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 can access an affordable college education.
She first started as an ASP volunteer and took over as the Hillcrest High School college advisor in November 2012. Sara’s 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.
Shortly after her seniors graduated from high school, Sara took over as Executive Director. During her tenure, 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 advocates for all students throughout the country by participating in multiple professional associations and scholarship committees. She serves on Executive Board of the Coalition for College, as well as the counselor advisory boards of Caltech, University of Pennsylvania, The University of Texas at Austin, and the Common Application.
Sara presents regularly on college admissions, access, and student issues at the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), College Board Forum, AP National Conference, College Board’s Dream Deferred conference, and the Texas Association of College Admissions Counseling (TACAC).
Karina Hernandez, Director of Programming
School of Business & Management, School of Health Professions
& School of Science Engineering
Karina Hernandez currently serves as the Director of Programming for ASP and the College Advisor for the School of Business, School of Health Professions, and the School of Science and Engineering at Townview. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Karina joined ASP after identifying her passion for promoting college access in underserved communities. Since 2014, she has worked hard to provide Dallas students with information and resources about their college and career options. Her efforts in FAFSA completion strategies were recognized at the 2016 NCAN FAFSA Success Gallery and the 2016 and 2017 Dallas County FAFSA Completion Convenings.
Every year, Karina’s biggest joy comes from emboldening students just enough so they break past community expectations and realize their full potential. When she’s not helping students with their college applications, Karina can be found reading science fiction novels, playing Boggle, travelling to Belize, or if it’s a great day, doing all three.
Lesya Bazylewicz, Woodrow Wilson High School
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.
Michael Jimenez, Bryan Adams High School
Michael Jiménez will be a second year College Advisor at Bryan Adams High School. He was born and raised in Winston-Salem, NC. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Wake Forest University. Through college, Michael was offered amazing opportunities aside from a top education such as professional mentorship, study abroad programs, and access to plentiful resources to make his college experience as smooth and productive as possible. As a first-generation and low-income student, Michael was grateful for these opportunities but soon realized that his experience was far from standard for students with a similar background. He grew passionate on the issue of access to higher education and knew that ASP was a great fit.
Michael has enjoyed his time so far in Dallas and has embraced Whataburger as the top burger-chain in the country. In his free time, he enjoys reading non-fiction, watching European soccer matches, and playing video games online with friends.
Lexus Davis, Hillcrest High School
Lexus Davis is excited to serve as the College Advisor for Hillcrest High School. Originally from West Philadelphia, she received a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Peace & Justice Studies from Gettysburg College.
Consistently asking the bigger questions of life, Lexus is always questioning institutional structures and looking for different solutions. Some examples include “how do I get to college” and “how do I succeed once I am there” especially as someone who identifies as First-Gen. Lexus is an avid social justice advocate and is devoted to providing culturally diverse and underrepresented students the same opportunities afforded to her throughout her academic and professional career.
From cliff jumping in Nicaragua to wood carving in Indonesia, Lexus is like finding Waldo because who knows what her next adventure will be. When she is not off on an adventure, literally chasing waterfalls or editing essays, she is trying a new recipe, learning new dances, or painting.
Theo Shipley, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Collegiate Academy
Theo Shipley is proud to serve as the Director of Strategic Initiatives and the primary college advisor for students in the Dallas ISD Collegiate Academy programs at Bryan Adams High School and Hillcrest High School! Prior to taking on these roles, he spent two years as the College Advisor for all students at Hillcrest (Go Panthers!). He attended The University of Texas at Austin where he graduated with high honors with a BBA in Marketing and a BA in Sociology and History. From flying across the country for free during his internship with Southwest Airlines to helping fix espresso machines in Thailand, he thoroughly enjoyed a variety of internships. While in college, he also studied and traveled throughout Thailand and India for eight months and was selected to his All-Region team for rowing. After graduating, Theo returned to his hometown of Dallas and worked with various nonprofits before joining ASP in the summer of 2018. As a Dallas native, Theo has greatly enjoyed his time with ASP, especially because of the bright and inspiring students he works with on a daily basis.
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.
Larisa Kliman, International Leadership of Texas Area Supervisor
Larisa Kliman is excited to serve as the Dean of College Advising for the ILTexas Lancaster-Desoto and Windmill Lakes-Orem High Schools. This is her fifth school year with ASP and ILTexas. She had the opportunity to prepare the first graduating class of Keller-Saginaw High School when they were just juniors, and she is excited to have the same opportunity with the class of 2022! Ms. 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. Ms. Kliman loves getting to know her students and helping them navigate the “not-so-scary” world of college applications. She is extremely passionate about higher education and making sure every student has an affordable college option. When she’s not editing essays, Ms. Kliman enjoys traveling, cooking, and spoiling her fur child, Rosie.
Cailyn Byrd, ILTexas Arlington-Grand Prairie
Hey there! My name is Cailyn Byrd! I am the Dean of College Advising at International Leadership Texas- Arlington Grand Prairie. I went to Abilene Christian University where I received my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Social Work. This will be my third year on the ASP Team. I worked as our Alumni Coordinator for a year, before getting to do work with our students on the high school level. I remember feeling very isolated and limited in knowledge during my own college application journey. I love that I get to be in a place to help students and families avoid those feelings. We all get to work through this process together, and create the best solutions for the next generation of college students. Finding success and hope in every student’s story is what I look forward to most.
Sara Morgan, Director of Community Engagement
International Leadership of Texas Garland High School
Sara Morgan is the Dean of College Prep at ILT Garland High School and the Director of Community Relations. She previously served as the College Advisor for Seagoville High School, the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, and Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School.
Sara grew up in the DFW Metroplex 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 learning to think critically about privilege and global inequality. During college, she continued to immerse herself in the Spanish language 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-run human rights organization on the Thai-Burma border, teaching high school government in American Samoa, leading groups of students building water infrastructure in Ecuador, and creating environmental education programs in the Adirondacks for two museums. She travelled extensively in all of these regions and loves the thrill of backpacking solo – especially the relationships across borders and cultures it forges.
Sara is excited to continue to help the AMAZING students of ASP showcase their strengths and navigate this pivotal moment of their lives.
Alexandra Clayton, International Leadership of Texas Keller-Saginaw High School
Alexandra Clayton is the Dean of College Advising serving International Leadership of Texas Keller Saginaw High School. Alexandra holds a B.A. in journalism from Penn State and is originally from the Dallas/Fort Worth area as an alumna of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts from the dance discipline.
Alexandra has been an ASP expert throughout the years working with students at Woodrow Wilson High School and other ILTexas schools. Alexandra has a strong history of working with educational nonprofits in Dallas. After serving as a math fellow in Houston ISD and a program specialist at the Boys and Girls Club, Alexandra has found her home in North Texas. She worked for Operation Pathways, a nonprofit which serviced low-income residents to achieve success in physical health, academic achievement, and financial stability. She culminated successful partnerships with Dallas Afterschool and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and presented sessions at two national conferences.
Alexandra is excited to help Stellar Keller seniors prepare for college. Editing essays is the highlight of her work. When not working in a virtual space, Alexandra will spend her time cooking and loving on her three four-legged animals. She looks forward to cheering on her Nittany Lions every fall!