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About Us
We make college possible for
underserved youth


Founded by author Dave Eggers, ScholarMatch began as a simple crowdfunding platform and grew into a full service college-access organization. Our mission is to make college possible for underserved youth by matching students with donors, resources, colleges, and professional networks.

ScholarMatch has expanded rapidly from serving just 39 students in 2010 to working with more than 500 students per year. Though crowdfunded scholarships remain at the core, our college advising, career coaching, and other services are an essential part of each student’s college journey.


Our model champions low-income and first-generation students in the three critical areas: navigating the college admissions process, paying for school, and creating a support system in college. Impactful and efficient, our programs are driven by our students’ needs and backed by the latest groundbreaking data and research. ScholarMatch is a small but mighty organization and our students succeed at rates far higher than other underserved students nationwide.

2015 Statistics


ScholarMatch is the only major nonprofit that combines a crowdfunded scholarship platform with game-changing college access and career support for low-income youth. Our typical student comes from a family earning less than $25,000 per year and attends a high school with just one counselor per 500-800 students.

Our unique approach is fueled by community engagement and focused on what our students need most: hands-on help applying to college, financial assistance with tuition, and a support system throughout college.


Diana Adamson
Executive Director

Diana is a native Californian and a graduate of the University of Notre Dame. She holds Masters degrees from Saint Peters College and The London School of Economics. Her experiences in Teach For America, classroom teaching, and working abroad drive her passion for increasing access to higher education for under-resourced students. Since joining ScholarMatch in 2011, Diana has led it through gaining 501(c)3 status, significant program expansion, and developed the ScholarMatcher, the first-of-its-kind college search tool built to combat undermatching in low-income students. When she is not analyzing college data or evaluating program outcomes, Diana can be found running around with her three young children.

Nicholas Watson
Director of College Access

Nicholas is originally from St. Louis, Missouri and is a first-generation college student. He received his bachelor’s degree in Communication from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana and his Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Nick brings more than 10 years of experience in admissions, college counseling and advising, career counseling and advising and program management to his new role at ScholarMatch. He is passionate about working with students and families and helping them to understand the power of social capital and positive support networks in achieving their goals of higher education. When Nicholas is not reviewing college essays or offering financial aid advice he can usually be found watching the latest Food Network show.

Monica Mendez
Director of College Programs

Monica is passionate about higher education and helping first-generation students achieve their college and professional goals. As a student in Southern California, she participated in a similar high school program called AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), which led to her admission to Saint Mary’s College of California. Monica has extensive experience in career advising for college students and nonprofit volunteering. Since joining the ScholarMatch team in 2014, she has spearheaded the expansion of our College to Career program—ensuring that all students are given the one-on-one support they need to graduate college and launch a successful career.

Juliana Sloane
Director of Development

Juliana joined the ScholarMatch team in 2013, and now leads our development efforts and supports strategic growth. Over the years, she has championed the work of a variety of organizations working to create empowered, compassionate communities, on staff and as a consultant and coach. She holds a BA from Guilford College, an MA from Central European University, has completed post-graduate work at the Inter-University Centre in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and holds a Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology from San Francisco State University. In her free time, she has a dedicated meditation practice and enjoys bringing opportunities to learn and practice mindfulness to communities in the Bay Area.

Kate Bueler
College Advisor & Community Engagement Manager

Kate is a native Californian, a first-generation college student, and a graduate of the University of San Francisco. She holds Masters degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University and University of San Francisco. She is a lifelong educator holding multiple roles in the field including teacher, literacy instructor, researcher, school counselor, and policy maker. Kate was inspired by her father who dropped out of college to complete college herself and this motivates her in supporting students as they embark on their own college journey. She is motivated by student stories of strength, resiliency, and enjoys seeing students’ growth overtime. Kate enjoys supporting and learning from volunteers and corporate groups as they support students in exploring college and career paths.

Veronica Ponce-Navarrete
Senior College Advisor

Veronica was born in Mexico and grew up in the Bay Area. She is a graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois and holds a Master’s in Student Affairs from UCLA. She has nearly 10 years experience in college access and student affairs. As a first generation college graduate from a single-parent immigrant household, she is passionate about supporting the retention and success of first generation, underrepresented students in higher education. While at Wheaton College she founded and directed a college access program for low-income and first-generation college-bound high school students from the Chicago area. In her previous roles within higher education institutions, she has supported campus level diversity initiatives and provided advising and career support to first generation college students. She is motivated by her desire to inspire and empower underrepresented students to be leaders in their communities and institutions of higher education.

Piper Sutherland
Program Coordinator

Piper joined ScholarMatch after graduating from Gonzaga University with a degree in economics. Piper has significant experience in the field of youth development, having coordinated a program serving homeless adolescents, working as a Court Appointed Advocate for children in foster care, and serving as both a mentor and mentor coordinator for at-risk youth in her community. Piper feels passionate about the need to address and combat educational inequity and is excited to work with others who are committed to improving access to higher education. Piper works directly with Mission High School students and oversees our virtual programming.

Jessica Li
College & Career Advisor

Jessica is a Bay Area native. She holds a Masters in Counseling from San Francisco State University specializing in Career and College Counseling. She received her Bachelor’s from UC Irvine, majoring in Drama with a minor in Education. While at UC Irvine, she volunteered with Project MotiVATe, working with Vietnamese at-risk youth to help them graduate high school. This sparked her interest for working with teenagers and her dedication to giving back to the community. Jessica is passionate about helping youth and young adults reach their dreams of higher education. During her free time she enjoys practicing bikram yoga and rock climbing.

Francisco Prado
College Advisor

Francisco is a native Californian from Los Angeles, the son of Mexican immigrants, and he is the first male in his family to graduate college. He graduated from California State University, Northridge and holds a Bachelors degree in Sociology. His 12 years experience in working with at-risk youth and families in the non-profit sector have given him the tools to assist those that are in need of increasing access to higher education and social services. He has developed and coordinated programs for low income communities that assist in Life Skills, Counseling, Crisis Intervention, and increased academic enrichment and career planning. He is dedicated to his passion which is to see todays youth succeed and to make sure they are well prepared for the world of tomorrow.

Nirvana Felix
College Advisor & Outreach Coordinator

Nirvana is a ScholarMatch alumnus from San Jose who graduated from UC Berkeley with a Bachelors of Art in Social Welfare. As a first-generation college student, she spent her time at Cal increasing student of color representation in higher education through outreaching to low-income high schools, spearheading conversations about campus climate, diversity, and inclusion at her school, as well as interning at various organizations spanning from Oakland to Washington, D.C. to learn about educational policy-making. She is especially passionate about solving educational inequalities, community organizing, and finding the best milkshake in the Bay Area. Nirvana looks forward to creating a fun, inclusive space at her alma mater where she can support students as they embark on their college journey.

Courtney Lee
Evaluation, Operations & Research Associate

Courtney Lee is a native San Franciscan and a ScholarMatch alumna. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from UCLA and wants to use her quantitative skills for social good. Courtney has been involved with ScholarMatch’s programs nearly since the organization was born. During her undergraduate years, Courtney worked at the campus college access and retention center, learning about issues that affect college access and completion for underserved communities. Henceforth, she wants to ensure ScholarMatch’s sustainability and growth so that new cohorts of first-generation college students like her will be able to receive support before, during, and after college.

Marisela Garcia
Program & Volunteer Coordinator

Marisela grew up in the Bay Area but is originally from Mexico. She is a first generation college student and graduated from UC Berkeley with a Bachelors of Art in Sociology and a minor in Chicano Studies. She spent her college years volunteering and advocating for immigrant rights. Marisela is passionate about education and believes every student should have the opportunity to get a college education. She has experience in college advising from her previous role as a college advisor, a position that has motivated her to continue working with college-bound high school students. She knows first-hand that as a low-income and first generation student, you don’t always have the support or financial resources to attend college, which is why she wants to help students receive the support and information to make college possible.

Marisela habla español y esta aqui para ayudarle.

Oliver Pascua
Program Assistant

A first-generation college student originally from the East Bay, Oliver graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While at UCSC, he helped lead A Step Forward (ASF), a student initiated outreach program that aims to promote higher education to students coming from underserved communities throughout California. After college, he worked as a College Adviser at KIPP King Collegiate High School in San Lorenzo, supporting students in preparing for college. Oliver is passionate about supporting youth in navigating their college journeys and pursuing their goals. In his free time you might find Oliver cheering on the Warriors, or walking his dog.

Zebunissa Bradley
Program Associate

Zebunissa Bradley is one of five siblings who grew up in Riverside California. She was a low-income, first generation college student who attended the University of Santa Cruz where she received her Bachelors in Psychology. She then went on to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor where she received her Master’s in Social Work. Zebunissa has over 12 years’ experience in various areas of higher education, including academic advising, college admissions, college and career counseling and program development. She is committed to motivating and encouraging first generation students in their academic success and helping them to identify the best fit institution. As the newest member of the ScholarMatch team, she is excited about continuing this work. When Zebunissa is not mentoring students, she is spending time with her two awesome kids (Sidney & Phoenix) and catching up on her favorite HGTV and ABC shows.

Rita Bullwinkel
Development Assistant

Rita is a Bay Area native that has over six years of education and arts administration experience. She has taught at many academic institutions including Vanderbilt University, Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, 826NYC, The Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, The Nashville Public Library and The Slant Literary Project. She is a graduate of Brown University, where she studied creative writing and religious studies. She also holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Vanderbilt University, where she focused on fiction. As both an educator and a product of the California public school system, Rita is dedicated to increasing under-resourced students’s access to higher education.

Scholar Dog

Jazzy was rescued in 2011 and has been bringing joy to the ScholarMatch office ever since. Her fierce commitment to catching flies and laying on your feet make her the perfect addition to the team.

Board of Directors

Rose Carmona-Arbulu
Rose is a Financial Aid Counselor, University Scholarship Specialist and AB 540 Advisor at San Francisco State University, which is also her alma mater. She has a Master’s in Education, has served on the school’s AB 540 Task Force and is dedicated to helping all students have access to higher education.

Tom Conrad
Tom is the Cofounder of Pandora, and was most recently their Chief Technology Officer. He has led engineering and product design teams at a wide range of companies, including Berkeley Systems, Relevance Technologies, and He began his career at Apple Computer and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

Dave Eggers
Dave is the Founder of ScholarMatch and several other organizations, including nonprofit 826 Valencia and McSweeney’s Publishing Company. Dave is a graduate of University of Illinois and an award-winning author and educator.

Christine P. Higgins
Christy is Founder and Operator of Christine Higgins College Counseling; has worked as a Speech and Language pathologist at various locations; long-time volunteer at 826 Valencia, ScholarMatch and numerous other schools and non-profits.

Leif Isaksen
Leif Isaksen graduated from Occidental College and holds a PhD in Complexity from USC. Prior to retiring, was the CEO and Chairman of his own research and consulting firm. Leif has experience in planning, management, information systems, research, analysis, and marketing skills. He attributes much of his success to scholarships and opportunities he received from his own college journey.

Diana Kapp
Diana is a journalist who writes about a broad range of political, educational and cultural topics. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco ChronicleSan Francisco Magazine, ELLE, MORE, and other pubs. She holds a BA from the University of Michigan and an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Jon Keehn
Jon is an Investment Analyst at Capital International Investors. He previously worked at Maverick Capital and at Morgan Stanley & Co. and has been a long-time supporter and volunteer at ScholarMatch. He has an undergraduate degree is from University of Detroit Mercy and a graduate degree from the University of Notre Dame.

Ian Ferry
Ian has served as a portfolio manager and equity analyst for Jackson Square Partners since its inception in May 2014. He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Tulane University and holds an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Randie Bencanann
Randie is a retired social worker and previously the co-director of Adoption Connection. She holds a Masters in Health Sciences from San Francisco State University, a Master of Social work from Yeshiva University, and is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Ben Steinberg
Ben is the Director of Development at the Tehiyah Day School, an independent Jewish community day school, as well as an entrepreneur focused on using technology to benefit underserved students. Ben is a graduate of UC Davis and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton.

Ron Turiello
Ron is a graduate of Cornell Law School and has over 15 years of experience in law and technology in Silicon Valley and New York. He is active in education reform efforts, serving as an advisory board member for New Leaders for New Schools Bay Area chapter from 2009 to 2013, currently on the Board of Directors of Helios New School, an independent school for gifted learners, and as a member of the Education Circle of Full Circle Fund.

Mary Williams
Mary is a native of Oakland, and grew up part of the Black Panther community before going to live with Jane Fonda at age 14. Today, Mary is an author, avid traveler, and currently participating in Peace Corps in Uganda. She also serves as a trustee of the Fonda Family Foundation and has been instrumental in supporting ScholarMatch from the very beginning.