Meet the Staff


The Staff at Cal-SOAP is dedicated to working with our local schools to help facilitate and increase the availability of information to students about the existence of post-secondary education, the sources of financial assistance, and career opportunities.  The Cal-SOAP Staff understands the adversities that majority of students endure while trying to reach higher education. Their enthusiasm in helping our students is driven by their own experiences in being First Generation College bound graduates.


Full-time Santa Barbara Cal-SOAP Staff

Joanna Romo

Project Director


Joanna Romo has been working in education for 16 years in a variety of districts throughout California.   She also has six years of experience working in non-profit organizations where she helped develop education programs. Prior to joining the Cal-SOAP team, she worked for the Napa County Office of Education with several school districts as part of the Northern California Career Pathways Alliance (NCCPA) that is funded through the California Career Pathways Trust. Her experience working with this grant helped her to understand the need to increase the graduation rate and have underserved students be prepared for higher education. This helped strengthen her passion for working with low- income and First Generation College bound students.

Joanna was born in Santiago, Chile and moved to Santa Barbara at the age of 8 years old.  She was the first in her family that attended college and graduated from UCSB. She moved to Northern California to attend grad school at Sonoma State University and lived in the North Bay area for 10 years.  Being a First Generation College graduate, Joanna’s sixteen years of having worked with public schools and six years with rural and urban nonprofits in various capacities, has helped her develop a well-rounded understanding for the need to help students achieve academic success and pursue career goals.   She is elated to be back in her community and work with an incredibly talented team of First Generation College graduates!


Rene Garcia Hernandez

Programs Coordinator


Bio PictureRene Garcia Hernandez has been a mentor for youth at risk (promising youth) for 6 years. His experience in working with minority groups has led him to become a role model and aspiration for many of today’s youth.  Part of his passion includes empowering youth, supporting undocumented scholars, helping first-generation students achieve higher level education, fostering change, and bringing awareness about discrimination. Rene holds his Bachelors Degree in Sociology from Cal State University Northridge.

He has recently joined our team as Programs Coordinator in addition to being a Programs Director for the Santa Paula’s Color guard and Dance Program. Given his experience in youth and family advocacy and giving back to the community Rene has had the opportunity to work with United Way of Santa Barbara County, People’s Self Help Housing, YMCA Enrichment Program of Porter Ranch, and The Roze Room Hospice of the Valley.


Linda Figueroa

Tutor Coordinator


From volunteering to later working for the Santa Barbara School district’s English Learner Program for 5 years as a Bilingual Instructor, her passion for teaching took a turn from classroom setting to devotion for helping first-generation students’ access higher education. Similar to the students she worked with at Dos Pueblos High School, she was also first generation college student herself.

Given her combination of skills and extensive experience working in student affairs with the Santa Barbara School District, United Way of Santa Barbara, People’s Self-Help Housing and AHA! She was able to master the issues important to our first generation students by providing services and programs that enrich their academic experience and encourage individual and professional growth. Her former involvement with these organizations has been nothing but gratifying and she continues to be an advocate for those students seeking higher education by working for Cal-SOAP today.


College Peer Advisors

Mario Aviles

Mario_144926-01Hello everyone, my name is Mario Angel Aviles. I was born in Mexico but raised in South Los Angeles for most of my life. I am currently a senior at UCSB, double majoring in Psychology and Sociology. My favorite subjects I have learned about are human development and social issues because I plan to pursue a career in social work, particularly helping youth. I enjoy working for Cal-SOAP because it is very rewarding to be able to provide mentoring and tutoring services to youth. I look forward to continue working for Cal-SOAP in order to be able to assist youth with college preparation and their life goals.


20160826_132641Wayne Galdamez

Hi there, my name is Wayne. I’m from LA. I am a senior at UCSB, and I am majoring in Cell and Developmental Biology. My favorite academic subjects are Biology, Math, and History. My future goal is to get into research. I like working at Cal-SOAP because I get to encourage and help underrepresented kids go to college.


Evelyn Hernandez

imageWorking for Cal-Soap has to be one of my most exciting journeys I have ever taken. My name is Evelyn Hernandez and this will be my third year with Cal-Soap. I am originally from San Diego and I move to Santa Barbara to pursue a higher education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. This past June I received my bachelors degree in Global Studies. However, I have continued my studies at Santa Barbara City College to attend courses that will allow me to have a closer glimpse on education and administrative justice. I am very interested in pursuing a law degree and this year that will be my focus. In addition to this, my three years at Cal-Soap has motivated me to continue pursuing a higher education. Cal-Soap inspires not just the students but the tutors as well. Everyday I learn something new from my students and this is why I love working with Calsoap. I have to be honest with you and state that working at Cal-Soap continues to be a rewarding experience. Thank you for all your hard work staff! It wouldn’t be possible without you!


jessicaJessica Reyes

My name is Jessica Reyes and I was born and raised in Santa Barbara. I am currently a senior at UC Santa Barbara majoring in Communication. I have worked as a Cal-SOAP tutor for 2 years now and my favorite subjects to tutor are Math and ELD. I enjoy working for Cal-SOAP because I loves making a difference in the community I grew up in by inspiring and helping high school students with their studies. One of my favorite parts is attending the students’ graduation at the end of the year, because when they are walking across the stage to receive their diploma, I know I have made a difference in their lives and the Santa Barbara community. Once I graduate from UCSB I aspire to attend graduate school and then continue a career in Education or Business Administration.


Vivian Tran

VivianHi! My name is Vivian Tran, and I’m from city of Anaheim in Orange County, CA (yes, where Disneyland is). I’m currently a 3rd year statistical science major, and I’m looking into a minor in applied psychology. My favorite subject is a split between biology and statistics. After UCSB, I hope to earn my master’s degree in either biostatistics or epidemiology. Ultimately, I want to research cures for diseases, such as AIDS, ebola, and the common cold. I love working for Cal-SOAP because I get to learn more about the city of Santa Barbara. Going to UCSB puts me in a bubble of college students, so there aren’t as many chances to get to know the community. Also, I am proud to be part of such a great program that is able to give so much to the younger generation.