Meet our team

Michelle Velasco — Talent Search Coordinator

I am a proud first-generation graduate from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Global Studies. I am also pursuing my masters degree in Education at California State University Long Beach, specifically in Social & Cultural Analysis of Education. College definitely helped me figure out that the field of Education is where passion meets purpose. Working with every single one of my students ensures that I can help students navigate higher education, and do so more seamlessly than I did.

Martin Alcala — Upward Bound Advisor

I am a first-generation college graduate from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) with a degree in Chicana/o Studies and a minor in Education and Information Studies. Although I was close to home, my transition to a new chapter of my life came with its own set of challenges. However, these same challenges motivated me to grow, learn and apply the skills I gained. It is with the same passion that I work with students to guide them and grow into wonderful individuals. I am also planning on continuing my education so stay tuned!

Sarahi Santos — Talent Search Advisor

I am a first-generation college graduate with a bachelor’s degree from California State University Northridge. Go Matadors! I studied and majored in Criminology and Justice Studies. You should also know that I am a NHHS/Educational Talent Search Alumni myself! I have come to love helping youth find their greatness in life by pushing them to pursue what inspires them the most. In my personal life, I am my most happy when binge watching shows and movies — with my favorite snacks on the side, of course. I learn from each and every individual I encounter, and I look forward to what we’ll learn together on this journey! My motto: Stay positive always!

Cynthia Jimenez — Upward Bound Coordinator

I am a proud first-generation college graduate in my family, born & raised in Inglewood, CA. I obtained my Bachelor of Arts in Language, Culture, & Society from UC Santa Barbara. I also earned my Master of Education from Loyola Marymount University in School Counseling with a PPS Credential, a CWA Certificate (Child, Welfare, and Attendance), as well as a Badge in Bilingual Counseling (Spanish). As an Upward Bound alumni, I know firsthand the impact that our program can have on the lives of students. For this reason, I am very excited to be able to provide the support and guidance that students need on their path through education. Helping students recognize their strengths and passions are what drive me in this field. During my free time I love weightlifting, supporting local coffee shops, and attending spooky events. I strive to always feel the happiness that the first sip of coffee brings!

Melvin McDermott III — TRiO Programs Director

I am a first generation college graduate. I received my undergraduate and graduate education from The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. My major was Political Science and masters was in Public Administration. I’ve spent most of my career working to help low-income families better their lives through political advocacy/campaigns, economic literacy work, and college access work in Undergraduate Admissions and now TRIO. I enjoy all kinds of music, traveling, and connecting with people from every walk of life.


VOALA TRIO PROGRAMS, 6400 Laurel Canyon Blvd #250, North Hollywood, CA 91606 • mmcdermott@voala.org

English English Spanish Spanish