Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment
Dr. Laura Owen
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR EQUITY AND POSTSECONDARY ATTAINMENT
Dr. Laura Owen (she, her), NCC, NCSC, is the Executive Director for the Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment at San Diego State University. A prior urban school counselor, district counseling supervisor, and district crisis team lead, she is a passionate advocate for closing postsecondary opportunity gaps. Her research focuses on evaluating the impact of practices designed to address the systems, structures and policies needed to remove barriers for historically marginalized communities. Dr. Owen has researched interventions targeting FAFSA completion, the high school to college transition, virtual advising, the use of technology in college counseling, how students prefer to receive college and career information and the pandemic’s impact on students’ postsecondary choices. She is committed to the discovery of models that support access, retention and completion of postsecondary credentials aligned to the workforce and connected to high wage, high demand jobs. Dr. Owen received teaching awards from Johns Hopkins University and San Diego State University. She co-led the SDSU White House Convening on Strengthening School Counseling and College Advising and assisted with American University's White House Convening on Culturally Sustaining Practices in College Counseling. She serves on the California Cradle to Career Data and Tools Advisory Board, is currently a co-editor for the Journal of College Access, and co-edited the 2022 Equity-Based Career Development and Postsecondary Transitions book. Dr. Owen is the 2023 California School Counselor Educator of the Year.
Dr. Diana Camilo
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR EQUITY AND POSTSECONDARY ATTAINMENT
Dr. Diana Camilo, Ed.D., LCP, NCC is an Assistant Professor at CSU San Bernardino. Her expertise is in school counseling, student services, and administration. As an administrator for Chicago Public Schools, she provided district-wide planning, management, and the evaluation of interventions and policies to support and sustain the implementation of school counseling programs. Her teaching and research interests include culturally responsive practices and supervision, school counseling, the college and career readiness of minoritized populations, stress management, and practitioners’ experienced secondary traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Camilo is a Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) national trainer. She also served as the Director of the San Diego State University School Counseling program. She was the founder and chair of the Supporting Access to Higher Education for Immigrant and Undocumented Students conference and is a member of the UndocuResearch Collaborative. She has served as an advisor to the Career Council for the University of Mississippi, Chi Sigma Iota-Epsilon Mu Chapter, and Education Without Borders at SDSU. She also served as a mentor for the MANA-Hermanitas Mentoring Program. Dr. Camilo earned her BA and MS from the University of Rochester, NY, and Ed.D. from Argosy University, Chicago.
DIRECTOR OF COLLEGE PERSISTENCE AND COMPLETION
Mercedes Albarran is the Director of College Persistence with the Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment and works with Avenues for Success and Hoover High School alumni to support their degree completion. She has been with SDSU since 2015 where she recently served as Counselor for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and Ethnic Affairs, which supports first generation, low-income, and historically underserved college students. In addition, Mercedes previously served as the Academic Advisor for Compact Scholars and Academic Student Success Programs where she advised both Compact Scholars from Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) and freshmen commuter students at SDSU. Mercedes has over a decade of experience working as a professional advocate for student success with diverse students in various educational settings including early childhood education, the K-12 sector, and in higher education. Her interests align with her experience in developing data driven retention strategies to support the needs of historically marginalized students in persisting toward degree completion in higher education. She is an alumna of San Diego State University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Family Development from SDSU and a Master of Science degree in Educational Counseling with a Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential from the University of La Verne. Mercedes has a passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion in an educational setting. She is committed to working with students holistically and is dedicated to providing guidance and support to students in reaching their educational and career goals.
DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH AND EVALUATION
Tricia Hodge is the Research and Evaluation Director for the Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment and Avenues for Success, a college and career access program at Hoover High School. Her strong desire to support young people make positive life choices led her to a Masters degree in Public Health from San Diego State University where she studied social science research methods, health promotion, and youth development. Tricia’s earlier accomplishments in evaluation have been interdisciplinary with grants funded at local, state, and federal levels; projects such as early childhood literacy, social-emotional counseling for military-connected youth, and childhood physical activity. Her work in postsecondary research and evaluation include a U.S. Department of Education GEAR UP grant with UC San Diego (2008) and subsequently, with an SDSU GEAR UP grant (2014). Additionally, Tricia served on the federal GEAR UP APR Redesign Initiative which reexamined all career and college readiness GPRA measures and reporting. Tricia is well-versed in proposal development, strategic planning, building evaluation capacity, data systems, and outcome reporting. Her dedication to working with education specialists has provided the following: answering questions to achievement gaps, creating opportunities in postsecondary pathways, and addressing challenges to student success.
DIRECTOR OF CAREER PATHWAYS AND SOCIAL CAPITAL
Claudia Martinez (she/her/ella), M.A., is the Director of Career Pathways and Social Capital for the Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment at San Diego State University (SDSU). She is passionate about career & leadership development, diversity equity & inclusion, and academic excellence. Since joining SDSU in 2013, she has led and managed the development of the career readiness certificate program; created and directed projects which connect internships and community engagement to students’ career development; served as a liaison to employers in social change fields, including and not limited to nonprofits and service gap year employers; and founded and Co-Chaired the SDSU Social Justice Summit, highlighting career pathways for students interested in connecting social justice and careers. She also teaches the internship course for the SDSU Leadership Minor, and she is an advisor to the SDSU Pacific Islander Student Association (PISA) student organization. Outside of SDSU, Claudia serves as the Scholarship Committee Co-Chair for MANA de San Diego, a nonprofit organization with a mission to develop, nurture and empower Latina leaders through education, leadership development, advocacy and community service.
Prior to SDSU, Claudia served through AmeriCorps’ Volunteer In Service To America (VISTA) program and the Hawai’i and Pacific Islands Campus Compact (HIPICC), where she coordinated STEM programming for K-12 students from historically underserved populations, and managed student volunteers in after-school programs through Kapi’olani Community College’s Service Learning Department.
Born in Peru, raised in Italy, and studied in France and the United States, Claudia has had the privilege of experiencing various cultures and school systems in her life. Through her own life experiences, she values the impact that lived experience has on individuals' career journeys and lifelong learning. She is a proud first-generation college graduate and a proud mother. Claudia has a Bachelor’s in Science from Excelsior College, and a Master’s degree in Postsecondary Educational Leadership with emphasis in Student Affairs from San Diego State University. Claudia is trained in counseling on the Strong Interest Inventory career assessment, a career assessment which connects personal interests to career pathways. Her professional affiliations include the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), Mountain Pacific Association of Colleges & Employers (MPACE).
DIRECTOR OF COLLEGE ENROLLMENT
Rocio Zamora is the Director of College Enrollment with the Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment at San Diego State University. She recently completed a State Policy Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of California, where she drafted and helped pass state legislation rooted in gender and racial justice. She has been with SDSU since 2015 where she recently served as an Outreach Specialist for the Office of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs. In this role, she coordinated college outreach initiatives for first-generation and low-income students from across the state, acted as the lead coordinator for the BEST Summer Bridge Program, and founded the EOP RISE Volunteer Program. In addition, she previously served as the Assistant Coordinator for the Center for Educational Partnerships, Outreach and Success. As Assistant Coordinator, she guided students from the Sweetwater Union High School District towards successful completion of the Compact for Success requirements, oversaw the Compact for Success Mentoring program, and supported the Price Community Scholars program. Prior to this, she worked for Upward Bound and Girls Incorporated. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz and her Master’s degree in Postsecondary Educational Leadership from San Diego State University. Her experience becoming the first in her family to graduate high school and earn a college degree is what fuels her passion towards creating educational equity, fighting for social justice, and supporting communities from historically marginalized backgrounds.
Katy Zaragoza is the Administrative Support Coordinator for the Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment at San Diego State University (SDSU) and supports the Avenues for Success college & career access program at Hoover high School. Katy was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and raised in San Diego, California. She was the first in her family to have the opportunity to obtain a college education. She received an Associate degree in Child Development from Miramar Community College and a Bachelors in Applied Arts and Sciences in Child Development from SDSU. As a first generation college graduate, Katy is honored to have the privilege to do work that supports equity in education for future generations.
SDSU Student Assistants
Cynthia Hernandez Cardenas
Cynthia (she/her/ella) is one of the graduate student assistants working to support 9th-grade scholars at Avenues for Success (AFS) at Hoover High School. She was born and raised in City Heights and is a proud first-generation Latinx advocate. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Family Development and a minor in Spanish at San Diego State University. Cynthia is currently pursuing her Master of Science in Counseling degree with a specialization in School Counseling and the California Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credential at San Diego State University. Her past experience has been in the education field working with students in K-12 as an Afterschool Program Youth leader, Behavior Interventionist, Head Start Family Support Specialist, Migrant Youth support worker, and enjoys volunteering anytime an opportunity comes up. Cynthia strives to believe in every student she encounters by providing unconditional regard and support to all.
Bao (he/they) identifies as a Vietnamese-American, first-generation, and bisexual individual. He graduated from San Diego State University in 2022 with his bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies in Three Department: Counseling and Social Change, Criminal Justice, and Sociology and a minor in Leadership. Bao is a brother of Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity Inc., a Latino-based fraternity with multicultural membership. Bao is currently pursuing his master at San Diego State University in Counseling with a concentration in School Counseling and the California Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credential. Prior to pursuing his masters, he worked for Avenues for Success as the 10th grade level coordinator. His area of focus revolved around helping students plan their postsecondary goals, provided exposure to different career development, and create different programming events to help his student's build social capital.
Cathy Longstreet is a PhD student enrolled in a joint Education program between San Diego State University and Claremont Graduate University. She is a graduate research assistant for the center and works on curriculum development and school counselor professional development with the Michigan College Access Network grant. Her current research interests include school counselor advocacy and rural student college access. Cathy was a public school counselor in West Michigan for 25 years. She worked with students in all grades K-12, serving most of her time as a district school counseling department chair and working with high school students as they created their post-secondary plans. She was appointed to Governor Whitmer’s Educator Advisory Council, chosen to work on multiple college and industry advisory boards, earned a College Board National Fellowship, and a Michigan College Access Network School Counselor Fellowship throughout her tenure as a school counselor.
Laurenne Sanchez Gutierrez
Madelyn Sophia Porras
Madelyn Porras is a graduate student assistant working to support the District of Columbia College Access Program (DC-CAP). She graduated from the University of Redlands in 2021 with a B.A in Psychology and is currently pursuing her Master’s of Social Work and school counseling credential at SDSU. She has experience working with elementary, middle, and high school students and their parents. Madelyn is passionate about working with students in underprivileged communities by helping them understand how to navigate their future as well as educating students' families about higher education opportunities. In her spare time, she enjoys trying new food places, staying active, and spending time with her partner and their dog.
Avenues for Success
FAMILY ENGAGEMENT COORDINATOR
Jackie Rodriguez has served as the Avenues for Success (formally College Avenue Compact) Family Success Coordinator since 2017. Prior to that, she worked as the Parent Center Parent Coordinator at Hoover High School and Wilson Middle School. Both schools are located in her hometown of City Heights, which is one of the most diverse communities where the majority of students are from first-generation, low-income families. Jackie has more than 10 years of experience serving underserved families as a mentor and advocate not only in the education field, but also assisting them to find the resources they need to support their students so they can live more fulfilling lives through education.
COLLEGE PERSISTENCE COORDINATOR
Giovana Lizbeth Duong is the Student Coordinator with Avenues for Success. She has been providing valuable college and career services to students in City Heights since 2012. Her work began as a college mentor and then as a Student Coordinator for middle school students where she developed aspiring learners with innovative and engaging activities. Giovana has helped build a college-going culture at Monroe Clark and Wilson Middle School. She helped administer the PSAT for the first time to 8th Graders. She has helped create English and Math Enrichment Spring and Winter programs. She earned a Bachelor of Arts at San Diego State University and is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership at Point Loma Nazarene University. Based on her current studies, she believes that collaboration with counselors and teachers are vital for student success and looks forward to supporting future generations.
10TH-11TH GRADE LEVEL COORDINATOR
Vivian Cerrito's (she/her) educational journey began at Norco Community College where she worked as a Writing Tutor and Supplemental Instruction Leader. Through these experiences, her passion for supporting students grew tremendously. She transferred to the UCSD in 2020 and recently graduated, in June 2023, with a B.A. in Sociology with a focus on Social Inequalities. While at UCSD, she had the privilege of working at the Triton Transfer Hub as a peer coach. In this role, she was dedicated to aiding the transfer student population as they navigated their transition into university. Her aspiration is to extend this support to all students, empowering them on their academic and professional journeys.
Johnny Nguyen Ngo
12TH GRADE LEVEL COORDINATOR
Johnny Nguyen Ngo is the Grade Level Coordinator with Avenues for Success. They have been providing college and career services to students since 2013 in the 7th-12th and College environment. Their passion for working with students began as a Student Mentor for a program called Long Beach Blast, working with a continuing education High School. That eventually led to a year of Service under AmeriCorps VISTA with the GEAR UP Program at the California State University San Bernardino as the Coordinator of STEM Initiatives. For the past three years, they have been working as a Program Advisor for San Jacinto Community College in Houston, TX. They have earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the California State University Long Beach and are working towards continuing their education. Their experience as a 1st Generation College student drives their passion for student equity and supporting the community.
Practitioner Tools, Research and Evaluation
Raeal Moore Ph.D
Raeal Moore Ph.D. is Executive Director of Evaluation Data Solutions, LLC, a woman-owned, evaluation firm. With 20 years of experience in program evaluation and research, Dr. Moore has served as an independent evaluator or statistical consultant on multiple state and federally funded projects, including: Teacher Quality partnership, Advanced Technological Education, Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools, Statewide Family Engagement Centers, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Community Health Workers for COVID, National Professional Development, Mathematics and Science Partnerships, Teen Pregnancy Prevention, National Institute of Corrections, and Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program. For 11 years, Dr. Moore was a principal research scientist at ACT, specializing in survey research with a focus on elevating student voices, equity, and policy development. Dr. Moore teaches graduate-level statistics and research design courses and holds an MA and PhD in Quantitative Research, Evaluation and Measurement from The Ohio State University.