youth with the process of going to and staying in higher education.
Sharqaua Smith (B.S., Ohio University) placed at Centennial High School, 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.
USC College Advising Corps: El Monte Union High School District
Our USC CAC college advisers are recent college graduates who work full-time at our partner high schools, helping students achieve their college dreams. We are very proud that our advisers hail from diverse backgrounds but are united in their passion to help youth realize their educational potential.
Get to know our advisers better who serve in El Monte Union High School District in one high school.
Desiree Mendez (B.A. San Francisco State University), placed at Rosemead High School, is a first-generation college graduate of San Francisco State University where she received a Bachelor’s of Art in Consumer and Family Sciences. As a first-year adviser, she continues to be of service to the younger generation by encouraging students, through her story of perseverance, to pursue higher education. Most recently, Desiree was responsible for managing the day-to-day tasks of San Francisco’s “I am the Future” Mayor’s Scholarship Awards. Her primary goal was to expand partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Education and San Francisco community based organizations. She focused on targeting organizations who serve a first generation/low-income/minority students; thus, forming new partnerships leading to a more diverse applicant and recipient pool. Previously, she served as a VISTA Summer Associate at Heart of Los Angeles. She worked in the organization’s high school program where she researched scholarship resources, best fit colleges and universities for low-income and undocumented students, selection of college information topics for parent meetings, implementation of summer curriculum and one-on-one meetings with rising seniors and incoming freshman students. Being a product of public schooling and residing in a low-income community has allowed Desiree to use her personal experiences as a catalyst for change, and to be the voice that sparks educational opportunities for generations to come.
Steve Pham (B.A. University of California, Irvine), placed at Rosemead High School, is a first-generation college student who was born and raised in El Monte. He is the second youngest of nine children and also the second in his family to receive a bachelor’s degree. In 2017 he received his degrees at the University of California, Irvine where he double-majored in Education Sciences and History. Growing up, Steve has always had a strong passion for higher education, whether it meant pursuing higher education himself or assisting those in his communities achieve their own educational successes. His time at UC Irvine was spent giving back to the UCI community any way he could. Steve worked as a Peer Advisor in the Office of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct where his main focus was advising students through the Student Conduct process. Additionally, Steve worked collaboratively with his coordinators and peers to create workshops, events, and activities to promote ethical-decision making and integrity on the UC campus. Steve also spent time as a Communications Intern with the DREAMers Advocate Program. With this position, Steve and his peers were able raise more than $30,000 dollars for undocumented college students. The funds used were offered as scholarships to aid these students in any school expenses. With his new position as a College Adviser, Steve hopes to continue to allow students to achieve their educational dreams while establishing for themselves a bright future.
USC College Advising Corps: Garden Grove Unified School District
Get to know our advisers better who serve in Garden Grove Unified School District in three high schools.
Stacey Badger (B.A. University of Southern California), placed at Garden Grove High School, is a second-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 also tutored 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 and 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. 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 USC CAC. She knew she loved guiding students to their possible futures, and the Corps is the place to let her accomplish this.
Omar Ivan Hernandez (B.S. California State University, Fullerton), placed at Santiago High School, 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 trends of low enrollment in higher education. This experience only reinforced 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 for students to believe that anyone from any background can attain a college education. Omar is very excited to be a part of USC CAC at his former alma mater.
Adriana Reyes (B.A. California State University, Dominguez Hills), placed at Los Amigos High School, is a second-year adviser who received a bachelor’s in Kinesiology-Teaching Option at CSUDH. She is a product of the Garden Grove Unified School District and is proud to be back serving and making an impact within her former 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 higher education institutions. She is currently attending USC Rossier for her master’s and aspires to one day become an Athletic Counselor at a postsecondary institution. Adriana takes pride in being able to personally break barriers imposed 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 and watching sports. “HAVE PRIDE & FIGHT ON!”
USC College Advising Corps: Long Beach Unified School District
Get to know our advisers better who serve in Long Beach Unified School District in 14 high schools.
Chidi Agu (B.A. University of California, Santa Barbara) is placed at Polytechnic High School. 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 healthy masculinity, and served as a student worker in the Women, Gender, and Sexual Equity department. Chidi also 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 (B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz), placed at Millikan High School, is a second-year adviser who received her bachelor’s degree in Politics and Latin American & Latino Studies. 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. For this initiative she was awarded a certificate of recognition which highlights 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 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 USC CAC.
Raquel Alas (B.A. University of California, Berkeley), placed at Cabrillo High School, 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. 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 wishes 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.
Kassandra Destiny Casillas (B.A. Amherst College), placed at Jordan High School, is a second-year college adviser. She grew up in Inglewood and Santa Ana with a very close-knit family that encouraged her to challenge herself. Destiny graduated Amherst College 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 is also a full time student in the Educational Counseling Program at USC’s Rossier School of Education, having started the fall of 2017.
Elisa Castillo (B.A. California State University, Long Beach), placed at Lakewood High School, 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, which 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 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 CSULB, Elisa went on to completing her Anthropology degree. She believes that her anthropology knowledge will help her succeed as a College Adviser because of her knowledge of various cultures and subcultures, which can be applied to high school campuses. In her spare time, Elisa enjoys reading romantic novels, ethnographies, and Cleopatra-related biographies. She also enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and horseback riding.
Hyewon Cho (B.A. University of California, Los Angeles), placed at Millikan High School. 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 previous teachers, mentors, and counselors helped her during her journey trying to learn and work with the education system in the United States. As a member of USC CAC as a college adviser, she is thrilled to provide the same resources that helped her change her life and share these experiences with students.
Briana Delgado (B.A. California State University, Long Beach), placed at Wilson High School, is a second-year college adviser. Briana majored in Communication Studies and minored in Sociology. All four years of college she worked at an afterschool 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 guide them to college.
Nancy Escobar (B.A. University of California, Irvine), placed at Cabrillo High School, 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 began 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 join the USC CAC 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.
Erika Huerta (B.A. University of California, Irvine B.A), placed at Jordan High School, graduated from UCI with degrees 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.
Mutoni Ingabire (B.A. California State University, Long Beach), placed at Renaissance High School for the Arts, graduated with a Liberal Arts degree in Sociology. She first started her higher education at Sacramento City College and Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, CA. After high school, she interned at David Reese Elementary, where she worked closely with children, parents and the community. With her experience working with kids in the field of education as an afterschool program teacher, team leader, and tutor, she quickly learned to adapt to the different needs of students. 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 where 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 USC CAC this year. It is her goal to impact youth to become proactive with their dreams for a brighter future.
Khtija “Kat” Khair (B.A. University of California, Irvine), placed at Polytechnic High School, 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 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 LA communities. 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 USC CAC, Kat hopes to empower students to achieve their dreams, build a bright future, and strengthen their communities.
Adeeva Myers (B.A. University of California, Berkeley), placed at Wilson High School, 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. 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. She is dedicated to occupying positions 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.
Stephanie Ramos (B.A. University of California, Riverside), placed at McBride High School, immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of three 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 LAUSD, she is more than aware of the lack of resources and lack of college culture for their students. Unfortunately, because of these deficiencies, some students are not invested in their academics and may drift 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 UC Riverside in four years, completing a degree in Sociology and Business Administration. She also took part in 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.
Carla Veliz (B.A. Biola University), placed at Lakewood High School, was 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 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 data from community needs assessments to implement an afterschool 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 nonprofit 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 College Adviser with USC CAC and dedicate her life to see, know and develop youth to dream beyond their surroundings and obstacles.
USC College Advising Corps: Los Angeles Unified School District
Get to know our advisers better who serve in Los Angeles Unified School District in 17 high schools.
CJ Cabbil (B.A. Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil), placed at Rancho Dominguez Preparatory School, is a proud member of USC CAC. He is the son of two educators, one who has coached for over 20 years and another who has transitioned to high school counseling, which played a huge part in wanting to work for USC and the Corps. CJ believes that communities who have been historically underserved deserve our best effort in correcting the past and building a stronger future. 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.
Flavio Guzmán Magana (B.A. Cal Lutheran University) placed at Thomas Jefferson High School, was born in Colima, Mexico and brought to the U.S. by his mother at the age of six. Having grown up in the San Fernando Valley, Flavio is a proud graduate of Arleta High School. Despite the obstacles Flavio faced as a first-generation, undocumented student from a family that could not afford college, he was able to attend California Lutheran University. 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 USC to earn his master’s in Social Entrepreneurship 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, which sparked a passion for education. After high school, Flavio began volunteering for that nonprofit, College Summit. Over the course of five years working with College Summit, Flavio worked his way up from workshop participant to Regional Point of Contact and Community Engagement Manager for the Southern and Northern California regions, working with over 10,000 students. 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.
Cindy Gaytan (B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz), placed at Fremont High School, 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.
Nadine Isaacs (B.A. University of California, Riverside), placed at Jordan High School, is a recent graduate 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.
Stephanie Lopez (B.A, University of California, Los Angeles), placed at Roosevelt High School and its Math, Science & Technology Magnet Academy, is a first-year college adviser for USC CAC. 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 nonprofit 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 adviser, 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.
Maria Marquez Alvarez (B.A. University of California, Los Angeles), placed at Diego Rivera Learning Complex (serving four schools) is a first-year adviser. She is a nontraditional transfer student from Fullerton College and a recent graduate from UCLA, where she attained a bachelor’s degree in History and Gender Studies. As part of the undocumented community she is an advocate for immigrant rights—working within her community to deconstruct various counterproductive narratives such as a good versus bad immigrant and the misconception that immigration is solely a Latino issue. Her interest in education stems from her years of experience with youth in and out of academic settings. Through these interactions, she learned that by providing students with a collaborative space to share their lived experiences in return cultivates opportunities for growth, not just for the students but educators as well. By sharing her experiences as an undocumented immigrant, she aims to facilitate consciousness and self-advocacy among students from traditionally marginalized communities.
Asani Myers (B.A. San Francisco State University) is placed at San Pedro High School. Asani was born and raised in Carson, CA. 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 earning her BA in Psychology in 2016 from SFSU. Along with working with SFSU’s Residential Life, Asani was a part of B.R.U.H (Black Residents United in Housing) and Gospel Gators. Asani is excited to be a part of USC CAC and the Trojan family, and is planning to use her experience to serve her community.
Estevan Palomino (B.A. California State University, Long Beach) is placed at Esteban Torres High School (serving four schools). 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.
Carla Ruiz (BA Cal State University Northridge), placed at Santee Education Complex, 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 with whom she shares the same background. She strongly believes in equity of education and collaborating with teams in creating this equity into reality for underrepresented students. Prior to working for USC CAC, 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.
Xochilt Vega Delrio (B.A., California State University, Dominguez Hills), placed at Bell High School, grew up in Compton, CA and is a first-generation, low income Latina who received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in Psychology. During her undergraduate career she was a Peer Mentor for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at Dominguez Hills, helping first generation and low income students with their transition from high school to college. She also worked for Educational Talent Search (ETS) at five local South Bay High School’s helping 9-12th grade students with college and career readiness and preparedness. Throughout all her four years at CSUDH she was an executive board member of Espiritu De Nuestro Futuro which was a student organization that helped shed light on undocumented and AB540 students on the CSUDH campus. She helped put together the first UndoMixer and Undocumented Student Ally training for Faculty and Staff which allowed students to be able to identify allies on campus. It was through the experiences she gained working in these programs that her love for helping students in underserved communities grew. She is excited to join USC CAC to empower students to discover their potential and start their journey towards postsecondary education.
USC College Advising Corps: Lynwood Unified School District
Get to know our advisers better who serve in Lynwood Unified School District in two high schools.
Jennifer D. Cardoza (B.A. University of Southern California) is placed at Firebaugh High School. Being a South Central Los Angeles native has definitely influenced her work. 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 go on to college. This is why she has been vigorously involved in serving underrepresented and underserved high school students. While in high school, she was very fortunate to be a part of the USC Upward Bound program. When the opportunity to serve 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 that shared her same passions and visions. 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 better support them. It is truly a beautiful and heart-warming thing when the fruits of labor blossom and the students that she has worked with are now at various highly prestigious institutions across the nation. She’s beyond excited to work with USC CAC as it is just as dedicated as she is in helping low-income, first-generation students better themselves and their communities by obtaining a college degree.
Roger Rivera (B.A. University of Santa Cruz) is placed at Lynwood High School. After college, Roger worked for a nonprofit organization, 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 USC CAC.
USC College Advising Corps: West Covina Unified School District
Get to know our advisers better who serve in West Covina Unified School District in two high schools.
Georgina Bernal (B.S. University of California, Berkeley), placed at Edgewood High School, is a Latina first-generation college graduate. She earned her degree in Society and Environment from UC 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 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 access to higher education. Collaborating with an educational support system like USC CAC will further aid her in advocating for low-income and/or first-generation students and 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.
Camille Medrano (B.A. University of California, Davis), placed at West Covina High School, is a first-year adviser from Pomona, CA. 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 earned 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 served 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. It is a privilege to work with young people and she 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 USC CAC and create positive relationships with students.
Omolara Oluyemi (B.A. California State University, San Bernardino), placed at West Covina High School, is a second-year adviser. Nicknamed Lara, she received her bachelor's 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 nonprofit sector. Prior to becoming a college adviser with USC CAC, 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 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.