Celebrating the Powerful Women at ScholarMatch

ScholarMatch
7 min readApr 11, 2022

Women’s History Month might have ended, but at ScholarMatch, we celebrate the powerful women in our community year-round. We’re proud to share a little bit about ScholarMatch’s leadership team working diligently to advance our mission into a new era of equity and student-centered practices. Read on to learn more about these inspiring women and their vision for ScholarMatch’s future.

Karen Grace-Baker, Board Chair and College Coach

Karen Grace-Baker

Karen Grace-Baker is a proud first-generation college graduate who also holds the unique distinction of being ScholarMatch’s first African American and woman Board Chair!

“As I navigated my way as the first in my family to attend college and graduate school, I wanted to ensure that I did not forget where I came from when I had the chance to give back to other first-generation students. As Board Chair, I have the opportunity to lead an organization that serves and understands the challenges (and opportunities) that being a first-generation student encompasses and the unique contributions and perspectives that they bring to this world. I am so grateful to be able to tell our story and to help students who need a chance to prove to themselves and their families how they can make a difference in this world.”

When Karen is not supporting students at ScholarMatch, she is coaching them in her other role as an instructor at UCLA Extension. “I have the opportunity to work with future college counselors and independent educational consultants to ensure that all students can receive valuable knowledge about the college admissions process from well-informed and knowledgeable counselors. I love teaching and sharing knowledge with others.

I was first drawn to ScholarMatch through my work as a college counselor, where most of my students were first-generation. When I discovered that ScholarMatch was seeking volunteers, this was the perfect match for me because of their target audience of first-generation, low-income, high achieving students. I began as a volunteer five years ago and became more connected with the organization as its mission and values resonated with me. Subsequently, I was invited to join the Board of Directors, and then eventually, I was voted in as the Board Chair. I appreciate the dedication and commitment of the staff, the board members, and the fantastic volunteers that we have — many of whom have been with us since our early beginnings.”

Looking forward to the future, she sees ScholarMatch deepening its reach to serve more students outside of California. Our home base is and will always be in California. However, through our virtual model, we have proven that we can reach and serve students across the entire U.S. I envision a future for ScholarMatch where we can work in other markets across the country. Many students in the U.S. want to go to college but don’t have the financial means or don’t know how to apply to colleges.

My long-term vision for ScholarMatch is to diversify our student population and increase our resources so we can help more students with scholarships, emergency funds, and advising services. These resources will ensure that students graduate from college and continue to have successful careers. I’d love to see some of our students taking this full-cycle circle and coming back to work at ScholarMatch to help other first-generation students succeed.”

Karla V. Salazar, Executive Director

Karla V. Salazar

Karla V. Salazar is ScholarMatch’s new Executive Director. A first-generation college graduate herself, she joined the organization on July 1, 2021, bringing innovative ideas and a visionary approach to the team. “I am very proud to share a similar background as the students we serve. I was also that student, and having access to a quality higher education experience has opened so many professional doors. I want the same for all of our students.”

Growing up in a family of teachers helped shape Karla’s values and foster a life-long connection to education. “My grandmother has inspired me throughout the years. She was an elementary school teacher for thirty years and a philanthropist. Most of my family members are teachers; it is one of the most honorable professions. I have always advocated for access to quality education in various capacities and leadership roles.”

When asked about her vision for ScholarMatch’s future, she shared, “I am proud that ScholarMatch is a beacon of light and support to our students. As we have successfully provided our services in a virtual capacity, we now look forward to solidifying our reach in the San Francisco Bay Area and increasing our presence in the Los Angeles region. We are fortunate to count on over 400 volunteers who can help us expand our resources nationwide. My dream is that we as a nation make higher education accessible to all!”

Devon Moore, Senior Director of Programs and Compliance

Devon Moore

Devon Moore is the Senior Director of Programs and Compliance at ScholarMatch, overseeing all ScholarMatch programs — Destination College, the Scholars Program, the new Career Launch program, and the future Alumni program.

Devon has always been passionate about education, but it was our unique, student-centered program model that caught Devon’s attention as she was planning a career move. As someone who has worked in higher education for the last fourteen years, focusing on supporting first-generation and lower-income students, I saw in the ScholarMatch model a nuanced understanding of the challenges facing students with college completion and how to address them. I appreciate how ScholarMatch prioritizes committed, caring relationships between students and advisers while providing targeted financial support that addresses a range of financial needs beyond tuition and fees. And the impact data speaks for itself — this is an organization that is doing the work and fulfilling its mission.”

Her vision for ScholarMatch’s future is to embrace change as it grows with its students. “ScholarMatch is an organization that has continuously adapted to meet the needs of the students and communities it serves. We have a history of meaningful evolution, from our beginning with crowdfunding to later pioneering virtual advising. ScholarMatch will continue that evolution in the virtual advising space to meet the future needs of a new generation of students and the unique challenges facing higher education access and success.”

Lisa Lopez, Director of College Access

Lisa Lopez

Lisa Lopez is the Director of College Access at ScholarMatch, overseeing our high school program, Destination College, where high school students are matched with college coaches to navigate the college application process. “I really enjoy witnessing the relationships that our students and college coaches are able to build through our program and the progress they make during the college application process. I’m also really proud of our Destination College team — it’s a small team, but it exudes creativity, strategy, and innovation!”

Lisa’s involvement with education dates back to her early career days as a College Persistence Manager supporting high school students in San Francisco. At ScholarMatch, she praises our program model and the individualized attention it offers students. “I was initially drawn to ScholarMatch thanks to the one-on-one matching component with students and volunteers. I thought this was an innovative way to combine the desire of individuals to be of service and the ability for us to provide personalized college advising to students. And now, thanks to the power of virtual advising, we can continue to reach more students anywhere in the world!”

Mary Pham, Director of Human Resources

Mary Pham

Mary Pham is ScholarMatch’s Director of HR, supporting staff and playing an integral role in shaping ScholarMatch’s work-culture experience. “I enjoy figuring out how to improve the overall work experience for staff. And also getting to know each employee and how to best support them — it’s fascinating to get to know everyone individually!”

Attracted by ScholarMatch’s culture and diversity, she felt inspired to join the team. “I was really drawn to the fact that the organization was run by strong women! It definitely was a huge factor when transitioning from my old job. Different women have influenced me in different aspects of my personal and work life. But I’d like to say that I’m not where I am today without having a strong female mentor. I feel inspired to work alongside such powerful women at ScholarMatch, and I hope we can continue to help students and the communities we serve times 10!”

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