Community Engagement Advisory Board
Anna Alvarado, California EDGE Coalition
Anna Alvarado is the Policy Director for the California EDGE Coalition. Her work involves policy development and legislative advocacy focused on advancing EDGE’s policy priorities that aim to achieve greater equity and economic mobility for all Californians. Anna brings with her over ten years of experience in legislative and advocacy work in and around the State Capitol community. Most recently, Anna was the Director of Government Relations for Cruz Strategies where she advocated on behalf of local governments, higher education institutions, and non-profit health care organizations on issues relating to homelessness, housing, student financial aid, and mental health. Prior to lobbying, Anna worked for the California State Senate where she served as a policy analyst for Senator Jim Beall. In this role she staffed numerous bills, committees, and policy areas, including women’s rights, K-12 and higher education, Latino community issues, immigration, veteran affairs, transportation, and health/human services. Anna holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and Chicano studies from CSU Fresno and a master’s degree in public policy & administration from CSU Sacramento.
Lauren Asher, LJA Strategies
Lauren Asher is a higher education policy expert and longtime advocate for college access, affordability, and success. Her career spans the nonprofit, public, and philanthropic sectors, including as president of The Institute for College Access & Success and co-founder of its Project on Student Debt. Asher also served in senior positions at the Kaiser Family Foundation, National Partnership for Women & Families, and U.S. Department of Labor. She is currently a strategy consultant to equity-oriented nonprofits and foundations, public member of the WASC Senior College and University Commission, and volunteer college access coach. She holds an MPA from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a BA from Brown University.
Patricia Chavez, Parent Institute for Quality Education
Patricia E Chavez has dedicated her career to building cross-sector partnerships and public support on issues and causes that facilitate community transformation. An adept storyteller with more than 25 years of experience, she has worked in public, private, and nonprofit sectors leading initiatives that create and execute brands, strengthen marketing and communications, foster strategic partnerships, and expand relationships with policymakers, education leaders, partners and stakeholders. Currently, Chavez serves as Head of External Relations for Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL) powerful English Learner focused approach to education rooted at the intersection of research and education equity. and leads SEAL’s communication efforts and serves as a thought partner on strategy, communications, and effective relationship building with leaders in policy and advocacy space. As a former Councilmember, Chavez has a unique combination of legislative and community experience and cultural competency that drives her work with diverse populations to strengthen the voice of underrepresented communities. Among the various initiatives, Patty led coordination efforts for San Diego County of Education to increase civic and community support for quality early education and transitional kindergarten programs. Chavez is first-generation and first-in-family to earn advanced degrees. She has a master’s in communication management from the University of Southern California.
Michelle Cheang, LA Promise Fund
Dr. Michelle Cheang is a nonprofit executive, currently serving as the Chief Advancement Officer at LA Promise Fund (LAPF). Dr. Cheang is passionate about transforming student learning by supporting high quality education, a positive school climate, increasing family and community support, and providing high quality wraparound services.
Prior to joining LAPF, Dr. Cheang served five years as Dean for the Los Angeles Community College District. Dr. Cheang led academic departments, K-12 partnerships, adult education, noncredit programs, academic support services, and “College to Career” grants. Prior to that Dr. Cheang launched a new department for a Los Angeles-based nonprofit focused on developing positive alternative pathways into education and careers for in and out-of-school youth.
Dr. Cheang obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego in Biological Anthropology and Critical Gender Studies. She then went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Doctorate in Education from California State University, Northridge. Her dissertation title is Community College and Community-Based Nonprofit Partnerships: Supporting the College Pipeline for Opportunity Youth.
Meredith Curry, Northern California College Promise Coalition
As the Executive Director, Meredith Curry Nuñez leads the Northern California College Promise Coalition (NCCPC) in its vision to shape college success efforts in the region by advancing policy, building campus partnerships, driving workforce development, and facilitating communities of practice. She also serves on the National College Attainment Network Advisory Task Force. NCCPC is a coalition of 30+ college promise and access programs serving over 60,000 students across 12 counties including and surrounding the Bay Area. Mer previously served in a variety of roles with the California College Guidance Initiative as the Director of Operations and then Director of Content and Data Management for CaliforniaColleges.edu.
Tenisha James, Norco College
Tenisha James has a long history in education and in serving minoritized students in the k-12 to college pipeline at the secondary and postsecondary level. She began her career in education in LAUSD as a High School Counselor at Manual Arts and Crenshaw HS before transitioning to higher education over 10 years ago. Her background includes leading federal and state funded equity programs, with a focus on low-income/first generation students, Black students, and Latinx students. She currently works at Norco College, in the Riverside Community College District, as the Dean of Student Services where she leads efforts in student equity and success through Guided Pathways, counseling, and equity programming. Her work in education is defined by her desire to bring equity to all students by removing institutional and systematic barriers to student access and success. Dr. James holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology & Social Behavior from UC Irvine, a masters in Counseling from CSU Dominguez Hills, and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy from Pepperdine University.
Nancy Jodaitis, Immigrants Rising
Nancy Jodaitis is the Director of Higher Education at Immigrants Rising. She has dedicated her skills to building educational pathways for undocumented students in higher education for the past fourteen years. Her efforts include providing technical support to post-secondary institutions to expand institutional practices to increase undocumented students’ enrollment and graduation rates. She also conducts trainings and creates learning communities for educators, administrators, financial aid, and admissions departments to facilitate cross-campus learning. Nancy is currently coordinating a statewide initiative to increase equitable enrollment of in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. She is also researching award rates for the CA Dream Act. To increase promising practices, Nancy has developed a library of educational materials for undocumented students and guides for colleges & universities. Previously, Nancy worked for more than a decade as a financial aid counselor, pre-admissions/transfer advisor, and undocumented student advocate.
Orquidea Largo, University of California, Merced
A native of the San Joaquin Central Valley, Dr. Orquídea Largo was born in Patterson and raised in Crows Landing and Newman, CA. The daughter of two Mexican immigrants, her career is deep-rooted in the Central Valley and the University of California, Merced campus. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from California State University, Fresno, and an Ed.D. in educational and organizational leadership from the University of the Pacific. Her dissertation underscored the importance of continuous improvement in K-12. In 2001, Dr. Largo joined the University of California, Office of the President’s Office of Relations withSchools and Colleges, and the UC Merced campus in 2002.
Dr. Largo is an experienced administrator responsible for the Center for Educational Partnerships (CEP) within the Student Affairs unit at UC Merced, which houses multiple state, federal, and privately funded academic preparation programs. She has helped secure over $38 million in federal, state, and private grants to provide student, parent, and school-centered services aimed “to provide student, school, and parent-centered services that ultimately result in students having the greatest number of postsecondary choices from the widest array of options upon graduation.”
Dr. Largo serves as Chair of the University of California’s Student Academic Preparation and Educational Partnerships (SAPEP) P20 Leadership Council, member of the University of California’s the K-12 Academic Preparation Leadership Council (APLC), a member of the National Academic Assembly Council with the College Board, and a senior fellow of the American Leadership Forum (ALF) Great Valley Chapter XI. In addition, she is an active member of multiple P-20 regional councils in the San Joaquin Central Valley.
She is married to Victor Manuel Largo Martinez, and they have three children: Victor Guadalupe, Bonilet, and Fernán, all in grade school.
Paige Loverin, Visalia Unified School District
Paige Loverin, MA, PPS, is a counselor for Visalia Unified’s College and Career Readiness. She has worked in K-12 student services for 26 years and has served as a CCC adjunct instructor. Visalia Unified sits at the center of Tulare County and serves 29,953 students.
Marcos Montes, Southern California College Access Network
Marcos Montes is part of the Southern California College Attainment Network where he manages SoCal CAN’s Policy Agenda, oversees the Changemakers student advocacy fellowship, and Let’s Go To College CA. Marcos’ goal with the network is to help advance equitable policies and practices that support systematically excluded and oppressed students, cultivate the next generation of student leaders, address college affordability and increase the number of undocumented students attending college. He graduated in 2018 from Cal State LA with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Law and Society. He is the first in his family to graduate from a university and a proud product of college success programs. Marcos previously served as a statewide student leader as Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the Cal State Student Association. In 2017 he was recognized as CSU Student Advocate of the Year and in 2018 he received a State Resolution from Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senator Bill Dodd commending his work as a student leader.
Christopher J. Nellum, The Education Trust—West
Dr. Christopher J. Nellum (he/him/his) is the Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, a nonprofit educational equity organization focused on educational justice and closing achievement and opportunity gaps from preschool through college through research, data, policy analysis, and advocacy. He has led successful advocacy efforts to ensure equity in the K-12 accountability system, create a statewide cradle-to-career data system, address food insecurity for college students, and ensure that every high school senior completes a financial aid application before they graduate. Before joining Ed Trust–West, Nellum was at the National Center for Institutional Diversity, Young Invincibles, and the American Council on Education. Nellum completed his undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara, master’s degree at CSU Long Beach, and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.
Jackie Nevarez, Sacramento City Unified School District
Jackie Nevarez is a first-generation student, and the child of a former foster youth, and was encumbered with the lack of knowledge of post-secondary systems. However, she was committed to empowering youth to be successful. Initially, she used her degrees in Psychology and Counseling to work for non-profit mental health organizations. In this capacity, she counseled young people on the verge of being placed in institutional settings or who were already in such environments. After over a decade of intensive counseling, she recognized that a better way to create change was to be an active agent in the reconstruction of systems that educate and impact the future of California. As she approaches her twentieth anniversary as a public school counselor, she reflects on how much she has enjoyed connecting “booths on the ground” experiences from the 5th (Elk Grove Unified School District) and 11th (Sacramento County Unified School Districts) largest school districts in the state of California to numerous county/state level organizations such as CaliforniaColleges.edu or Nor Cal College Promise Coalition. Her goal still remains, however, to support the facilitation of sustainable mindsets, initiatives, and data continuity to advance the positive future for California’s youth.
Lisa Rodriguez, Kings County Office of Education
Lisa Rodriguez is the Director of Student Services for the Kings County Office of Education. Her work allows her to engage in work with K12 districts, Post-Secondary Institutions, and Industry Partners around data and facilitation of continuous improvement around all aspects of College and Career Readiness. She works alongside districts to serve special populations as the coordinator of the Kings County Foster Youth Coordinating Services Program and McKinney Vento Homeless Children and Youth program. Furthermore supporting districts through their continuous improvement efforts through Differentiated Assistance and LCAP review. Her work with the Tulare-Kings College Career Collaborative has allowed for strong partnerships with industry and Workforce Investment Boards.
Sara Sandhu, GO Public Schools
Born and raised in the Bay Area, Sara Sandhu has worked in service of California students for over a decade. She currently serves as the Director of Communications for GO Public Schools, supporting education policy and advocacy efforts throughout California. Before joining GO, Sara worked as the Communications & Special Projects Manager for a college success organization in Oakland. Her post-secondary knowledge comes from her years at the Peralta Community College District, where she worked on several career pathway projects to help high school students earn college credit and gain valuable work experience, largely in the STEM fields. Sara also spent some time as an elementary enrichment instructor, teaching robotics in after-school programs.
Sbeydeh Viveros-Walton, Public Advocates
Sbeydeh Viveros-Walton (she/her/ella) serves as the founding Director of Higher Education at Public Advocates, a civil rights legal organization committed to eliminating disparities in opportunity for marginalized communities and ensuring that all students have access to a quality education.
Her professional expertise is in collective impact P-16 policy and advocacy, equity-focused program development, and strategic communications. Before joining Public Advocates, she held leadership positions in the public and non-profit sectors including, Berkeley Mayor’s Office, City of San Leandro, Goodwill Industries and 10,000 Degrees. Her civic and community leadership experience includes KQED’s Community Advisory Board, San Leandro Library Historical Commission, and the Peralta Colleges Foundation. Sbeydeh is a proud community college transfer student from Chabot College. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Rhetoric and Ethnic Studies. She also holds a Master’s in Public Administration from San Francisco State University.