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Meet Our Themtors (2022-2023)



Please join us in welcoming our 2022-2023 Themtor cohort!


Our Themtors play a foundational role in the Themtorship Program, serving as the support system and resource missing in many of our students homes and schools.


After thoughtful reflection of our Themtee's needs, identities, and college goals, we've selected a cohort of identity-alike Themtors who meet our Themtee's with compassion, patience, and encouragement as they face the difficulty of pursuing higher education as first generation, undocumented, and Black students from the Central Valley.


This identity-alike leadership is key, as our Themtors are able to connect with our Themtees on a personal level, and offer support and advice on obstacles they've had to overcome themselves. One of our Themtees Benjamin Adubofour shares,


"One of my hopes entering the program was having my identities represented through my Themtor. Additionally, my identities are indispensable in my collegiate and professional aspirations. My applications, major, activities, and many other parts of my college journey will encompass being Black, and having someone who understands this to guide me through the process is most important to me."


Through the use of provided trainings, personal knowledge, and learn experiences, our Themtors will hand-hold our students with their entire college application process and help our scholars reach their fullest potential with the knowledge that they are worthy and deserving.


We are extremely honored to welcome our third Themtor cohort, and look forward to the community, learnings, and friendships we will develop together over the next ten months.


2022 - 2023 Themtor Cohort


Please join us in welcoming our cohort of ten themtors!


Rebeca Santiago Lopez (She/Her)

Rebeca originates from McFarland, CA in the Centra Valley and is currently a fourth year at UC Berkeley where she is majoring in Public Health and minoring in Chicanx studies. In her Themtor acceptance she states "I am so excited join the Central Valley Scholars team as a Themtor for this year's Themtorship Program! As a first-generation, low-income, and undocumented student my journey towards higher education has not been an easy one; however, it has left many valuable lessons and tips that I look forward on passing down to my Themtee over the course of the next 10 months!"

Hilda Barragan-Reyes (She/Her)

Hilda hails from Merced, CA and is a recent graduate of Merced High School. She's currently a first-year at Yale College where she plans on majoring in Economics and Mathematics on a path to an MBA. After learning of her Themtorship acceptance, she enthusiastically stated, "I am thrilled to form a part of the Themtorship community! As a first-generation, low-income, woman of color from the Central Valley, I am all too familiar with the lack of educational and emotional support in our communities. I'm so excited to share my passions and learn how to best support my Themtee's; science-fiction novels, nature, oldies music, I'm an open-book!"


Juana Cruz Sampedro (She/Her)

Juana originates from Fresno, CA and is a themtor for the 2022-23 cohort. She is currently in her third year at UC Berkeley. She is majoring in Bioengineering with a minor in Spanish Linguistics. She is passionate about educational equity and knows how overwhelming the college process is for students like herself: first-generation, low-income, and indigenous. She states, "I am so excited to be a themtor for this cohort! I know first-hand how intelligent, passionate, and well rounded Central Valley students are. My themtee will thrive in the institution they will ultimately attend, now we just have to get them there."


Mariela Vasquez (She/Her)

Mariela originates from Oaxaca Mexico and is a resident of Madera County. She is an undergraduate at Fresno State majoring in Sociology with a certificate in social justice. She plans to apply to the masters program upon graduating. Being an undocumented, first generation, low income, student-parent, Mariela states that she is very passionate about higher education and is very excited to help others with their journey on higher education. "When I started my higher education journey I had no guidance on where to begin and navigating my way to now being able to help those who are in a position in which I was years ago is a dream come true. I am filled with joy to begin my themtor journey because I know these students will truly benefit from this experience."


Julianna Swilley (She/Her)

Julianna is proudly from Dinuba, California and currently works as the Education Associate at UC Santa Barbara's Arts and Lectures department. She graduated from UCLA in 2020 with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, and recently received her Master's Degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2022 studying Learning Design, Innovation, and Technology. Julianna has a passion for the arts and education and is committed to increasing equity and access to quality education for underrepresented communities. As a themtor, Julianna hopes to become a personal cheerleader and emotional support for her themtee as they navigate the undergraduate application process and, ultimately, empower students by seeking out unique resources and opportunities to support their success.


J.d. Garza (He/Him)

J.d. is a gay, hispanic man who grew up in Corcoran, CA. He currently provides career support to students at the newest California Polytechnic in Humboldt. J.d. completed his Associate Degree in Communication studies at College of the Sequoias (2011), Bachelor of Arts in Communication at Cal Poly Humboldt (formerly Humboldt State, 2014), and graduated from Fresno Pacific University with his Master's degree in Leadership and Organizational Studies (2019). In his Themtor acceptance, he states "I believe that I have a responsibility to my community, regardless of distance. We come from a place where the odds are against us and while I am away supporting students pursuing their degrees at Cal Poly Humboldt, I am honored to be able to have the opportunity to stay connected to and support individuals from the Central Valley."


Charles Wynter (They/Them)

Charles is originally from Portmore, Jamaica, however they have lived the last half of their life in South Florida. They are currently a rising junior at Stanford University and have declared a major in Cellular, Molecular, Developmental Biology with plans of attending medical school. Charles is currently researching the efficacy of the use of novel small proteins in cancer diagnostics and immunotherapies. They are excited to serve as a Themtor for this year’s Themtorship Program and hope to share their experience as a Black, first-generation, queer, immigrant student with others who are transitioning from high school to higher education. They hope to be a friend and support system for students from marginalized communities that face adversity as they pursue their educational careers. In their free time Charles enjoys playing volleyball, cooking, viewing art, and watching films.


Rachel David (She/Her)

Rachel is from Riverside, CA and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree in Public Health at UC Berkeley with an emphasis in epidemiology and biostatistics. She recently graduated from UC Berkeley in 2022 with a Bachelor's Degree in Public Health and a minor in Education. Rachel wants her Themtee to know "Throughout my life as a Black woman student, I have experienced barriers in my education being from a marginalized and underrepresented community. Participating in a similar mentorship program in high school helped me to be successful and gain confidence in myself and my power as a student of color. I feel blessed to be able to pay that support forward by serving as a Themtor this year!"

Christopher Emodi (He/Him)

Christopher is from Hawthorne but was originally born in Nigeria. He is a sophomore at Stanford University and is majoring in human biology. He is an advocate in his community and helps those who come from underrepresented communities like he does. In his Themtor acceptance, he states "I hope to be someone my Themtee can count on during stressful times. I am not only a Themtor but a friend."



Juan Carlos Piña (He/Him)

Juan Carlos is originally from Bridgeport, CA - a rural town nestled between the Eastern Sierra Mountains. He's currently a program manager at Center for Care Innovations in Oakland California and supports community health centers strengthen their health equity practices by identifying and analyzing major social and structural determinants of health to improve population health for historically underinvested communities. Juan Carlos graduated in 2014 from UC Davis with a double major in Psychology and Chicano Studies, and later graduated in 2019 from UC Berkeley with a Master of Public Health. "As a first generation, Latinx student from a rural town in California, my journey to college was a lonely experience and one that I had to navigate myself. Since then, I've helped my younger siblings and cousins through their college application process and look forward to partnering with Central Valley Scholars in supporting students reach their full potential"


Reflecting On Language - Why Themtor & Not "Mentor"


Reflecting on the power of language, we made the intentional transition to use themtor in replacement of 'mentor' to show inclusion of trans, non-binary, genderqueer, and all other marginalized genders. Our organization particularly uses this spelling to separate ourselves from exclusionary 'mentorship' programs. This change demonstrates our ongoing commitment to serving non-male, marginalized genders.


Stay Connected


To learn more about the Themtorship Program, click here. If you would like to support our organization in continuing programs like this one, click here. For questions about this article or the Themtorship Program more generally, please contact us.

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