Staff

CollegeSpring’s staff is dedicated to the belief that all students should have the opportunity to choose a four-year college education. You can learn more about the team below.


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Dr. Yoon S. Choi

Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Choi brings to CollegeSpring over a decade of leadership, management, and fundraising experience, primarily with organizations serving urban youth. She joined after nearly five years with Spark, a national nonprofit career exploration and self-discovery program for middle school students. She played several different roles throughout her tenure there, including regional Executive Director, VP of California, Chief Strategy Officer, and interim President, taking the organization to new heights with program scale, partnership development, and fundraising.

Previously, Dr. Choi worked at Para Los Niños, a nonprofit providing education, health, and youth workforce / development services to Los Angeles’ underserved communities. An anthropologist by training, she conducted years of fieldwork with NGOs in East / Southeast Asia.

She earned her doctorate in Anthropology with a Critical Theory emphasis from the University of California at Irvine, as well as a master’s degree from New York University and a bachelor’s degree from Scripps College.


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Matt Aguiar

Chief Operating Officer

Matt joined CollegeSpring after spending nine years with Reading Partners, a national elementary literacy nonprofit. Matt served as Chief of Staff from 2014-2016, leading a number of strategic initiatives and facilitating leadership groups and cross-functional projects. Prior to that, Matt led the organization’s field operational expansion from the San Francisco Bay Area into six states. Before joining Reading Partners, Matt was the director of scholarships at the University of California Berkeley Alumni Association where he built and managed the largest alumni volunteer program in the country.

Matt has a degree in economics and business administration from UC Berkeley. He attended Harvard Business School’s executive education program on performance measurement, and completed the Society for Nonprofit Management’s certificate series.

As COO, Matt leads CollegeSpring’s core business infrastructure functions and serves as a critical partner to the CEO, leadership team, and board.


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Krystal O’Leary Flores

Southern California Executive Director

Krystal graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in History and minor in Education Studies. After earning her teaching credential from UCLA, she began her education career as a History teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Krystal went on to receive a Master’s Degree in Education from UCLA, where she studied urban education. During her second year of teaching, Krystal moved into education management when she became the Lead Teacher and Coordinator of a media-based California Partnership Academy. Under her leadership, the academy saw an increase in student population, graduation rates, and business/educational partnerships.

Krystal came to CollegeSpring in 2011 to launch academic year programs in the Los Angeles region.  The success of that initial program allowed CollegeSpring to nearly double the number of students served in its second year of AYP implementation.  Since then, Krystal has launched our Los Angeles office, codified our core program model, and standardized our seasonal staff training curriculum.  Upon moving to the National Strategy and Impact Team, Krystal led the conceptualization and design of high-quality, data-driven, and innovative programs, supported program staff and program sites organization-wide, and developed systems and designed programming to ensure the successful onboarding and professional development of full-time programs staff across the organization.  With over ten years of experience in education and a deep passion for CollegeSpring’s mission, Krystal stepped into the Executive Director role, where she leads fundraising, program operations, and staff management for CollegeSpring’s largest region.


Russell Langsam

New York Executive Director

Russell has dedicated the majority of his career to working with social good organizations in the fields of educational access and success and international service-learning. He most recently served as the Associate Director for Strategic Partnerships at PENCIL, matching corporate volunteers and New York City public schools. From 2001-2009, Russell served as the Director of the Posse Foundation’s New York program. Previous positions include directing international volunteer programs for American Jewish World Service, corporate recruiting with TMP Worldwide, Director of People Strategy for Amisto, an adventure travel web site, regional and national volunteer management work with AFS Intercultural Programs, coordinating a statewide Americorps program for the Minnesota Department of Economic Security, and Regional Director for Amigos de las Americas.

Russell holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania and a M.A. in Public Policy from the University of Minnesota. As executive director, he oversees partnership development, fundraising, site management and program execution for the New York region.

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Andrea Vernitsky

Director of Curriculum & Training

With more than seven years experience in education, Andrea has dedicated her career to the belief that strong curriculum is the backbone of academic success for all students. After receiving her degree in English and linguistics at NYU, she entered the NYC Teaching Fellows program, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Education and applied her education and training to creating rigorous and engaging curriculum for a diverse group of students while teaching high school English in Brooklyn. She also served as a Literacy Coach, developed curriculum for an afterschool program, coached aspiring teachers as part of the New Teacher Project and held the position of program manager with a literacy nonprofit organization before joining CollegeSpring.

Andrea oversees the development of CollegeSpring’s curriculum materials and content-related staff training materials.


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Tania Davila

Programs Data Manager

Tania began her career as a development associate at a domestic violence services agency in New York City where she parlayed her knowledge and experience in program planning, evaluation, and grant writing to help diversify funding sources. In this role, she was uniquely positioned to understand the importance of data in securing grants, obtaining contracts, and building community partnerships.  Thus, she began to look for better ways in which to manage and incorporate data across systems and was tasked with building platforms to collect, record, track, and manage client outcomes in an efficient and cohesive manner. Tania’s shift into research and evaluation grew out of this experience and as Programs Data Manager at CollegeSpring, she oversees the quality of data collection and reporting efforts.  Furthermore, she is in charge of ensuring staff is properly trained to administer and use data collection systems and tools.  In this capacity, she supports the Strategy & Impact team to improve and broaden the scope of CollegeSpring’s reach through data-informed program planning, curriculum design, communications, and development.

As a graduate of Columbia University’s School of Social Work, Tania holds a Master of Science in Social Work degree and has worked in both clinical and administrative settings on issues pertaining to domestic abuse, family violence, HIV/AIDS, immigration, and alcohol & drug dependency. In the years prior to working at CollegeSpring, Tania was a Personal Advisor for Employment & Training for homeless youth in the United Kingdom.  She also holds a Master of Arts in Literature degree from San Diego State University and has taught English as a Foreign Language in Japan.


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Katie Duffy

Curriculum Coordinator

As a classroom teacher for over five years, Katie has dedicated herself to creating strong, engaging and interactive lessons in a variety of content areas. After graduating from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology with a concentration in American Sign Language and Deaf Studies, Katie moved to the west coast to attend Loyola Marymount University through the PLACE Corps program. She graduated from LMU with a Master’s Degree in Education as well as her California Teaching Credential. She has served as a curriculum coordinator for third through fifth grade at one of her school sites, developed Junior High Reading and Writing curriculum in alignment with the Common Core State Standards as well as a Junior High Science Curriculum in alignment with both the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards. Katie strongly aligns with CollegeSpring’s mission and has spent her career advocating for students and their success. She is passionate about designing meaningful learning experiences and engaging educational materials to ensure that all students have access to education.

As CollegeSpring’s Curriculum Coordinator, Katie creates and develops curriculum for all of CollegeSpring’s programs. 


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Amanda Prufer

Development & Grants Manager

Amanda is deeply motivated by her ability to increase the impact of non-profit organizations through fundraising and strategic development. Her passion for this work began as an undergraduate at Boston University, where she founded a nonprofit that raised funds solely from student donations to build freshwater wells in Darfur. After graduation, she taught English in Shenzhen, China and was later awarded a fellowship in São Paulo, Brazil through Princeton in Latin America, where she designed and implemented a college admissions prep program for underserved students seeking admission to universities in the U.S. Following her fellowship, she moved to San Francisco, where she spent several years as an Institutional Giving Officer for United Way of the Bay Area and, most recently, as a Grants Consultant for San Francisco State University’s first-ever capital campaign.

At CollegeSpring, Amanda manages development operations and institutional fundraising efforts.


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Martin Sanchez

Communications Manager

Martin manages CollegeSpring’s communications and marketing efforts.

His interest in education began while working as a writing tutor in college. He then served with the Peace Corps in Namibia, where he taught English as a Second Language and organized after-school programs with local NGOs. Before joining CollegeSpring, he spent several years in marketing and public relations in Silicon Valley. He holds a BA in English from UC Berkeley.


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Megan Fisher

Development Coordinator

Megan’s motivation for ensuring greater access to educational opportunities was instilled while working as an Associate Project Director for Amigos de las Americas, developing service-learning trips for U.S. high-school students in Latin America. After working abroad, she relocated to the Bay Area and joined a social enterprise start-up centered on connecting marginalized artisans in the developing world with resources to grow their businesses, invest within their local economies, and provide skilled trainings and greater educational opportunities for the next generation. Most recently, Megan focused her skills on fundraising for non-profits throughout the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Megan holds a B.A. from UC Santa Barbara in Political Science and Spanish.

In her role as CollegeSpring’s Development Coordinator, Megan manages the donor database as well as gift processing.


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Karen Rodriguez

Controller

Karen has spent the last 20 years in service of various nonprofit organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has most recently been Director of Finance & Operations for Amazon Watch, as well as Chief Financial Officer for California Humanities. She appreciates the opportunity to learn about varied causes and missions, and the creative strategies that intrepid nonprofits employ to advance them. She enjoys helping fledgling organizations negotiate the challenges of growth, and she is excited to have joined CollegeSpring at this very juncture in its own development. She holds a BA in International Relations & Economics from San Francisco State University, and enjoys singing in her spare time.

At CollegeSpring, Karen oversees financial operations and strategy.

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Katherine Christianson

Programs Director, Southern California

Katharine graduated from Northwestern University with a dual degree in Political Science and Communication Studies. Upon graduating, Katharine joined the Peace Corps and initiated and developed an adult literacy program in Mali, West Africa. When she returned to the United States in 2011, she began working in the K-12 education space as a Program Manager for Junior Achievement. Katharine worked for Junior Achievement for four years before going back to get a Masters in Public Policy (specializing in Education Policy) from the University of Southern California’s Price School of Public Policy.

As Programs Director, Katherine manages CollegeSpring’s Southern California programs and operations. Her passion for expanding opportunities for our youth continues to be at the forefront of her life’s mission and she is very excited to join the CollegeSpring team.


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Amy Sims

Programs and Development Manager, Southern California

Amy graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a dual degree in Marketing and Economics. While completing her undergraduate degree, Amy worked with CollegeSpring as a Mentor, a Lead Mentor, a Campus Recruitment Director, and a Programs Intern. After graduating, she taught the CollegeSpring program to 70 high school juniors, empowering her students to raise their SAT scores by 202 points.

Amy has worked with CollegeSpring full-time for two years in both development and programs management. She currently manages the CollegeSpring program at a portfolio of schools and provides development support by managing the region’s Young Professionals Board, the region’s institutional giving efforts and providing pipeline analysis to the Executive Director.


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Ashley Soto

Programs Manager, Southern California

Ashley is committed to uplifting communities of color. She’s worked as a science teacher in critical needs high schools of Mississippi through the Mississippi Teacher Corps and was the Site Director for a free SAT prep program in Holyoke, MA. In addition to her work in education, she’s managed marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies.

Ashley earned a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Ole Miss (hotty toddy!) and graduated from Amherst College, double majoring in Neuroscience and [email protected] Social and Cultural Identities.

Ashley helps with CollegeSpring’s SoCal programs and operations.


Jennifer Torres

Programs Manager, Southern California

Jennifer never expected to attend college because work rather than school was a priority in her family. However, due to the influence and support of a close friend who encouraged her, she is now the first college graduate in her family.

She received a B.S. in Business Administration, specializing in Marketing with a minor in Economics from California State University of Los Angeles and now has over five years of experience in product, service and project management.

Her most recent endeavor was working with the United Peace Corps in Cameroon, Africa as a Community Economic Development Consultant. During her two years with the Peace Corps, Jennifer worked in youth development and focused on education, volunteerism and economics. Projects with these young people were most fulfilling because of her own experiences. The impact and importance of this work while in Cameroon gave her the incentive to continue on the same path when returning to Los Angeles.

Jennifer strives to be as influential as the person who encouraged her to continue her education and who mentored her during her college years. Jennifer is dedicated to finding a way for underserved young people to gain access to higher education. She works closely with CollegeSpring’s Southern California’s Programs Team, helping with mentor recruitment, training and support, and ensures quick turnaround of test results to students and partner organizations.


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Nia Hill-Perry

Talent Coordinator, Southern California

Nia graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. in Spatial Arts and a Minor in Business. She strongly believes that the outreach programs she was involved in as a child opened her eyes to the opportunities that college offers. The product of a successful inner-city charter school, Nia reaped the benefits of smaller classroom sizes which created a communal environment. Nia aspires to continue her education with the goal of becoming an Art Therapist. This will allow her to invest much of her time developing low-income student programming, and to become an inspiring figure in her community through the healing power of the arts. CollegeSpring’s mission to provide mentors to high school students so that they can achieve their educational goals not only reflects Nia’s upbringing but matches her belief that the life of a child can be changed with one devoted role model.

Nia supports the Southern California team in assisting with all aspects of Southern California programs.


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Valerie Morishige

Southern California Office Manager

Valerie believes that if you are mindful about what you feed your mind and body, then that emergent property called a soul will take care of itself. To that end she has worked in the education sector; previously at a nonprofit that provides anti-bias training for the K-12 community and before that at a nonprofit theater group that made classic literature accessible for young students. While transitioning from California State University, Los Angeles to University of California Los Angeles, Valerie took 2 years off and worked at the largest Japanese restaurant distributor in the nation before finishing her Bachelor of Arts in English.
Valerie manages the day-to-day operations in the Los Angeles office and uses her logistics experience to make sure everything runs smoothly.


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Allyson Cook

Programs Director, New York

Allyson began her career as an educator as an Americorps Member and full time teacher in Paterson, New Jersey for a yearlong service commitment. Working as a dedicated Language Arts teacher, academic tutor, founding Dance Team coach, and parent liaison, Allyson was able to see the benefits of community outreach within educational institutions. Allyson completed her term of service and shifted her focus to educational leadership and supporting schools by assuming the role of Deputy Campus Director of Citizen Schools, in the New Jersey region. After growing and learning how to best support teachers, parents, and scholars Allyson has thus worked in other school districts in New Jersey as an Academic Counselor for a TRIO program at Rutgers University-Newark Campus, where she managed undergraduate and graduate students who supported a total of 500 students. Allyson completed her master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, NJ.

Allyson views herself as an integrated change agent who is committed to: empowering all scholars to build character, ensuring they develop mastery in 21st century skills, and providing access to high quality colleges and professional careers by creating diverse, engaging learning opportunities. She strives to guide youth to their full potential, meanwhile engaging families and community members to be more involved in the academic success of the youth. She is an advocate for education reform with the hope to narrow (and one day close) the opportunity and achievement gaps in America.

Allyson manages CollegeSpring’s New York programs and operations. She helps with mentor recruitment, training, and support; and ensures quick turnaround of test results to students and partner organizations.


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Siettah Parks

Programs Manager, New York

Siettah first became invested in education while serving as an AmeriCorps Education Fellow in Newark, NJ. Her experience working directly with students led to a commitment to serving populations that have historically been denied access to resources and higher education. She hopes that her work will help to provide a number of students with more opportunity and encourage a college-going culture in our partner schools and community-based organizations.

Siettah completed her bachelor’s in sociology at the University of Wisconsin. She also holds a master’s degree in sociology and education from Teachers College, Columbia University, where she completed an integrated project focused on the perspectives of teachers who work with students of color.

Siettah assists with CollegeSpring’s New York programs and operations. She is especially devoted to building strong relationships with partners and providing high-quality programming.


Jonathan Reyes

Operations Coordinator, New York

A Latino male from New York who is passionate about educational equity, Jonathan has dedicated much of his professional career to working toward making educational opportunities and resources available to all students in urban communities across New York.

Jonathan earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a minor in Sociology from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana in 2015 as a Posse Scholar. Upon graduating, he went straight into the classroom, teaching Third Grade Informational Reading, Science/Social Studies, and Writing with Uncommon Schools. Today, he is enrolled as a graduate student at Hunter College studying Urban Policy and Organizational Leadership, and acts as the operations coordinator for the New York team at CollegeSpring.

As operations coordinator, Jonathan provides programmatic and operations support to the New York Team.


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Alex Lujan

Programs Director, San Francisco Bay Area

As a first generation college student and former foster youth, Alex has firsthand knowledge of the difficulty of navigating the college admissions process. Her childhood has inspired her to make education accessible to anyone. Alex graduated from UC Berkeley with her bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. During college, she mentored youth in social skills, science, and math in multiple bay area schools. Shortly after graduation she joined Citizen Schools, an Americorps extended day teaching program that partners with middle schools to build students’ skills and boost their confidence to succeed in college and beyond. Alex’s commitment to empowering youth to have agency in their educational trajectories is what brings her to CollegeSpring.
Alex manages CollegeSpring’s Bay Area programs and operations. She helps with mentor recruitment, training, and support; and ensures quick turnaround of test results to students and partner organizations.


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Monique Recoder

Programs Manager, San Francisco Bay Area

Monique joins CollegeSpring after six years with Year Up, a national nonprofit organization that provides educational and employment opportunity to urban young adults. Additionally, as a former foster care social worker, Monique has always had a passion for working with youth of all ages and from all backgrounds, has an unshakeable belief in the abilities of all young people, and is committed to helping them reach their full potential.

Monique holds undergraduate degrees in Philosophy and Clinical Psychology from California State University, Long Beach, where she was a President’s Scholar, and has a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California. As a Programs Manager, Monique supports the Bay Area team with program implementation at regional high schools and community based organizations.


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Jamie Sarfeh

Programs Manager, San Francisco Bay Area

Jamie believes that inequity in education originates from and is perpetuated by a racist and capitalist social structure. Her work with CollegeSpring is motivated by the belief that increased access to higher education for young people of color is a vital component of systemic transformation.

Prior to joining CollegeSpring, Jamie worked for over five years as a mentor and youth educator at a range of community based organizations, after-school programs, and high schools in Rhode Island. She also conducted public health research focused on access to care in collaboration with the African Community Center for Social Sustainability. Jamie holds a BA in Africana Studies from Brown University.

As a Programs Manager, Jamie supports CollegeSpring’s Bay Area programs implementation and operations. She helps with mentor recruitment, training, and instructor support; and ensures quick turnaround of test results to students and partner organizations.


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Natasha Blackadar

Operations Coordinator, San Francisco Bay Area

Natasha graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Development Studies and a focus on international education. After running a volunteer program in South Africa, she completed the Residence in Social Enterprise (RISE) Fellowship with New Sector Alliance in San Francisco. Natasha believes that higher education is an extremely powerful tool for changing the lives of young people and volunteers locally and virtually as a college adviser. Her passion for the nonprofit sector and college access led her to CollegeSpring, where she is excited to contribute to making college a reality for students across the Bay Area.

Natasha provides programmatic and operations support to the Bay Area team.