Christina MirelesExecutive Director
Christina grew up in San Jose, CA and attended Harker Academy (grades 3-8; now known as The Harker School) and Presentation High School (9-12) on academic- and need-based scholarships. She then went on to Tufts University where she earned a B.A. in Political Science with thesis honors, followed by a Master in Public Policy from Georgetown University and a Juris Doctor from Northwestern University. Prior to joining PCF, Christina served as Deputy Director at Escuela Popular, a K-12 charter school in East San Jose that serves a predominantly Latino student population, many of whom are recent immigrants.
For nearly nine years, she spearheaded Escuela Popular’s operations – strategy, HR, compliance, legal, finance, and board relations. Christina entered the charter school landscape through EdTec, a mission-driven, for-profit company providing back-office services to charter schools throughout the United States. Christina began her career over 20 years ago as an attorney with Crowell & Moring, a Washington, D.C. law firm. She is currently on the Board of Directors of Oxford Day Academy, a charter school in East Palo Alto. Given her personal story, Christina is passionate about serving low-income students of color who need just a little extra support to realize their dreams. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling for pleasure and spending time with her three children and her husband.
Natalie WalkerDirector of Development
Natalie brings 25+ years of corporate sales and marketing experience including sales management, business development, and program management success. Additionally, she has 15+ years of non-profit volunteer and leadership experience. She is currently on the Board of Directors for the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) ~ Silicon Valley, an organization working to advance philanthropy through education, advocacy, research, and certification programs. Natalie is also the immediate past president and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Ivy & Pearls Foundation, a community organization focused on promoting academic excellence, health and wellness, economic empowerment and social justice in communities of color. Her leadership responsibilities include driving strategy, overseeing financial wellness, and managing relationships with external stakeholders and partners. She plays a major role in identifying, cultivating, soliciting, and stewarding major individual donors, corporate, and/or foundation gifts.
Natalie’s true passion lies in community engagement work and in making a difference in the lives of our next generation. She is an active volunteer and mentor for Oakland Promise and Year Up and is committed to uplifting young adults and advancing educational equity. Raised in East Palo Alto, California, Natalie is a first-generation college graduate who earned her B.A. in Economics at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). In her free time, she enjoys reading, spending time with family and friends, and traveling.
Denise VillamilDirector of Career Services
Denise Villamil joined PCF after 20 years in program design/evaluation, relationship building, and management development within the corporate and non-profit sectors. She has held numerous executive roles in her career in both the technology and biotech sectors. She has also been an accomplished entrepreneur of two successful start-up companies. Throughout Denise's career, she has had the opportunity to mentor young professionals both in the US and abroad in the area of professional development. As one of the first in her family to go to college, she understands the impact that higher education and career-readiness has on employment opportunities. Denise was drawn to the PCF mission because of her passion for changing the equality of equity challenges that restrict underserved communities from securing meaningful careers. As such, she was excited to join the PCF team to start a new department within the organization focused on providing robust career advisory services and training programs that address the unique workforce readiness needs that first-generation college students face in today’s marketplace.
Denise graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Business Management from National University. As a native Californian and sports enthusiast she enjoys being in an area where she has local access to the coast and the mountains. In her off hours, Denise can be found spending time with family and friends, traveling, skiing, and giving back to the community through volunteering her time, treasure and talents to various non-profit organizations.
Cara MagliaroDirector of College Services
Cara Magliaro joined PCF with more than 15 years experience as an innovative educator, leader, and community volunteer working for organizations dedicated to youth development and educational technology.
As a first-generation college student and passionate educational advocate, Cara graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Education and connects deeply to PCF’s mission and values.
Outside of PCF, Cara stays busy raising her three kids, two dogs, and three chickens and is greatly looking forward to traveling again.
Rossmeri AlfaroCommunity Engagement Lead
Rossmeri was born and raised in Sinaloa, Mexico and as many parents make the courageous decision, her parents brought her to the United States in search of a better future for their three daughters. As a former undocumented student, she is passionate about educating and serving underrepresented communities and supporting them to realize their American Dream. Rossmeri is a Peninsula native; she graduated from Sequoia High School and went to Sacramento State where she received her Bachelor’s in Sociology. Rossmeri is the first in her family to graduate from a 4-year institution. While in college, Rossmeri studied abroad in London, England. While abroad, she not only immersed herself in her studies but also in learning about new cultures. She interned at Just for Kids Law as their Let Us Learn Project Coordinator where she led storytelling workshops for undocumented and mixed status students. Prior to her role at The Peninsula College Fund, Rossmeri was the Clinic Coordinator at the Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto where she organized and executed virtual immigration clinics.
Always looking for a way to pay it forward, Rossmeri stays very active within her community. She is currently a Board Member for the San Jose Arena Authority and El Concilio of San Mateo County. She is also an active member of the Immigrant Youth Action Team (IYAT) in Redwood City. Moreover, Rossmeri is a Graduate Fellow from the Latino Board Leadership Academy from the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley. Rossmeri enjoys spending time with her family, trying new recipes, exploring nature, and traveling. An alumna of The Peninsula College Fund, Rossmeri has a passion for paving the way for first-generation students as so many did for her.
Martha CorralDevelopment and Marketing Lead
Martha attend California State University, Northridge and majored in Communication Studies. While at CSUN, she focused her studies on the intersectionality of communication in human relations, cultural studies, social justice, training and development.
Due to her own story, Martha is passionate about career development, specifically for first-generation scholars. She enjoys traveling and learning about different cultures.
Julia GalvanEvents Lead
Before going to college Julia always had this idea of going into education, but originally was on the path to becoming a teacher. However, it was not until she stepped foot on campus predominantly white institution that she realized she needed a community if she was going to continue higher education.
Once Julia found her community in the Ethnic Studies department and family within her multicultural sorority, she realized that that was what she needed to get her through college. She needed the mentorship, support and confidence that both of these communities provided. Julia double majored and earned her B.A. in Comparative Ethnic Studies and a B.A. in History, from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo because she wanted to give back to those who were first-generation college students like herself.
Julia entered the nonprofit community as an intern for the Community Roots Project in San Luis Obispo where she realized she could be both part of a nonprofit and help with education together in her professional career.
Abigail AvilaProgram Coordinator, College Services
Abigail Avila is passionate about giving back to her community by being an advocate for low-income, first-generation students who have limited access to resources. She is a strong believer that higher education can open doors and uplift historically underserved communities.
Prior to working at The Peninsula College Fund, Abigail worked for the Office of Admissions at UC Santa Cruz. In this role, she supported high school and community college students from diverse backgrounds by sharing her knowledge to promote accessibility to higher education.
Abigail was born in Mexico and migrated to the U.S at the age of 5. She was raised by her hardworking single mother in Redwood City, graduating from Sequoia High School. Her mother always emphasized the importance of higher education, which influenced Abigail to achieve her goal of becoming the first in her family to attend and graduate from a four-year university.
As a low-income, undocumented student, Abigail joined PCF as a scholar and was grateful for the support and guidance she received from them throughout college. She graduated debt-free from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2020 with a B.S. in Human Biology. In her off hours, Abigail enjoys traveling to Disneyland and Universal Studios with her family, watching basketball and football, and chasing down her two amazing kids.
Chloriza AvilaProgram Coordinator, Career Services
Chloriza Avila was born and raised in Lathrop, CA. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and double minor in Ethnic Studies and Education from UC Davis. While at UC Davis she worked with BRIDGE: Pilipinx Outreach and Retention as a Community Youth Development coordinator. In this role, she worked with and created curriculum for first-generation, low-income, and historically underserved youth to promote cultural awareness and accessibility to higher education. Chloriza has always had passion for working with students and is excited to support PCF scholars in embracing their unique identities and seeing themselves as vessels of change. In her future, she hopes to continue to bridge the opportunity gap and support marginalized youth and families in their personal and professional endeavors.
Chloriza also enjoys conversations about mental health and social justice. When she isn’t working, you can find her trying new food places, de-stressing at the gym, or traveling!
Eduardo CortezProgram Coordinator, College Services
Eduardo was born in Redwood City, CA but moved to Hayward, CA when he was five years old. Being a Hayward Made student, Eduardo completed his entire education in Hayward. Eduardo obtained his AA in Communication Studies from Chabot College in the Spring of 2017 and recently graduated from California State University, East Bay with his BA in Ethnic Studies with a concentration in Latinx and Chicanx Studies. During his educational journey, Eduardo worked with the TRIO Educational Talent Search Program at Chabot College and Hayward Promise Neighborhood at CSU East Bay as a Program Facilitator and Promise Intern. In these roles, he focused on being a mentor for first-generation, low-income, and multiracial students and families. His passion is to continue working with students and families from around his community. In his free time, Eduardo enjoys adventurous car rides and getting lost on the road with good music playing.
Lizeth Diaz NavarreteProgram Coordinator, Career Services
Lizeth Diaz Navarrete grew up in San Jose, California and was the first in her family to attend and graduate from university. Lizeth earned her Bachelor's in Psychological and Brain Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master's in Counseling and Guidance
from San Jose State University. It was during this transformative period that she discovered her true passion for helping underrepresented students understand their talents and strengths to thrive in higher education. This passion led her to intern at SJSU's Career Center, where she dedicated herself to empowering students to make informed decisions about their career paths and leverage their unique abilities to pursue fulfilling careers that not only align with their passions but also offer financial freedom. As a first-generation woman of color, Lizeth is committed to using her lived and professional experiences to aid other students in higher education succeed at a holistic level and work towards addressing systematic inequities.
Vanessa MurilloProgram Coordinator, College Services
Vanessa was born and raised in Redwood City, California. She has been very involved in the Peninsula and engaged in community events. She received her degrees in Bio-Anthropology and Spanish from the University of California Santa Barbara and was the first person in her family to graduate from college. During her time in college she worked as an afterschool educator for the East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy. She tutored middle school students, and curated new curricula of activities such as photography, robotics, etc.
Vanessa has always been passionate about working in education, primarily supporting underserved students to achieve their educational goal of graduating college. Vanessa received help from many scholarships throughout college. The aid she received from those initiatives inspired her to help the current PCF Scholars succeed holistically.
When Vanessa is not working, she enjoys being outdoors, playing tennis, reading a book at the park or working out at the gym. She is also fond of traveling and is always encouraging scholars to study abroad!
Marinez RuizProgram Coordinator, Career Services
Marinez has a passion for helping underserved communities by providing resources, creating connections, delivering support, and engaging in advocacy. Marinez is committed to helping others receive the adequate education, skills, knowledge, and support necessary to thrive in today’s economy.
Previous to working at The Peninsula College Fund, Marinez served as an Operations and Policy Coordinator at CA EDGE Coalition, where she supported the organization in advancing its mission through advocacy work focused on workforce development and higher education issues. Prior to EDGE, Marinez worked with students at the Dreamer Resource Center at California State University, Sacramento. As a Program Assistant, she provided resources to students of undocumented and mixed-status backgrounds as she helped them pursue their goals in higher education.
Marinez is also highly engaged within her community in the Bay Area. Marinez has become a strong advocate for Latinos in Silicon Valley through her involvement with the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley and the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley. Marinez also serves as a board member for Catalino Tapia Scholarship Foundation as well as MetroED Foundation.
Marinez is a proud daughter of immigrants and values her Mexican heritage. Born and raised in the Central Valley, she experienced the various financial and educational barriers others in her community face. Today, she is driven to give back to her community by increasing access to high-quality education and opportunities to thrive in the economy.
Marinez received her BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Public Relations at California State University, Sacramento.
Lupe VazquezProgram Coordinator, College Services
Lupe Vazquez is passionate about supporting and advocating for low-income, first generation, and undocumented background community members. She is committed to helping youth reach their full academic and personal potential while remaining their authentic selves.
Previous to working at The Peninsula College Fund, Lupe obtained her B.A in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies in 2022 from the University of California, Merced. During her time at UC Merced, she worked for The Success Mentor Program where she mentored first generation students by providing campus resources and social support to help them navigate their first year. She also conducted research through her school's Undergraduate Research in Humanities program which focused on humanizing undocumented youth’s experience through storytelling and uplifting their lived experiences.
Lupe was born in Mexico and migrated to the U.S at the age of 5 years old. She was raised in Mountain View and attended Mountain View High School. In her free time, she enjoys listening to a good podcast, finding new music, and spending time with her partner and their dog, Spots.
Samantha WenzelProgram Coordinator, Career Services
Samantha Wenzel is a Bay Area native, raised in the North Bay. For 12 years she has worked with Bay Area students as a mentor, coach, and teacher. Samantha graduated from Santa Clara University with a BA in Communication in 2016. Her maternal family settled in San José when they first arrived in the U.S. from Mexico, and she is committed to serving the community in which her roots are planted. Her passion around education system reform has led her to dedicate her career to serving organizations that provide the necessary support needed for underserved students to succeed in a system that was not created for them to thrive in. With her experience in working with first-generation students in both the high school and college setting, she aims to utilize her role as Career Services Program Coordinator to support PCF scholars in their pursuit of a career aligned with their dreams and sense of purpose.