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!

Vincent Dodero

Program Coordinator



Vincent Dodero has been working in various nonprofit sectors throughout his life. His passion for assisting first generation students in navigating through the higher education process stems from his experiences as a minority and through the help and guidance he has received from nonprofits throughout his life. Prior to working with Cal-SOAP, Vincent worked with adults with developmental and behavioral disabilities, providing them with support in their day to day lives.
Vincent grew up in Goleta, California, and is the middle of three adopted children. He spent 12 years swimming competitively with the Santa Barbara Swim Club and Dos Pueblos High School. He attended Ithaca College in Upstate New York, graduating in 2016 with a B.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications and a minor in Sociology. While in school, Vincent was an NCAA swimmer and volunteered with the campuses Office of Student Engagements & Multicultural Affairs as a Diversity Peer Educator, facilitating workshops and programs relating to the importance of diversity on campus. He is excited to be back in sunny southern California and to have the opportunity to serve the youth of this community!

Jennifer Lopez

Administrative Coordinator

Jennifer Lopez is an up and coming young professional who is dedicated to working with underrepresented and first generation college bound students. She is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara who double majored and received 2 Bachelors degrees in Sociology and  Chicanx Studies. Her passion to work with youth comes from being  part of a low-income community where her high school lacked the resources needed to pursue higher education.  During her second year at UCSB , Jennifer began working as a Cal-SOAP tutor for a year and a half.  Throughout that time, she realized that she really enjoyed giving back to communities similar to her own. One of her goals in life is to pursue a Masters degree in Higher Education, where she would have the ability to continue helping communities access resources and opportunities to pursue higher education.

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.

Cal-SOAP Peer Advisers:

Our Advisers are not just Cal-SOAP staff, they are also current undergraduate students enrolled at UCSB.  Their job is to meet  with students to ensure that they are receiving adequate information pertaining to financial aid, college application, career opportunities and academic support.  They  also serve as advocates for the individual academic and advisement needs of these students and of their parents.

Julie Aguilar

Julie is a senior at UCSB majoring in Language, Culture, and Society (LCS), a major which is closely related to sociolinguistics. She is from South Central Los Angeles and her family is from El Salvador. Julie is the first person in her family to attend a four-year university and plans to continue her education at  the renowned National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) for a year abroad to study art and literature. Her goal is to become a High School Counselor in hopes to directly help students searching for what they plan to do after high school. While working as a Cal-SOAP Tutor and College Peer Adviser, Julie has enjoyed helping students be more prepared for post secondary education and plans to go back to her hometown to continue helping people from her community and make a difference. Julie strongly believes that every student can make it to higher education and she aspires to help anyone who is willing to put in the work to get there.


Makayla Rawlins

Makayla is a 3rd year at UCSB. She is a Biological Anthropology and Art History double major with an American Indian and Indigenous Studies minor. Makayla loves the ocean, hiking and just being around friends. She chose to work with Cal-SOAP because of her positive and memorable experience with her AVID teachers while she attended high school.  Her teachers were a great asset to her and her family in helping her with FAFSA and with college applications. Because of this positive experience and outcome, she is enthusiastic about paying it forward and helping students  to reach the same goals after they graduate. In the future, she hopes to work with students in a museum setting and put her experience with working with students to good use. She enjoys cultural art history and wants to be able to spread that knowledge.