Mentoring Team

Our mentors are a group of college students dedicated to giving access to higher education to students from all backgrounds. They are some of the most talented college students from across the country who attend institutions like Harvard University, Rice University, Wesleyan University, and Swarthmore College, among others. Mentors support mentees throughout the college process helping them develop college lists, write college essays, and secure financial aid. Our mentees from past cohorts have been highly successful — they’ve been admitted to institutions like Columbia University, University of Chicago, Georgetown University, and Yale University, among others.

Name: Alex Hem

College: Harvard College

Alexander Hem was born in the town of Cambridge, Massachusetts on January 5, 1997. Raised in Brighton -a small neighborhood of Boston- Alex has always been surrounded by some of the greatest institutions in the world. At the age of 5 he learned how to play the piano and by 10 he performed at Carnegie Hall and was featured on NPR’s From The Top. Though he no longer play’s piano he is now a first chair violinist for a renowned orchestra. Like any other kid Alex enjoys playing video games, party, hanging out with friends, and watching the sun set. Currently Alex attends an exam school in Boston called the O’Bryant but next year he’ll matriculated to Harvard College where he will study Astrophysics. Alex has always been a student who gives back to his community and while applying to college he has made crucial mistakes that he hopes other high school students will not.

Name: Ashli Cook

College: Dartmouth College

Ashli Cook is a sophomore at Dartmouth College. At Dartmouth, she is studying sociology and economics, with hopes of entering into the wealth management industry. Ashli currently serves as the financial secretary of the Afro-American Society and the treasurer of the Dartmouth Minorities in Business Alliance. She also works for Collis After Dark as a programming intern and Project VetCare, a local non-profit, as a marketing intern. For fun, she loves running with the varsity track team and watching Bob’s Burgers.

Name: Bethany Kirby

College: Tufts University

My name is Bethany Kirby and I am a senior at a small rural high school in Eastern Kentucky named Lee County High School. I am interested in learning, volunteering, and trying new things. I signed up to be a mentor so I could give students the help that I never received.

Name: Brandon Scott Morande

College: Bowdoin College

I am a fatherless child who believes that all who face financial and emotional hardship deserve basic access to familiar support. I am a soccer player who knows the sport to be a tool to bring the world together across irrational divides. I am a student that cherishes every aspect of education in part because this inherent right is a disparity in the rural communities of Latin America. I am an impassioned advocate for social change because I believe everyone everywhere should be fought for.

After concentrating in biology and sociology at Bowdoin College, I plan to join the Peace Corps to help combat malnutrition throughout the world. Later I dream of volunteering alongside Doctors Without Borders to run health clinics, increasing accessibility to quality healthcare. And one day I aspire to be a United Nations ambassador on global health initiatives, being a voice for those that have for so long been silenced.


Name: Brionna Verse

College: Swarthmore College

Brionna Verse is a sophomore at Swarthmore College majoring in History and Education Studies. She hopes to become a middle school Social Studies teacher upon graduating and is currently preparing for this chosen career path. Brionna enjoys working with children in the Chester, PA community through tutoring and reading programs and she looks forward to assuming more of a mentoring role as a member of the Collegiate Blog team. She is excited to help students discover their strengths and learn how to put forth their best selves in going after their goals. In line with the program’s mission, she believes that any student should have access to quality higher education despite their background and that each student has something quite unique and valuable to offer a college admissions team.


Name: Carly Yue Yu

College: Carleton College

Carly Yu is currently a sophomore at Carleton College in Northfield Minnesota. Despite being mostly a city girl (calling NYC and Shanghai home), she is loving life amongst the corn fields. She is particularly interested in Environmental Economics and Environmental Justice, and hopes to one day work for either government, in law, or a non-profit that has a focus on development in areas that lack environmental protection. In her spare time, she enjoys reading Calvin and Hobbes, taking long walks or jog in the Arboretum, thrifting cool (or tacky depending on your opinion) vintage pieces to DIY, and sending people selfies on snapchat. She is super excited about mentoring again this year because the achievements of her mentees brings her exuberant joy and pride!


Name: Cesar Rufino

College: Dartmouth College

Cesar is a first-generation student and member of Dartmouth’s class of 2018 hailing from Chicago, Illinois. He is a potential Psychology or Economics major. Cesar hopes to follow a pre-health track and eventually work in the pediatric medical field as a Physician Assistant or Primary Care Doctor.

At Northside College Preparatory High School, Cesar was captain of the varsity men’s cross country and track teams. He earned All-Regional honors, All-City honors, and was a three-time Illinois High School Association state finals qualifier. Among other things, he was also a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, and an avid volunteer.

He is extremely interested in family-owned businesses and the concept of immigration. Cesar aspires to further his father’s small painting company through his English proficiency, key communication attributes, and familiarity with modern technology.

Cesar loves to watch sports and hang out with his friends. His favorite teams to watch are the Chicago Bulls and Barcelona. He loves children and volunteers as a youth soccer coach in his spare time.

Cesar is interested in mentoring because he wants to provide for others in the same manner that others supported him throughout his college process. He loves working with people and knows that, by maximizing potential in students, they can achieve anything they put their minds to.

Name: Brandon Chia

College: Brown University

Hi, I’m Brandon Chia from Singapore, and I’m 21, having just finished my military service stint. Previously, I was a humanities-stream student at the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), and loved the freedom and breadth offered by its International Baccalaureate programme. I love comics (especially everything Marvel!), a cappella, and travelling! Really excited to be a part of the Collegiate Blog’s mentoring programme, because my own road to Brown would not have been possible without the guidance of a gifted mentor in Singapore.


Name: Deja Bryant

College: Barnard College

Deja Bryant is currently a senior at the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science in Mobile, Alabama. She hopes to pursue a major in neuroscience and a minor in political science when she attends college. When not working on the copious amounts of homework given to her by her teachers, she enjoys obsessing over her favorite fandoms such as Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Scandal, The Vampire Diaries, and Lord of the Rings (Legolas!!). Her hobbies include playing volleyball, basketball, and soccer (Ronaldo, anyone?), writing/reading on, and political campaigning. She is an avid Key Clubber and Beta Club member, who loves to help the community and give back. She hopes to pursue her dreams of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon and live on a beach-front villa with her revived husband Khal Drogo. Having been a low-income, first-generation student she knows how hard it is to succeed and make it to a great college. While she has had a great support system through her school and other organizations, she understand that not everyone does. She desires to use her knowledge, mistakes,a nd experiences to help other students succeed as she did.


Name: Edwin Prince Edem

College: Yale University

Edwin Prince Edem is a freshman at Yale originally from Accra, Ghana in Africa. He double majors in Psychology and the History of Art. Outside of the classroom, he is a freshman liaison for the Yale African Students Association (YASA), a Speaker Relations Coordinator for the Yale Association for African Peace and Development (YAAPD), a student manager for Yale Dining Services and a Yale tour guide. He is interested in mentoring because it he has a strong interest in helping students especially from under privileged backgrounds to have access to all necessary information to ease the college application process.


Name: Elizabeth Aguilar

College: University of Central Florida

Elizabeth Aguilar currently attends Maynard Evans High School in Orlando, Fl. Her time there is what helped her realize that she is a jack of all trades, still searching for the one she’ll master. Her current goals include being a: writer, philanthropist, human rights activist, and UN Ambassador, whose focus is on providing equal educational opportunities worldwide. At some point, she also wants to start her own scholarship funds, especially one reserved for at-risk children and artists. In early 2015, Aguilar co-founded Unravel Education, a resource committed to help high school students prepare for a career and life by making information accessible and comprehensible.
One of her main non-educational goals is to fund art programs, as she views creativity as a skill that needs to be supported in order to flourish. She dabbles in most of the arts, but concentrates most on writing, painting and sketching. Some of her other hobbies include: reading, watching k-dramas, listening to music, and being a pro scholarship-finder. She

She will be attending Burnett Honors College in the University of Central Florida (Go Knights!) in the Fall of 2015. Her intended majors are English and International Studies, which she hopes to utilize to promote and implement improvements in education, and expose students to the opportunities available to them. She also hopes to do this through mentoring.

Name: Franklin Garcia
College: Haverford College

Jay is a pre-med biology major at Haverford College, a liberal arts institution in SE Pennsylvania. He’s originally from the Dominican Republic, though his family has lived in West Philadelphia (yup.) for a few years now. He doubles as an EMT and research assistant. This year, Jay has been studying Human Sciences while abroad at the University of Oxford. Here, he’s been playing rugby, baseball and dodgeball, though he only plays rugby when at Haverford. He is also involved with some outreach groups and student government. He will try to convince anyone willing to listen to study abroad, since, as a biology pre-med and low-income student, he had plenty of nay-sayers to prove wrong before embarking on this particular adventure. There’s a difference between hard and impossible.

Jay, being one of the first in his community to go to college (under a QuestBridge scholarship), has had a lot of experience navigating (and helping others do so) the admissions process while managing difficulties related to incomplete paperwork (due to either parents who are out of the picture or less-than-ideal immigration statuses). He, as an immigrant, recognizes the incredible opportunity that is attending college and believes it is important incoming freshmen know how to seek opportunities and get the best experience possible once they’re in college. Jay will be an UCA (the Haverford term for an RA/upperclassman academic advisor) for about 20 freshmen next year and for Haverford’s summer program for incoming freshmen for this reason, the same reason he joined this program.

Name: Hyobin “Justin”  You
College: Pomona College
Hyobin You is an international student from South Korea (Due to the issues in pronunciation through elementary school, he has adopted the nickname “Justin.”). However, he’s lived in Michigan for almost a decade with an F-2 visa, following his father’s dream of earning a doctorate in the US. His current residence is in Kentucky, and is attending college with an R-2 visa.
A sophomore at Pomona College in Claremont California, he hopes to continue his education through medical school. As a neuroscience major, he is also studying computer science and Spanish.
Community engagement is a large component of his college life. He is a member of MEDLIFE, Diversity Advisory Board, and many others. As a Quest Scholar, he is active within Pomona’s chapter through QuestBridge Ambassador Program and on-campus events. Outside of class, he enjoys swimming, tennis, and playing music.
Through multiple facets, he has mentored students from diverse backgrounds to find academic success. Since sixth grade, he has mentored in academic classes, from creative writing to calculus. Starting in senior year, he began mentoring high school students to attend college without a large financial burden. One of the stimuli in his active involvement was his recognition of disparity in extracurricular resources: some students were able to afford expensive and effective tutors while others struggled to even find a ride to school. In response to the educational inequality, he has worked with many international students, DACA, and permanent residents and hopes to continue his work as a mentor.

Name: Jacob Rafael Arana

College: Columbia University

Jacob Arana is currently a Senior at Hemet High School, a large public school in Southern California. His interests consist of (but are not limited to): Volleyball, Yearbook, Mock Trial, Reading, Music and Traveling. When he finally decides which university to attend, he plans on studying Economics and Gender and Sexuality Studies. Jacob is interested in being a mentor for the collegiate blog because he knows firsthand all of the challenges low income students face in the application process and he hopes to make it easier for future aspiring high school students.


Name: Joel Anthony Ramirez

College: Emory University

Joel Ramirez was born in Miami, Florida and currently attends Hialeah Gardens High School. He had a rough childhood as he was always bouncing from house to house, never having a steady living situation. To this day, he’s moved nine times! It’s a large amount, but he always stays optimistic. He likes to stay positive by playing badminton, playing video games, and hanging out with friends. About a year ago and a half ago, Joel realized that he’d have to start making college plans. He thought college was really expensive so he never even thought of applying to out-of-state schools, until someone told him that college could be affordable. After that, Joel went on to seek out scholarships such as the Questbridge scholarship and became well acquainted with the admission process on his own. Since he had no one to help him during the college application process as a junior, Joel decided to take it upon himself as a senior to assist the 11th graders of his high school. He realized at the end of his senior year that he was passionate about applying his knowledge about college so when he discovered the collegiate blog’s mentorship opportunity, he felt blessed. He is incredibly passionate about mentoring for he never had that help and it would be a privilege for him to partake in this mentorship program.

Name: Juliana Pena

College: University of Pennsylvania

Juliana Peña is a senior at Oakmont Regional High School in Ashburnham, MA, a small rural town. Since the eighth grade, she has been interested in studying other cultures, and loves to study languages. Currently she studies Korean, Japanese, and Mandarin. Korean is her favorite culture to study because of her fascination with Korean culture, and her passion for South Korean society; she feels at home when she is in Seoul. Additionally, she is interested in studying International Affairs and economics, so she can work in international development, hopefully someday in a Unfiied Korea. For this reason, Juliana chose to enroll in the University of Pennsylvania’s Huntsman Program to study International a Studies and Business in a dual degree program. Having grown up in a rural area where most students go to public schools. Juliana defied the norm by applying to selective private schools, and was the only person in her class to be accepted to an Ivy league. She wants to help other students struggling to navigate the college process, and apply to scholarships, so she wholeheartedly decided to be a mentor for another student, as well as be a resource for students in her schools in the years to come.




One Response

  1. Sona
    Sona at · Reply


    Does going to a high competitive public high school help in getting accepted to elite colleges? I am so confused on this topic. There is a ultra competitive high school within 15 miles of my residence. My high school is not so bad either. Should I transfer to 9th grade?


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