The staff at CALSOAP is dedicated to working with our local schools, organizations and community to facilitate and increase the availability of information about the existence of post-secondary education, the sources of financial assistance, and student career opportunities. Our staff members understand the adversities that majority of students endure while trying to pursue higher education. Their enthusiasm in helping our students is driven by their own experiences in being first-generation graduates. To contact our staff, you may email directly or Make an Appointment.


Joanna Romo

Project Director


Joanna has been working in the field of education for over 20 years in various districts throughout California. She was born in Santiago, Chile and moved to Santa Barbara at the age of 8.  She was the first in her family to attend college and graduated from UCSB. She later moved to Northern California to attend graduate school at Sonoma State University and lived in the North Bay area for 10 years. Her passion for working with low-income, first-generation, college-bound students comes from her own experience as a first-generation college graduate, and years of experience of working with public schools and nonprofits in rural and urban capacities. Joanna has developed a well-rounded understanding for the need to help underserved students achieve academically, prepare for higher education, and pursue career goals. 


Rafael Alvarado

Program Coordinator


Rafael Alvarado is a graduate from the California State University Northridge with a Bachelors in Sociology and Criminology. Rafael is both a first-generation high school and College graduate. He has been mentoring and empowering youth in Santa Barbara County since 2018. His experiences have helped him understand the challenges that underserved and underrepresented students undergo when pursuing higher education. He looks forward to supporting students in their pursuit of post-secondary opportunities.  


Rachael Estrada

Program Specialist


Rachael is a recent first-generation graduate from UCSB where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Poverty, Inequality, and Social Justice and Applied Psychology. Rachael is now a student at the Santa Barbara College of Law. Rachael is passionate about education and creating an equitable future for underserved populations. Prior to working as the Program Specialist for CALSOAP, she was one of the lead Financial Aid Coaches for CALSOAP.


CALSOAP Financial Aid and College Success Coaches:

Our CALSOAP  Coaches are not only CALSOAP staff, they are also currently enrolled students at UCSB, SBCC, and VCC.  Their objective is to meet with junior high and high school students to ensure that they are receiving adequate information pertaining to financial aid, college applications, career opportunities and academic support.  They also serve as advocates to each individual for their academic needs and advisement and assist in informing their parents. CSC appointments and hours can be accessed here.


Lexi Lujan


Lexi is a fourth-year UCSB student, majoring in both Sociology and Chicano/a Studies. She works as a Financial Aid Specialist for Cal-SOAP, and is excited for the opportunity to do so!

Lexi is passionate about helping students see their potential and ability to succeed beyond high school, and plans to continue working with them in the future.




Elizabeth Salazar 


Elizabeth has been working in education for about eight years. She was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California. As a first-generation college student, Elizabeth completed her undergraduate education at Santa Barbara City College and Cal State Channel Islands University. She later decided to pursue her Masters in educational counseling. She is currently attending Cal Lutheran University and will graduate in May of 2024. She envisions an educational system where all students receive the support, resources, and information they need to be successful.




Jennifer Espejo


Jennifer Espejo is a 4th year at UCSB majoring in Sociology. Jennifer has been working for CalSOAP since 2021 helping students academically succeed. She enjoys helping students with financial aid applications, college advisement, and other academic support. Overall, Jennifer is passionate about helping students be prepared for their next step after high school.

Amy Reyes

Amy is second year at SBCC and is majoring in Psychology. She’s in the Promise and Raices program. She is in the process of transferring next fall for her Bachelors. She works as a Financial aid coach and is passionate about helping students get the support they need for applying to a higher education.



CALSOAP College Success Coaches

Nelly Fraide-Tapia


Nelly is studying Writing and Literature within the College of Creative Studies at UCSB. She has been published twice within different genres, and hopes to continue publishing longer works in the future. She is currently part of Comunidad Latinx Graduación – a student led and student funded organization which orchestrates the only Chicanx graduation at the university- as the Co-Ceremony chair. Nelly is passionate about student outreach and advocacy, especially first generation students and those who want to pursue higher education.


Xenia Escalante 


Xenia is currently a Linguistics major with a Speech-Language Science and Disorders emphasis, as well an Applied Psych minor.

She has entered UCSB as a first-generation Mexican-American and first-generation college student. With that in mind, she hopes to be able to aid first-generation, low-income students with their transition to college, and help understand this process better.


Daniela Orozco


Daniela is a 3rd year at UCSB majoring in Sociology and minoring in Education. She was born and raised in Riverside California and is also a first-generation college student.
She is also part of the CDV organization (Corazon de Vida) that supports children in orphanages in Baja California. She was also in the foster care system which motivated her to give back to children in need.

She is passionate about supporting first-generation students and guiding them toward success and hopes to one day become a school counselor.


Kevin Lujano


Kevin Lujano and is a first year Student at Ventura College. Kevin is majoring in sociology. He later wants to transfer to CSU Monterey Bay and pursue a degree in sociology. He is currently also a musician and is passionate about playing music.




Melissa Damacio Lopez


Melissa is a fourth-year student at UCSB, majoring in Linguistics with an emphasis in Speech-Language Sciences and Disorders and Spanish. She is currently President of the Corazon de Vida club at UCSB which aims to support orphanages in Tijuana, Mexico.
She also serves as the Co-Publicity chair for Comunidad Latinx Graduacion – a student led and student funded organization meant to create a memorable, Latine-oriented ceremony. Melissa is passionate about her identity as a first-generation Latina and wishes to actively contribute to bridging the gap between Latinx students and a higher education!

Danalee Le Fevre


Danalee is a first-year UCSB student majoring in Psychological and Brain Sciences.  She looks forward to working with students and contributing towards their future success.



Benjamin Morales


Ben is a third year at CSU Channel Islands and is a recent transfer from Santa Barbara City College. He is majoring in psychology and hopes to eventually get in a teaching program for a special education teaching credential. Ben passionate about providing resources to underrepresented communities of people in hopes to help them continue to live the best possible life they can.

Faith Olukanmi


Faith (she/her) is a senior studying Sociology and Applied Psychology at UCSB. She also takes classes at SBCC, where she studies Music and Korean. Alongside this,  she is working towards publishing research on the needs of first generation women who attend predominantly white institutions.  In her spare time, She likes to walk her dog, play saxophone, or try new foods. Overall, she is very passionate about advocating for increased accessibility to higher education for underrepresented students which is why she is very excited to be a resource for students.

Julie Vang


Julie Vang is a third year at UCSB and is majoring in Communications with a minor in Asian American Studies. 

She is excited to be helping students pursue higher education and support them on their academic journey.


Estevan Garcia


Estevan Garcia is a 3rd year political science major student with a focus in American politics at UCSB. Estevan is also pursuing a minor in museum studies. He is excited to start working with Cal soap to kickstart a new direction in his career, as well as helping students kickstart their future.