MEET THE TEAM
Led & Built
by Central Valley Students
President and Founder (She/He)
Michael Piña was born and raised in Kerman, CA. Since an early age, Michael has been an active member of her community volunteering for the SPCA Stray Center, Saint Agnes Hospital, Kerman Floyd After School Program, and more. Michael graduated from Kerman High School in 2017 as one of the Valedictorians of her class and further pursued her educational career at UC Berkeley. At the age of 19, Michael created Central Valley Scholars for the most forgotten populations in the Central Valley. As a Queer Latinx person, first-generation student, and raised in a low-income immigrant household, Michael made sure to create an accessible space for students with her identities and beyond.
Yessenia RAMOS sILVA
Administrative Intern (She/Her)
Yessenia Ramos Silva immigrated from Mexico in 2008 and has been residing in Terra Bella, CA ever since. From working in the fields at a young age, she learned the value of education and committed herself to excelling in academics, extracurriculars, and any opportunity that came her way. She is now a second-year student at Rice University in Houston, Texas double majoring in Kinesiology and Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Her goal is to attend medical school to become an obstetrician-gynecologist, with the intention of returning to serve her community. As a first-generation, low-income student, Yessenia works to support and help underserved communities in the Central Valley grow, progress, and succeed.
Event Coordinator (She/Her)
As a first-generation American, first-generation college student, and Latinx Woman from Fresno, CA, Kathia Osuna advocates for the unique plights of underrepresented communities in the Central Valley. Kathia is a current undergraduate student studying Sociology and Spanish at UC Berkeley. She has been an active member of her community throughout her high school career, organizing for several social justice causes which she brings to her work here at Central Valley Scholars. She will work to demystify institutions of higher education, expand the narrative of who can attend these institutions, and alleviate the college application process for marginalized groups in the Central Valley. Learn more about events Kathia leads here.
Yadira Hernandez-Figueroa was born and raised in Merced, California. They have been deeply devoted to community building and volunteering through their involvement at their local Boys and Girls Club and Merced City Youth Council. They are a first-generation undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley studying Political Science and Ethnic Studies. Rooted in their personal experiences they are deeply devoted to creating revolutionary change in the Valley, with an emphasis on educational accessibility and inequality. As the Themtor Affairs Director, they created and developed a themtorship program to guide and support Central Valley students applying to college. They are grounded in family, friendships, community knowledge, love and a passion for change. Yadira is excited to share their experiences and knowledge with other Central Valley students in the hopes of making higher education more accessible for all, especially Black, Indigneous, students of color and Queer students from the Central Valley. Learn more about their Themtorship Program here.
desmarie jackson is a lifetime resident of Atwater, CA and current student at UC Berkeley majoring in Comparative Literature with a double minor in Education and African American studies. In addition to serving as the Central Valley Scholars Black Themtorship Lead, des is a spoken word poet and writer, an organizer with the Central Valley Mutual Aid and Collective Care Network, and budding abolitionist committed to liberation for our Central Valley communities. des is beyond excited to be providing support, guidance, and resources to marginalized students across the Valley in accessing higher education, in particular Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in rural areas.
Director of Finance (She/Her)
Leslie Vasquez is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley currently studying Political Science with a minor in Public Policy. Originating from Selma, California, Leslie joined the Central Valley Scholars team because she wants to make an impact on helping students from underserved communities succeed in higher education. As a first-generation college student and Woman of color, Leslie saw first hand the difficulty that comes with applying for college and finding the necessary resources to succeed while in school and will work to ensure students from the Central Valley and with her identities and beyond do not face the same barriers.
Senior Program Officer (She/Her)
Ashley Acosta-Para is proudly raised by two Mexican immigrants, in a household with three older brothers, a little sister, and her family's strong belief that achieving higher education is a priority. Ashley is currently a student at UC Davis majoring in Cell Biology with the intention of attending medical school post-grad. As a first-generation college student and Queer Woman of Color, Ashley will use her experiences and struggles as a way to make our services and programming as successful and accessible as possible.
Health & Wellness Program Director (She/Her)
Angie Casarez is a rising third-year undergraduate student at Stanford University. Angie is originally from a rural ranching community west of Dallas called Millsap, where she attended high school. She is majoring in Human Biology with a concentration in Reproductive Health & Justice and a minor in Sociology. She hopes to eventually pursue a career in medicine and community health advocacy. She has participated in biological research projects at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University. Some of her health interests include community-based participatory research, clinical research, and social disparities in healthcare. Learn more about her program here.
Health & Wellness Program Intern (She/Her)
Parmeet Kaur is a rising second-year undergraduate student at California State University, Fresno. Parmeet was born in India, however was raised in Sanger, CA. She is majoring in Biological Sciences, and hopes to eventually pursue a career in medicine. She has participated in research projects at CSU Fresno in the BOND program. She is also involved in other organizations in the Central Valley, such as MiMentor and SIREN. As a first-generation college student, she hopes to be able to make a difference in the Central Valley for other health students with Central Valley Scholars.
Media & Marketing Director (She/Her)
Jazmine Solorzano is a rising senior at the University of California, Berkeley, currently studying Neurobiology along with Global Public Health. She originates from Paramount, CA, and as a first-generation college student and Latinx Woman, she aims to bring resources to people with her identities and beyond. Jazmine has over a year of graphic design experience, working for establishments such as The Daily Californian, and has also conducted research projects for UC Berkeley. Jazmine's work holds an emphasis on accessibility, making sure our language and designs are accessible to students with disabilities, and more. Jazmine will bring different designs and infographics that share important educational information for our students, donors, and supporters in a manner that is both legible and engaging.
DIANA ARLET SALINAS VARGAS
Media & Marketing Intern (She/Her)
Diana Salinas, originally from Bakersfield, CA, is a rising Public Policy sophomore at the University of Southern California. She is determined to spark real change and make an impact on the accessibility to higher education within the Central Valley. When reflecting on her college application process, she realized how intimidating and daunting the application process really was, especially as a first-generation, DACAmented woman of color. So, as a result, Diana has taken the initiative to create her own blog where she shares her experiences as a first-generation, DACAmented woman of color in a predominantly white institution. She also includes various resources that have helped her throughout her journey. Overall, Diana strives to create an inclusive community and a safe space where nobody has to feel alone nor lost. View her blog here & her articles here.