ASP Staff

Sara Urquidez

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 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).

Sara Urquidez is the
Executive Director of ASP

Bryan Adams High School

Marietta Perez

Students and Families: Connect with Ms. Perez

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Marietta Perez is excited to serve as the College Advisor for Bryan Adams High School.  As a Dallas ISD and ASP alumni, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering from Boston University. Similar to many first-generation and low-income students, Marietta was appreciative of the opportunities that came with attending a private research institution.

After witnessing and experiencing the disparity of support between underrepresented and more socio-economically advantaged students at four year institutions, Marietta was inspired to help write a different story. She is thrilled to advocate for underserved communities in their journey to higher education. Marietta is eager to uplift and support the amazing students of Dallas ISD during this new chapter of their lives. When she is not building college lists and editing essays, Marietta can be found finding the next best dishes in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

H Grady Spruce High School

Angel Ornelas

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Angel Ornelas is a recent graduate from Claremont McKenna College where he majored in History. Angel is passionate about education access and has extensive experience in community organizing and mentorship within LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities. At CMC, Angel participated in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and directed an award-winning senior thesis on the HIV-positive experiences of gay Latino men in the Los Angeles area. In late 2022, Angel will be studying international development and Portuguese as both a Boren and Gilman Scholar, funding sponsored by the State Department and Department of Defense.

As a first-generation college student, Angel believes every Dallas student deserves a chance at receiving an affordable and high quality education. As a Dallas native, Angel enjoys Texas coffee and the occasional barbecue sandwich.

Hillcrest High School

Lexus Davis

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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.

 

North Dallas High School

Cierra Cotton

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Cierra Cotton is delighted to serve as the College Advisor for North Dallas High School. She is a native of Baltimore, MD, who has called Dallas home since 2016. A graduate of Fordham University in New York City, she holds a B.F.A. in Dance Performance and had the opportunity to train and perform with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as a college student. Upon graduation, Cierra discovered a love for working with youth and has worked as a dance educator for over fifteen different schools & organizations across five states.

Before becoming a college advisor, Cierra spent five years working for Behind Every Door as the Director of Student Life and Community Director at The Hive and The Rose Community Center: where she oversaw the daily operations of the community center and developed educational programming.  In 2020, she was named one of D Magazine’s Front-Line Heroes for her commitment to providing educational tools, financial resources, and meal assistance to under-resourced families in Dallas. Her extensive experience building relationships with and developing programming for youth and families in low-income and underserved communities allowed her to see first-hand the lack of support her students had when pursuing higher education. As a result, she began helping families walk through the college application process in her spare time so that they would not make the same mistakes she made and have more affordable options to consider. Cierra believes that college should be accessible and affordable for all and is passionate about helping students realize their true potential. Having served as a community partner to North Dallas High School for the past four years, she is now excited to be a part of helping to further the college-going culture within the school.

When she isn’t working with students, Cierra loves traveling, writing, teaching dance classes, thrift shopping, visiting museums, volunteering, and always on the lookout for new vegetarian & vegan restaurants in the DFW area.   

Thomas Jefferson High School

Milagros Garcia

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Milagros Garcia is really excited to work as a College Advisor at Thomas Jefferson High School. She was born and raised in Dallas and is a product of Dallas ISD. She attended the University of Rochester in western New York where she majored in English: Language, Media and Communications. After working in admissions, Milagros realized that her passion truly lied in college access and helping students. Through her experience advocating for students, she grew to understand the disparities of access and lack of resources in her own community. This is why she sought out to work for ASP.

When Milagros isn’t thinking about essays, financial aid, and college applications she enjoys dancing salsa, bachata, merengue and any other latin dance that gets her feet moving. She also enjoys visiting museums, attending musicals, and spending time with her cat, Trixie.

Woodrow Wilson High School

Kaylyn Walton

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Kaylyn Walton is excited to serve as a College Advisor for Woodrow Wilson High School. As a first-generation college graduate from a low-income family, Kaylyn is passionate about making college accessible to all. After receiving a B.A. from Tufts University, Kaylyn served as both a college advisor for a public school in Boston, as well as an Assistant Director of Admission at Boston University, where she also received her Masters of Education. 
 
After working with so many amazing students in the Texas area, Kaylyn fell in love with Dallas and convinced her fiancé to move halfway across the country to the Lone Star State. When Kaylyn isn’t advocating for students, she can be found listening, signing or dancing to music with her two cats, Seneca and Nero.  

Townview HSHP, SBM, and SEM

Aisosa Ede-Osifo

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Aisosa Ede-Osifo is excited to work as the College Advisor for Townview Magnet Center’s HSHP, SBM, and SEM schools. Aisosa is a recent graduate from Gettysburg College, located in Pennsylvania,  where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Health Sciences. Aisosa is enthusiastic about college access and affordability and has co-sponsored numerous professional development workshops and conversations on her college campus.

A proponent of higher education, Aisosa studied subjects concerning equity and access alongside a rigorous science curriculum. She was fascinated to learn that higher educational attainment directly influences health and overall long-term prosperity. Inspired by her own education and the stories of her peers who struggled to complete the increasingly complex college application process, Aisosa eagerly awaits meeting with students and families to begin their college journeys. The motto of her alma mater is, “do great work,” and that is exactly what Aisosa wants to do with her students!

Some of her interests beyond college access include running, hiking, and sightseeing. In fact, you might even see her attempting to complete local Dallas half-marathons!

ILTexas Lancaster-Desoto High School

Larisa Kliman

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Larisa Kliman is excited to serve as the ASP Director of Special Programs and Dean of College Advising for the ILTexas Lancaster-Desoto and Aggieland High Schools. This is her sixth 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.

Academic Success Program - Larisa Kliman

ILTexas Arlington-Grand Prairie High School

Cailyn Byrd

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Academic Success Program - Cailyn Byrd

Cailyn Byrd is the Dean of College Advising at International Leadership Texas Arlington-Grand Prairie High School. She went to Abilene Christian University where she received her Bachelors and Masters in Social Work. This will be my fifth year on the ASP Team. She worked as our ASP Alumni Coordinator for a year, before getting to do work with our students on the high school level. 

She remembers feeling very isolated and limited in knowledge during her own college application journey. She loves that she gets to be in a place to help students and families avoid those feelings. Ms. Byrd’s that 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 she looks forward to most.

ILTexas Garland High School

Sara Morgan

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Sara Morgan is the Dean of College Advising at ILTexas 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. 

Academic Success Program - Sara Morgan

ILTexas Keller-Saginaw High School

Alexandra Clayton

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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 multiple 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 with students, 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!

ILTexas Katy-Westpark High School

Lee Canales

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Lee Canales is entering his third year as Dean of College Advising at ILTexas Katy-Westpark. Each class of graduates builds upon the previous, and they all hold a special place in his heart. The Class of 2022 is no different and Mr. C can already envision them crossing the stage into the next chapter of their life!

A Houston-area native and a graduate from the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Honors College, Mr. Canales received his Bachelor of Science in Biology with an Emphasis in Neurobiology and Integrative Biology. His love for working with students began the day he attended Freshman Orientation and the rest they say, is history. He began work in college admissions and brings his university experience to the guidance he provides to students and parents.

Mr. C considers himself to be a work in progress, always trying to learn new things and encouraging students and colleagues to practice self-care while making time for the things they love. Mr. C’s most recent pursuits include orchestral scoring, producing an up-and-coming vocalist, and studying for his Part 107 Commercial Drone license to help the Houston area during hurricane season. Mr. Canales is married to his wife of ten years, Rachel, and they enjoy their time watching movies and caring for their furry family.

ILTexas Windmill Lakes-Orem High School

Jasmine Campuzano

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Jasmine Campuzano is excited to serve as the College Advisor for Windmill Lakes-Orem High School.  She is a Houston native and attended Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, receiving a B.A in Communication Arts and Public Policy.  

As a first-generation student, she dedicated her undergraduate career to working with non-profit organizations to create a positive impact in local communities. She had the privilege to attend college because she was awarded a scholarship to study out-of-state. The transition wasn’t easy, but this led her to become passionate in empowering youth to overcome the restrictions society has placed on them. She is excited to work alongside ASP and ensure every student has access to a higher education.

Jasmine has enjoyed settling back in Houston and catching up with all her family members. Whenever she’s given the chance to, she enjoys traveling, hiking, meditating, and yoga. Most importantly, she enjoys making memories with her family and making new adventures with them.

Director of Strategic Initiatives

Sarah Snyder

A native Texan, Dallas ISD graduate, and lifelong DFW resident, Sarah Snyder has been working in education through most of her career. Sarah is acutely aware of the importance of equity, access, and affordability in college admissions. From private high school college counseling experience to college admission counseling, on both the freshman and transfer side, Sarah is extremely excited to join the ASP staff and advocate for higher education for all students.

Sarah received her B.A in psychology and exercise & sports science from Austin College in Sherman, TX, and earned a Master of Education from the University of North Texas. Sarah collaborated in the past with ASP on presentations for NACAC (National Associate of College Admissions Counseling), TACAC (Texas Association of College Admission Counseling) and the College & Career Readiness Summit at Rice University.