Alison De Lucca

Executive Director

Alison’s passion for higher education attainment was sparked as child growing up in an agricultural region. Her mother provided college guidance services to those who could afford it, while offering pro bono support to those who couldn’t – namely the children of migrant workers. Within a decade, she witnessed how her peers and community were transformed by the influx in college degrees.

As the Executive Director of SoCal CAN, Alison works with more than 118 organizations to expand college access and completion for low-income students in the region. The network plays an important role in the field by bringing together direct service organizations to exchange effective practices, address existing service gaps, and weigh in on policies and practices that help or hinder students’ ability to smoothly reach their goal of college graduation. Alison has worked on social change issues in both the United States and Central America for more than 25 years. She’s worked in the women’s, environmental, and immigrant rights fields. Prior to joining SoCal CAN, she served as Program Officer for the Los Angeles Immigrant Funders’ Collaborative, Program Director for Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR), Campaign Director for Friends of the Earth International, and Women’s Micro-enterprise Developer for the Costa Rican Ecologist Association.  Alison graduated from University of California, San Diego (UCSD) with a B.A. in International Development and received her M.A. in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA ). She is bilingual in English and Spanish and has served as an appointed member of the UCLA Department of Urban Planning Advisory Committee and is an emeritus board member of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy. She has also been a fellow with the Women’s Policy Institute, California Education Policy Fellowship, and Southern California Leadership Network. Connect with Alison on LinkedIn.

Lina Calderón-Morin

Deputy Director 

Lina is a native of Los Angeles, born and raised in East LA and Pasadena, CA. She is passionate about community wellness, education equity, and all things college access and success. Informed by her personal experiences as a first generation college student and her years spent providing direct support and counseling to diverse communities, Lina is continually motivated by the belief that postsecondary education should be a viable option for everyone. As Deputy Director of SoCal CAN, she strives to provide dynamic leadership that amplifies the network’s strategic vision of ‘advancing education equity for all’ by developing and deepening partnerships, expanding resources, creating impactful member programs and services, overseeing special projects, and identifying opportunities for cross-sector collaborations for our 118 member organizations.

Over the past ten years, Lina has partnered closely with public school districts, postsecondary institutions, community-based organizations, and federal and state agencies to provide holistic, community and student-centered programming. Prior to her role at SoCal CAN, Lina worked at Occidental College as the Assistant Director of Student and Community Engagement and helped institutionalize, expand, and deepen Oxy’s community engaged learning and service opportunities. She also worked on numerous committees and initiatives that focused on increasing institutional support for first-generation and low-income students at Oxy, including the First Gen Coalition, the Low-Income Student Support Group, and the Multicultural Summer Institute Leadership Team. 

Before her time at Oxy, Lina worked with multiple organizations, including College Access Plan, Learning Works and Homeboy Industries, and SoCal CAN where she oversaw the development, operation, and success of nearly a dozen college access programs serving thousands of students across Los Angeles County. Lina holds an MSW from the University of Southern California where she focused on Public Health and Military Social Work & Veterans Services, and a BA in Sociology from the University of San Francisco. Connect with Lina on LinkedIn 

Marcos Montes

Policy Director & Let’s Go Program Manager  

Marcos manages SoCal CAN’s policy agenda, Changemakers student advocacy fellowship, and Let’s Go To College CA. He graduated in 2018 from Cal State LA with a BA 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 brings a wealth of knowledge around student engagement and student advocacy. He served two years as an executive member Cal State LA’s student government and one year as Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the Cal State Student Association (CSSA). During his time as a student, he was very passionate about improving college affordability, increasing civic engagement, and supporting undocumented students. He received numerous awards commending his work as a student leader including 2017 CSSA Student Advocate of the Year and a State Resolution from the CA Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon in May 2018. Marcos has years of legislative experience, student advocacy, and institutional change. Connect With Marcos on LinkedIn.

Niña Abonal 

Project SOAR Program Manager

Niña graduated from Loyola Marymount University with her Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Master of Arts in General Education. She has dedicated over a decade working for educational non-profit organizations focused on providing enrichment opportunities to youth ages 6-18 years old and developing impactful programs for young adults centered on college access and early career development. Her work with students has fostered a deep and passionate fervor for empowering students to succeed and serving her community by continually seeking innovative ways to improve the quality of and access to educational opportunities and resources for all students. As the Project SOAR Program Manager, she manages the SOAR team in supporting and guiding residents in public housing to achieve their post-secondary goals, develops program offerings that meet the community’s needs, and works to expand the program’s reach across public housing sites throughout Greater Los Angeles. Connect with Niña on LinkedIn.

Jason Vazquez

Policy & Development Associate

Jason is a first-generation college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Political Economy from the University of California Berkeley. During college, Jason studied abroad twice and spent a semester in Washington D.C. interning at the United States Trade Representative. Prior to joining SoCal CAN, he was the advocacy intern at the Urban Foundation where he collaborated with college access partners to advance several federal and state policy priorities focused on education equity. This past summer, Jason served as Public Policy Intern with the Lumina Foundation. Now, he’s working with the SoCal CAN team to advance our policy agenda. Jason is passionate about improving access to economic mobility through education because he understands the magnified impact it can have on a person’s long-term success. Connect with Jason on LinkedIn.

Bianca Esquivias

Let’s Go Digital Content Coordinator

Bianca Esquivias is a first generation student from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), where she received a B.A in Sociology with a concentration in Global Information and Social Enterprise to create sustainable change using digital platforms. Her path to college started when she was awarded a scholarship for low-income students in LA that provided mentorship, financial and academic support throughout her four years in college. During her time at UCSC, she proactively sought out and secured opportunities in various industries such as Advising, Marketing, Strategic Partnerships, Product Development and Community Outreach. In addition, she had the opportunity to study abroad in Paris and London where she became passionate about creating sustainable solutions on a global scale. She is passionate about connecting and empowering individuals through meaningful marketing campaigns which motivates her to create and collaborate as the Let’s Go Digital Content Coordinator. Connect with Bianca on LinkedIn. 

Melanie Alvarez-Rojas

Project Soar Education Navigator

Melanie is a first-generation and recent graduate of California State University, Northridge where she received a bachelor’s in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement. While pursuing her degree, she also devoted her time and efforts towards helping her community prosper by taking on several roles in non-profit organizations such as the University Student Union. Throughout her three years with the University Student Union, she focused on issues of education equity and basic needs. During her role as co-chair for the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, she was an active advocate for nontraditional students such as those who identified as undocumented, parents, and formerly incarcerated. Her senior year at the USU, she was elected chair of the Board of Directors where she led a group of student leaders to successfully pass a vote for the allocation of 1.2 million surplus funds to address issues that were highlighted with the pandemic. Her passion for non-profit organizations started in high school during her time with InnerCity Struggle with their component that focuses on leadership development of youth within the greater eastside of Los Angeles. Connect with Melanie on LinkedIn.

Blainer Escobar

Project Soar Education Navigator

Blainer Escobar is a recent first-generation college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Community and Regional Development from UC Davis. During his time in college, Blainer was involved in many organizations such as the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP). Blainer would help as many first-generation and low-income students apply to college. He knew that most students that come from this background did not have the resources, knowledge, or guidance on how to apply for college. Blainer believes that no matter what background or what type of income someone is coming from, everyone should have the opportunity of pursuing a higher education. Blainer intends to pursue a master’s degree in educational administration in the near future. Connect with Blainer on LinkedIn 

Elizabeth Guevara

Project Soar Education Navigator & College Comeback Navigator

Elizabeth is a first-generation college graduate with a unique educational journey. She attended a small private university right after high school but became homeless during her Sophomore year and consequently stopped out of college Junior year. Elizabeth came back to school after a few years in the workforce, attended community college for one year, successfully transferred into a public university and finally earned her bachelor’s degree after almost 10 years of breaking down barriers.
Elizabeth has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services from California State University, Dominguez Hills and has been working as a College Counselor/Advisor in Higher Education for the past 5 years, including counseling positions with the Los Angeles Job Corps, Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD), and Los Angeles Trade Technical College. She is passionate about education attainment as she believes education not only opens doors to great opportunities, but that it is also one of life’s few investments no one can ever take away. Elizabeth’s combination of personal and professional experiences in higher education make her uniquely qualified to aid others as they navigate the complexity of their own educational journeys. Contact Elizabeth at elizabeth@socalcan.org

Yamileth Lares

Project Soar Education Navigator

Yamileth Lares is a first-gen student who graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science & Chicana/os Studies with a minor in Central American Studies. Her passion to help underserved students increased during her time at UCLA. Understanding that most students of color often feel lost or overwhelmed during the college process, she wants to simplify the process. As a first-gen student at UCLA, she often felt behind among her peers and had impostor syndrome. Through her mentors and friends, she realized that she did belong there. The best advice she received was that everyone walks at their own pace and to not compare her journey with someone else’s. As a Soar Navigator, she would like to help students enroll and complete their college journey. Connect with Yamileth on LinkedIn. 

Jennifer Aimee Martinez

Project Soar Education Navigator

Jennifer Aimee is a second-generation Oaxacan immigrant and a first-generation recent college graduate from the University of California Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Education, Democracy & Justice. This past year, Jennifer has been a Koret Scholar, a Building Belonging Fellow, and completed her senior thesis alongside We Belong: Collaboration for Community Engaged Research and Immigrant Justice. Jennifer Aimee describes her first two years in higher education as, “navigating academia in survival mode”. Jennifer shares, “I didn’t know what a GE was, I didn’t know what a unit was, and I didn’t even know what a Major or Minor was”. Jennifer is a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. Jennifer developed her sense of belonging to UCSC when enrolled in a sociology research practicum to better understand how immigrant communities establish a sense of belonging and how belonging is essential to thriving. Jennifer built a community through those connections and they led her to resources for counseling and psychological services, the disability resource center, the Educational Opportunity Program, El Centro, and Renaissance scholars. Jennifer draws strength and a sense of resistance within institutional spaces through her intersectional identities, lived experiences, and a sense of belonging. Jennifer is passionate about learning how to reframe and transform our experiences for the purpose of self-empowerment, to advocate for and promote our physical and psychological well-being. Jennifer aspires to pursue a career in community-engaged research for the purpose of bridging communities across differences in solidarity for social justice and equity. Connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn 

Nyca Pedro

Project Soar Education Navigator

Nyca Pedro is a recent UC Irvine graduate, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Psychological Science. She is a first-generation college student and a transfer student from College of the Canyons. Her journey with higher education fuels her passion for advising students who have little to no understanding of college, much like she did. Her experience as a transfer peer educator for the Second Year Transfer Initiative at UCI and as a college assistant at College of the Canyons has given her many opportunities to meet people of different backgrounds. She understands the importance of having a guide for important life decisions, such as where to go for college. She hopes to continue advising students and being an advocate for equal access to post-secondary education. Connect with Nyca on LinkedIn

Benedict Lopez Joson

Executive Administrative Assistant

Ben is a queer Filipino immigrant, community organizer, and operations professional.  Ben’s work in the social sector is inspired by his experience growing up in New York and receiving both a private and public education in the nation’s most segregated system. He is deeply committed to the belief that all people should receive an inclusive, equitable, quality education, regardless of who they are and where they are born. As a recent transplant from Queens and a new resident of South Pasadena, Ben is actively engaged in local, national, and global efforts to nurture community and advance justice. Ben joined SoCal CAN in spring 2023 as our first ever Executive Administrative Assistant and provides invaluable support to the SoCal CAN leadership team on administrative projects critical to organizational development and coalition-building. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn.

Kimberly Garcia

Let’s Go to College California Social MediaIntern

Kimberly recently graduated from CSU Northridge with a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Spanish Journalism. She is passionate about the issues surrounding Latinx communities. Representation in the media has always been very important to her. With the increasing influence of social media, Latinx representation is necessary now, more than ever. In her spare time, you can find her helping her community or spending time with family in the San Fernando Valley, surrounded by culture and music. Her passion for journalism guides the way she tells stories of her community.

Learn more about becoming a SoCal CAN member.