Sara Urquidez’s passion for college access led her to the Academic Success Program (ASP), which works with students, parents, teachers, counselors, administrators, and college admissions officers to ensure that students from all backgrounds in Dallas-Fort Worth can access a college education. She first started at ASP as a volunteer helping students edit essays and develop community service projects, and eventually became ASP’s Executive Director. She has expanded the ASP network from 3 high schools in the Dallas Independent School District to 15 schools throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and Houston, serving more than 16,000 students each year. Sara also served as the college advisor for Hillcrest High School. Thanks to her efforts, Hillcrest students earned more than $6 million in scholarships within 6 months, including the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship. Sara’s students were successfully admitted to UChicago, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Duke, Columbia, Rice, Stanford, and many other universities.
Sara advocates for students throughout the country by participating in multiple professional associations and scholarship committees. She serves on counselor advisory boards for both the Common Application and the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, as well as the counselor advisory boards of Caltech, University of Pennsylvania, and The University of Texas at Austin. She presents regularly on college admissions and access issues at the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), the National College Access Network (NCAN), College Board Forum, AP National Conference, College Board’s Dream Deferred conference, and the Texas Association of College Admissions Counseling (TACAC).
Since 2014, Karina Hernandez, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, has worked tirelessly with ASP to provide students in Dallas with college and career options. She joined the team after identifying her passion for promoting college access. Through ASP, Karina has served as the College Advisor for both Molina High School and the School of Education at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet Center. Karina’s efforts in FAFSA completion strategies were recognized at the 2016 NCAN FAFSA Success Gallery and the 2016 and 2017 Dallas County FAFSA Completion Convenings. As the Director of Programming for ASP and College Advisor for Thomas Jefferson High School, Karina will continue to empower students and help them rise above community expectations.
Zeni is the Lead College Advisor at Bryan Adams High School. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor’s in Social Work. A Dallas local and originally from Ethiopia, Zeni is passionate about education and creating equitable communities. In the past, she’s had the opportunity to mentor and support mostly First Generation College students navigate and attain college success working with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and is happy to continue that work with ASP. Zeni was recently chosen as a Leadership ISD Fellow and looks forward to learning more about the public education landscape in Texas to better serve students. In her spare time, she likes getting her passport stamped and going on culinary adventures in her kitchen.
Javier graduated from the University of Virginia in 2018 majoring in Government. This is his second year as a college advisor with ASP at Bryan Adams High School. He is committed and determined to work with students and their families in order to have better representation from the Dallas area throughout universities across the country. It is important for him to provide adequate knowledge and resources in order for students to maximize their opportunities. Javier possesses a deep interest in public affairs and likes to be an informed citizen encouraging others to be engaging citizens. He is an ultimate sports fanatic where you see him watch Dallas Cowboys games and catch a Texas Rangers baseball game once in a while. He also likes to play bowling and catch a movie with friends every now and then during his spare time.
Lesya Bazylewicz serves as the College Advisor for Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas. Originally from Chicago, she graduated with honors from Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in English and Writing Seminars. Prior to joining ASP, Lesya selected poetry for various literary journals. When she’s not revising essays, you can find her reading Ashbery or hiking in the Rockies.
Outside of school, you can find him exercising at White Rock Lake, meal prepping for the week, or struggling through another DIY project at his home.
Cailyn Byrd has born and raised in the Dallas area. She graduated from Abilene Christian University in 2017 where she studied Social Work. Since then, She has gone on to complete her Master’s in Social Work at the same university while working as a marketing intern for Goodwill West-Texas. She was previously the Alumni Coordinator for ASP Dallas as a AmeriCorps VISTA, before accepting a position as a college advisor for the School of Health Professions and Rosie Sorrells School of Education and Social Services Magnet.
Note: All Townview visits are expected to be shared between our four schools.
Juan was born and raised in Dallas. He attended the Science and Engineering Magnet High School (SEM). He then attended Pomona College as a Questbridge Match Scholar. At Pomona, Juan was a mentor for the Pomona Questbridge Mentor Program, now the First Generation/Low-Income (FLI) Mentor Program, and later served as Head Mentor for the program. His passion for helping his fellow first generation/low-income peers led him to go into college access. Juan now serves as the ASP college advisor at SEM and School of Business and Management (SBM) at the Townview Magnet Center.
Note: All Townview visits are expected to be shared between our four schools.
Michael Jiménez is from Winston-Salem, NC. He graduated from Wake Forest University in May 2019. Although he stayed at home for college, he is excited to be a part of this amazing program and be a resource for his students as they enter their senior year and work towards college acceptance, wherever that may be. While Michael is not from Dallas, he shares many other characteristics with ASP students. He was raised by two migrant parents and was the oldest of four boys. They didn’t grow up with much, but his parents did everything they could to support him and he recognized their sacrifice at a very young age. In an effort to demonstrate his gratitude, Michael did his best to excel in school to show them that their hard work was not in vain. As he grew older, his goal remained the same, to bring home good grades and put a smile on his parents’ faces. Getting to that point was a struggle. His parents had no college background and he did not have an adequate support system at his high school. However, no smile compared to the ones when he handed his parents his college acceptance letters and they began to realize that he was college bound.
The belief ASP has in their students and the power that support has, Michael believes, can make a lasting difference. He did not believe he had the capability or the means to attend a 4-year college, but he applied because “Why not?”. He did not hesitate to make the move to Dallas to become a part of this journey. The principles and goals of ASP to push students to apply to colleges and universities all around the country because they were pushed to think “I can” resonated with him. Michael looks forward to pushing this mentality further and contributing to the success that awaits the Molina High School ASP students.
Sara Morgan is going into her fourth school year with ASP as the College Advisor at the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy and Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership Academy. Sara also takes on additional projects for the organization and was previously the advisor at Seagoville High School for two years.
Sara grew up in the DFW Metroplex (on the Fort Worth side of town) and went on to graduate from Syracuse University with a BA in International Relations and Geography. During high school, Sara spent her summers in Mexico studying Spanish and falling in love with the diversity of life outside of the United States. During college, she continued to immerse herself in Spanish by studying abroad in Santiago, Chile, focusing her degree on Latin American studies, and volunteering with the United Farm Workers of Syracuse, NY.
After graduating, Sara took the long way back to Texas. Her journey has included stops working for a Burmese human rights organization on the Thai-Burma border, teaching high school in American Samoa in a classroom without A/C or a fan, leading groups of volunteers building water infrastructure in Ecuador, and creating environmental education programs in the Adirondacks. She travelled extensively in all of these regions and loves the thrill of backpacking solo.
When Sara’s not tirelessly advocating for her AMAZING students, she can be spotted doing things like hitchhiking across the world, taking on home improvement projects, missing her exit, and checking on her plants.
Henry Coleman is a former Dallas ISD High School math teacher, from Belleville Illinois. Henry attended Webster University in St. Louis Missouri, where he worked with schools and communities in the St. Louis area to achieve racial equity within education and beyond. Being a first-generation college student himself, Henry collaborated on a summer transitions program for first-generation college students attending Webster University, as well as organized college field trips for an elementary school that he helped start a mentor program. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Audio Production in 2015, Henry joined Teach For America and moved to Dallas where he taught 10th-grade geometry at H. Grady Spruce High School. While teaching, Henry realized that not only do students need academic support to get to college, but also hands-on assistance with the college application process as well. So Henry took it upon himself in his classroom to start talking to his 10th-grade students about the college process and decided that college access is where he belonged in the education world.
Alexandra Robinson was raised in Dallas and is an alumna of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts from the dance discipline. She is currently the college advisor at International Leadership of Texas Arlington Grand Prairie High School. Previously, Alexandra has served students at Woodrow Wilson High School throughout her years with ASP.
Alexandra holds a B.A. in print journalism from Penn State. She loves to cheer on her Nittany Lions!
Larisa Kliman graduated from Texas Woman’s University and the honors scholar program with a bachelor of science in psychology. After finishing college, she traveled the state of Texas, recruiting for TWU. Wanting to work more closely and consistently with students, she decided to move to the other side of the desk as a college advisor. This is her fourth year with ASP and she thoroughly loves the work she does as an advocate and mentor for her students at the International Leadership of Texas Keller-Saginaw High School. When she’s not reading college essays, Ms. Kliman enjoys traveling, crafting, cooking, and spoiling her fur child.