Asset 1ScholarMatch

Our Team


ScholarMatch is a dynamic team of talented and passionate professionals.

San Francisco

Mary Thuy Pham

Director of Human Resources

Mary Thuy Pham

Director of Human Resources

Mary was raised in in the Central Valley, having moved to the U.S. from Vietnam at the age of one with her parents and five siblings. She moved to San Francisco 14 years ago to attend college and decided to stay, as she fell in love with the diversity and culture the Bay Area has to offer. Mary has a Bachelor’s degree in Health Education with an emphasis in Public Health from San Francisco State University and is SHRM-CP certified. During college, she worked part-time as a test prep tutor for students from 8th-12th grade and loved being able to assist them in meeting their educational goals. Mary’s passions include friends, family, her two dogs, and traveling!

Lisa Lopez

Director of College Access

Lisa Lopez

Director of College Access

Lisa’s parents, of Mexican and Guatemalan heritage, immigrated to the United States. Inspired by their struggles, Lisa has been involved in the fields of education and service since high school. Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, CA, Lisa traveled north to attend the University of California, Berkeley where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies with a concentration in minorities and education. Lisa has over 10 years of college access and college persistence work; she is passionate about empowering students to lead their life with purpose, intention, and action. Prior to joining ScholarMatch, Lisa worked for KIPP Bay Area Public Schools as a Director of College Counseling and a College Persistence Manager. Outside of work, you can find Lisa dancing as part of an Afro-Brazilian dance company or spending time with friends and family.

Louis Mendez

Data Analyst

Louis Mendez

Data Analyst

Louis grew up in the Bay Area and studied Economics at the University of California, Davis. He started working for a financial-tech company after graduation, where his love for analytics first grew. Louis is passionate about storytelling with data and is motivated to help underrepresented college students obtain a fair shot at academic and career success. Outside of work, he is part of the leadership team of a recently established church in Oakland, and on his days off he is either hanging out at a coffee shop or trying out a new restaurant with a loved one.

Paola Gonzalez

Volunteer Manager

Paola Gonzalez

Volunteer Manager

Paola is a first generation college graduate and cultural worker who is passionate about education and youth development. She graduated from Skidmore College in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in Studio Art and Intergroup Relations. While at Skidmore, Paola co-facilitated a semester long intergroup dialogue focused on race and social identity and led initiatives focused on migrant rights, education equity, campus climate, and racial justice. Growing up in a low-income, mixed-status home Paola understands firsthand the challenges of navigating the higher education system and is passionate about supporting students on their journey to and through college. As an educator Paola has held the role of Founding Visual Arts Teacher and Teaching Artist where she developed curriculum focused on self-expression, using art as a tool to promote social justice, and art as a source of healing. Outside of ScholarMatch you can find Paola getting her hands dirty inking a new linoblock, watching foreign films and documentaries, or baking.

 

Arathi Govind, Ph.D.

Senior College Advisor

Arathi Govind, Ph.D.

Senior College Advisor

Arathi was born and raised in Southern California, the daughter of Indian immigrants. She began teaching during her undergraduate studies, and then went on to pursue a M.M. at the University of North Texas and a Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in ethnomusicology. Throughout her graduate studies, Arathi taught courses on music and race, American music history, and Western music theory. She also worked in career development as a co-director for Beyond Academia and a Professional Development Liaison for the UC Berkeley Graduate Division. Her academic training in career development, race theory, and the arts fuels her knowledge and drive to support underserved communities at ScholarMatch. Outside of ScholarMatch, you may find Arathi singing with various Bay Area groups or hiking with her husband and their silly, spoiled parrot named Doug.

Genaro Cruz

Senior College Advisor

Genaro Cruz

Senior College Advisor

Genaro immigrated from Mexico at the age of 11 to reunite with his family in the US and overcame educational obstacles as an ESL student in the Anaheim School District. In high school, he was a member of MEChA, which gave him access to important world literature and shaped his passion for supporting other immigrant students’ pursuit of higher education. Genaro earned an AA in Philosophy from Fullerton College and then transferred to UC Berkeley, where he earned two Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Spanish Literature. Since graduating from college, Genaro has supported student success in different capacities. He is an ardent advocate for the rights of every student from any immigration status to pursue their educational and professional dreams. In his free time, Genaro likes to keep busy by reading, writing, and spoiling his pug, Chomsky.

Marisela Garcia

Finance and Program Coordinator

Marisela Garcia

Finance and Program 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 Arts 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 está aquí para ayudarle.

Luciano Zuniga

Program Coordinator

Luciano Zuniga

Program Coordinator

Luciano is a proud first-generation college graduate who was born and raised in Sacramento, CA. He holds a BA in Public Health and minor in Public Policy from UC Berkeley. During college, Luciano planned a conference for students of color interested in careers in the health field and learned the importance of policy through a social justice lens by interning with The Greenlining Institute. These experiences sparked his interest in the intersection of education and health equity to provide individuals with the resources to succeed. Growing up in a low-income community, he understands the difficulties navigating higher education and the role organizations can play in supporting students in this process. Aside from work, Luciano can most likely be found at a cafe drinking coffee or outside on a run.

Leigh Ann Coleman

Development Associate

Leigh Ann Coleman

Development Associate

Leigh Ann is a non-profit administrator passionate about cultivating community. She comes from a professional background in development, events, and art education. A California native from Long Beach, Leigh Ann moved to San Francisco to attend SFSU, graduating in 2014 with a BA in Art. In college, she strengthened her passion for cultivating community through building art-focused community groups with her classmates. Following her graduation, Leigh Ann served at community-minded, art education non-profits such as Root Division, ArtSpan, and SFMOMA. Leigh Ann was drawn to ScholarMatch after hearing about it from friends. Joining the team in January 2019, Leigh Ann loves being apart of the vibrant ScholarMatch community and supporting first-generation college students! Outside of the office, Leigh Ann is painting in her studio, petting dogs at Ocean Beach, playing trivia with her colleagues, or on a road trip with friends.

Kevin Guzman

Program Associate & College Advisor

Kevin Guzman

Program Associate & College Advisor

Kevin grew up in Southern California where he obtained a B.A. in Asian American Studies at California State University, Northridge. After freelancing with a number of Los Angeles community based organizations, he moved to San Francisco to teach Ethnic Studies and History at Balboa High School. Recognizing the impact of mentorship and college readiness, he transitioned to non-profit youth development where he has worked directly alongside young people to actualize their potential as first generation college students and social agents of change. In his free time, Kevin enjoys traveling to new places and taking his corgi to different dog parks in the Bay Area.

Sylvia Hom

Human Resources and Operations Assistant

Sylvia Hom

Human Resources and Operations Assistant

Sylvia is the daughter of immigrants and a first-generation college student. She was born in Illinois and grew up in Illinois and Minnesota. She attended St. Olaf College, majoring in both Asian Studies and Religion, before moving to California to attend Berkeley Law School. After practicing corporate law for a few years in San Francisco, she found her true calling in nonprofit administration and has worked at social services and educational organizations. Outside of work, Sylvia can be found spending time with family, volunteering at her church, having coffee with friends, baking or traveling.

Bianelle Vazquez

Partnerships Manager

Bianelle Vazquez

Partnerships Manager

Bianelle is a first generation college student from the East Bay. She graduated from the University of San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Bianelle is also a Certified Nonprofit Management Professional. She found her passion working in the nonprofit sector while interning at ScholarMatch for three summers since 2016. Being the daughter of two Mexican immigrants, Bianelle found her voice by helping those in her community advocate for their rights and supporting others in making college possible. When Bianelle is not helping students, you can find her cuddled up with her cat and binge-watching Netflix.

Bianelle habla español y está aquí para ayudarle.

Los Angeles

Karla Salazar

Executive Director

Karla Salazar

Executive Director

Karla was born in Nicaragua, raised in Los Angeles since she was eight years old, and study abroad in Mexico. She is an experienced bilingual leader in the public and private sector. This diverse intersection of public and private industry experience has allowed her to have the ability to work effectively with multidisciplinary professionals. The guiding principle that drives and motivates Karla as a professional is her ability to empower, impact and influence individuals and organizations toward a common good. Her life mission is to contribute to a more humane world by collaborating with visionary leaders, developing and implementing transformative ideas, strengthening organizations, and being of service to our communities.

One of her proudest collaboration was as an undergraduate student at UCLA. Karla was the first Director of Centro Coatlicue for MEChA Calmecac, she was part of the founding of the student-initiated, student-run, and student-funded retention program created in response to the problem of high attrition rates for Latinx UCLA undergraduate students. The program still exists at UCLA.

In the public sector, she worked as an Assistant Manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Los Angeles branch, Field Director in the California State Controller’s Executive Office, and an Analyst at the City of Santa Monica’s Finance Department. Since 2010, she has management experience in nonprofit organizations such as the California Community Foundation, Nonprofit Finance Fund, Board Treasurer, Interim CEO and COO for Families In Schools, and most recently as Interim CEO of Casa Treatment Center.

In 2013, she launched her financial and strategic management consulting work under SOS Strategies partnering with nonprofit organizations interested in strengthening their organizational workflow and effectiveness in the areas of business planning, leadership transition, restructuring, governance, revenue model realignment, and financial literacy and training.

Karla’s professional experience is enhanced through her engagement as a volunteer with several community organizations. She is a board member of the United States Selective Service System, Grand Performances, and continues to be involved in several community projects.

Karla earned a Master of Arts Degree in Public Policy from the Claremont Graduate University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with an emphasis in international relations and specialization in Chicana/Chicano Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. Ms. Salazar also completed the Executive Program in General Management at the University of California, Los Angeles, John E. Anderson School of Management.

When she is not working, she enjoys spending time with her son and family, hiking, attending outdoor concerts at Grand Performances, and traveling while doing landscape photography.

Veronica Ponce-Navarrete

Senior Director of Programs and Evaluation

Veronica Ponce-Navarrete

Senior Director of Programs and Evaluation

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.

Francisco Prado

Operations Manager & Data Analyst

Francisco Prado

Operations Manager & Data Analyst

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 today’s youth succeed and to make sure they are well prepared for the world of tomorrow.

Alma Zaragoza-Petty, Ph.D.

Senior College Advisor

Alma Zaragoza-Petty, Ph.D.

Senior College Advisor

Alma is a native Californian who was also raised in Acapulco, Mexico. She has worked with students for almost 20 years in various capacities and settings. She started as an enrollment officer at East Los Angeles College, where she began her studies. While at UCLA she tutored and advised students in South Central and Huntington Park, where she grew up. As the first in her family to go to college, she became interested in learning about educational equity, and went on to complete a Masters in Counseling at CSU Northridge and a predoctoral internship at UC Berkeley. She lived in NorCal for three years while working for the EAOP and Cal-SOAP programs assisting students become college-ready. She returned to SoCal for her doctoral studies at UC Irvine where she graduated from in 2016. When she is not working with students, she enjoys spending time with her two daughters and partner, performing artist Propaganda.

Shannon Gatewood

College Advisor

Shannon Gatewood

College Advisor

Shannon was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and is a first-generation college graduate. After graduating with a B.A. in Sociology from Grinnell College, she spent two years completing non-profit service projects through AmeriCorps. In her first year of service, Shannon advised students from low-income backgrounds as they navigated college and peer-mentored a cohort of service members tasked with implementing literacy-based programs in their communities in her second year. Shannon is passionate about providing support to those in need and believes everyone should have access to education regardless of background.

When she’s not working, you can find Shannon binge-watching her favorite shows or creative writing. She was recently awarded a 7-month fellowship with Emerging Voices through PEN America, which is arming her with the tools and support to work on her first novel.

Carmela Escarez

College Advisor

Carmela Escarez

College Advisor

Carmela is a first-generation college graduate with degrees in Political Science and International Development from UCLA. At the age of 8, she moved to San Gabriel, California from the Philippines with her parents. During her college career, Carmela was involved in access and retention projects, helping design programs and workshops to help low-income, under-resourced students achieve their academic and personal ambitions. Her experiences in peer counseling, leadership development, and program facilitation fueled her passion to help connect people to opportunities. Outside of work, Carmela loves reading self-improvement books, checking out local coffee and boba shops, designing her doodle journal, and spending quality time with friends and family.

Juliana Pech Majarrez

College Advisor

Juliana Pech Majarrez

College Advisor

Juliana hails from Inglewood, California and is the seventh of eight children to her Belizean parents. She is a first generation college graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Education. During her undergrad career, she engaged students in career planning and development as well as college preparedness. She has worked to empower and uplift the Los Angles community through informing and advocating for rights within the public school system. Her interests lay in educational equity and building bridges between K-12 and higher education. Being a ScholarMatch alumna, she values and recognizes the importance of mentorship and the necessity of representation within those spheres. In her free time she enjoys playing her records, curling up with a good book, or exploring new thrift shops.

Cadence Calixto

Volunteer Program Associate

Cadence Calixto

Volunteer Program Associate

Cadence is a proud community college transfer from the Bay Area. They hold an A.A. in Liberal Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences from De Anza College, and a B.A. in Anthropology and a minor in LGBTQ Studies from UCLA. Cadence’s experiences as a queer student of color learning to navigate academia pushed them to begin working with student populations at both De Anza and UCLA, and has since sparked their passion to empower, support, and create spaces for students with marginalized identities in higher educational spaces. In their free time, Cadence can be found illustrating, cuddling their kitten, and exploring LA with loved ones.

Remote

Jonathan Ho

Director of Data & Information Systems

Jonathan Ho

Director of Data & Information Systems

Jonathan is originally from Hong Kong, China and is a first-generation college student. He received his bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Economics from University of California Los Angeles and his master’s degree in Business Analytics from California State University East Bay. Jonathan brings his expertise in data analytics, data modeling and database management to his new role at ScholarMatch. He is passionate about using his skill-sets to bridge the gaps between students, counselors and ScholarMatch, and is excited to be a part of a team that helps students achieve their goals of obtaining a higher education. When Jonathan is not tinkering around databases, he can usually be found playing volleyball, role-playing with his toddler, or looking for a new recipe to try.

Deborah Kang

Director of College and Career Programs

Deborah Kang

Director of College and Career Programs

Deborah is a passionate career development professional and first-generation college student. Navigating college was extremely challenging, but through the support of her community, she was able to find her path as a career advisor. While she originates from Southern California, she earned a B.S. in Public Policy at Georgia State University and M.Ed. in College Student Affairs Administration at the University of Georgia. Recognized for her collaborative spirit and love for career development, Deborah has served in various institutions to support students of all ages and backgrounds. She believes that through career management, individuals and families can feel more economically empowered, and is excited to support ScholarMatch students’ career readiness. When she’s not at ScholarMatch, you’ll find her at Golden Gate Park with her dog and partner, at a dance studio or the local ice rink!

Lita Anderson

Director of Advancement

Lita Anderson

Director of Advancement

Lita Anderson is the Director of Advancement at ScholarMatch and brings a wealth of experience in philanthropy, social impact, marketing, fundraising, sponsorships, new business development and strategic alliances. Lita has developed community giving and volunteer programs, special events, diversity and inclusion strategies and outreach initiatives in both the corporate and non-profit sectors.

Lita’s father, although born into a poor family in the deep South, was a first generation college student. Her maternal grandmother emigrated from Liberia, West Africa and was the first in her family to attend college in the U.S. Both Lita’s mother and father earned masters degrees, and she and her siblings continued the family tradition of higher education excellence by successfully completing college, graduate school, law school and medical school respectively.

Prior to joining the ScholarMatch team, Lita worked in Washington D.C. for education focused charitable organizations. There she was responsible for designing mutually beneficial partnerships to drive revenue and increase community awareness regarding the issues of education equity and access for youth from low income communities.

Lita’s over 20-year career also includes roles at American Express Company, Charles Schwab Company, American Red Cross, U.S. Tennis Association, Habitat for Humanity, America’s Promise Alliance and First Book. Under Lita’s direction the Charles Schwab Company was awarded its first Corporate Volunteer Recognition Award from the Volunteer Centers of the Bay Area, the highest social impact honor bestowed on a company in the region. She has served as a board member, advisory council representative and volunteer for several organizations. She was a member of the inaugural Starbucks Bay Area Grants for Giving Judging Panel, served on the selection committee for the Volunteer Center of San Francisco and Marin County Community Awards, and is a founding Board Member for former San Francisco 49er Bryant Young’s Young Dreams Foundation. Lita currently serves as a Board Member for the Attles Center for Excellence (A.C.E.), a youth focused organization named for her Godfather Alvin Attles, legendary coach for the Golden State Warriors and 2019 NBA Hall of Fame inductee.

Lita holds a B.A. in Spanish (her second language) from Rutgers University, an M.B.A. from the Lubin Graduate School of Business/Pace University and professional certification in Corporate Community Relations from Boston College. Lita is a past recipient of the Women Who Dare Award from Girls, Inc. of Alameda, California. In addition to writing and volunteering, she is an avid tennis player and Mom to daughter Sara and nephew Joshua.

Paloma Mariz

Communications & Marketing Manager

Paloma Mariz

Communications & Marketing Manager

Paloma grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, surrounded by nature, books, and the arts. Her upbringing amid Brazil’s rich culture fueled her curiosity and love of storytelling, ultimately leading to a career in film and video editing. Eager to explore the world and lured in by New England charm, she moved to Boston, MA, to expand her horizons and further her education. Many snowstorms later, she headed west, excited to embrace California’s diversity and progressive culture. Since arriving in the Bay Area, she has been working for education nonprofits focused on educational equity and committed to helping students thrive. A first-generation college graduate herself, she is excited to use her experience to help advance ScholarMatch’s mission of supporting students through college and beyond.

Ronald Hicks

Interim Advising Manager

Ronald Hicks

Interim Advising Manager

A Mississippi Native, Ronald Hicks is a passionate Academic Advising and Student Success Strategist driven to achieve results. Ronald has gained experience in education as a classroom teacher, academic advisor, and HBCU program director. He attended Tougaloo College and Jackson State University studying both Biology and Music. He continues advanced graduate study at Jackson State University in Higher Education Administration. Ronald is an avid researcher and loves perusing ProQuest, reading dissertations as food for thought. He is an active member in a number of civic service/social organizations including 100 Black Men of America, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., National Association of Blacks in Higher Education, NACADA, Toastmasters International, Rotary Club International, NAACP, just to name a few. Ronald plans to one day move to the west coast and enjoy the sunny weather. He loves classical music, running, and watching Youtube.

Board of Directors

Randie Bencanann

Retired Social Worker

Sheila Doucet

ScholarMatch Volunteer

Karen Grace-Baker

Right College Choice

Julie Huang

Alector, Inc.

Jaime Huling-Delaye

San Francisco Deputy City Attorney

Miriam Karpilow

Nutanix

Jon Keehn

Capital International Investors

Mary Williams

Trustee, Fonda Family Foundation

Jose Martinez

Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council, Boy Scouts of America

Luz Gomez

Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

Martha Castillo

Seeds of Grit Educational Services

Terrance Mayes

Stanford University