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!

Fernando Marquez — Upward Bound Coordinator

I am the first in my family to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree (Bachelor of Arts – English Language and Literature, Cal Poly Pomona, Master of Arts – Higher Education and Organizational Change, UCLA)). I enjoy good stories no matter what shape they come in and things that make me and others laugh. I enjoy bike riding, reading, hiking, and playing portable musical instruments (harmonica and ukele). I absolutely love the science fiction and fantasy genre and am always looking for book, comic, show, and movie recommendations.

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