Meet the Peer Coaches

The mission of the RISE Scholars Peer Mentor program, formerly the SEMILLA Scholars Peer Mentor program, is to promote student success through intentional peer-to-peer mentoring of EOP STEM students. The program will also give mentors the opportunity to support and coach first-year scholars towards their personal and academic goals.

    RISE Peer Success Coaches for 2023-2024

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    Madison Montoya

    I am a third-year environmental science major, affiliated with Rachel Carson College! I enjoy spending time with my friends, napping, and connecting with others. I love roller coasters, scary movies, and diving into conspiracy theories. I am a strong-minded individual who is constantly seeking out my curiosities. I strive to do my best at all times knowing that the outcome might be varied.
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    Stephanie Mancilla Palomo

    Hello everyone! My name is Stephanie, I am first generation Mexican American. My major is Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Justice, and I hope to one day advocate and support marginalized communities when it comes to the environment as I believe everyone deserves a clean planet to live on. I love to spend my time outdoors, camping or hiking, and going on adventures! I am a huge foodie, I love all flavor's and cuisines. As much as I love to be outdoors, I'm also a people person and I enjoy meeting and exploring new cultures and practices!

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    Gaby Kephart

    Hi yall, I'm Gaby Kephart, I use they/them pronouns, and I love going to the beach and the Catalyst on my free time (one of my favorite bands is Deftones). Anyways, I'm very excited to be a peer coach this year as this will be my third year at UCSC with the RISE Scholars program. I can't wait to meet you all and I hope I can support first-generation students with their own journey here at UCSC.
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    Joseph-Blue Sun

    My name is Joseph-Blue Sun. I am 19 years old and from San Diego, California. I am a Marine Biology major and affiliated with Cowell College. My hobbies include thrifting, listening to music, dancing, and documenting life. I have worked as a running coach for elementary and middle school students, a Marine Biology teacher for elementary students, and a college application advisor for first-generation high school students. I come from a low-income, immigrant-rich, at-risk community, so I am extremely passionate about helping other students from my demographic.

  • Past Mentors 2022-23

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    Mary Ayanwale

    Hello, my name is Mary Ayanwale and I use she/hers pronouns. I am currently enrolled in my 3rd year here at UCSC and am affiliated with Stevenson College. I am an Agroecology, Plant sciences double major with a History minor. A fun fact about myself is that I live to sing and cook. I am excited to be here to support mentees however I can.
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    Gisselle Castillo

    Hello my name is Gisselle Castillo, I use she/her pronouns and I am an incoming sophomore at UCSC. I am currently a Human Bio major affiliated with Oakes college and live in a small farming town located in the Central Valley of California, known as McFarland. I enjoy hiking, riding a bike, painting, playing with my dog, and being around friends. Also, I aspire to have a career in the medical field so in the future I can help low income communities like mine.
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    Nazeerah Rashad

    Hi everyone! My name is Nazeerah Rashad and I am a second year human biology student affiliated with Oakes College. I’m from Compton, CA and I’m excited to be back in Santa Cruz. I love listening to music, playing volleyball, and anything related to performing arts. I’m also the treasurer on CADrc’s Board of Directors and a mentor through AARCC’s black academy. I’m super excited to meet you all and help you to navigate through your first year at UCSC!

  • Past Mentors 2021-2022

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    Jonathan Green

    My name is Jonathan Green (he/him/his), I’m from Santa Monica, CA. I’m going into my 4th year at UCSC as an MCD Bio major. My hobbies include cycling/racing, photography, outdoor adventuring, and watching films. Ask me anything and I’ll try my best to help!

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    Adriana Orellana Rivera

    Hello, my name is Adriana Orellana Rivera (she/her/hers). I am going into my 4th year at UCSC as a Neuroscience and Psychology double major and I am affiliated with Oakes College! I currently reside in Los Angeles, California. My hobbies include listening to music, sleeping, spending time outdoors, and trying out new foods. 
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    Alfredo Rojas Moreno

    Hello! My name is Alfredo Rojas (he/him/his/they), I was born and raised in Zacatecas, Mexico, but I currently live in Ceres, a small town in the Central Valley. I am a 3rd year MCD Biology major interested in genetics. I love the outdoors, music, and exploring new places. 
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    Tamyiah Starnes

    Hey everyone! I am Tamyiah Starnes (they/them/theirs), a 2nd year Porter college affiliate. I am a Human Biology proposed major.  Whenever anyone asks what my hometown is, I always say “all over” because I have moved around my whole life. I love to sing, dance, study, and listen to music. I am so excited to talk to you all!

  • Past Mentors 2020-2021

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    Eliza Gonzales

    Hi there! I’m Eliza (she/her/hers), and I’m from the Central Valley! I’m a second year Cognitive Science and Psychology double major affiliated with Kresge. When I’m not working or studying, I love making music with my piano, watching tons of Netflix, taking random road trips, and being in the outdoors!
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    Maggie Perales

    My name is Maggie Perales (she/her/hers), and I am a fourth year double majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology affiliated with College 9. My hometown is Mission Viejo, California. Some of my hobbies are camping, hiking, and skateboarding.    

  • Past Mentors 2019-2020

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    Yvonne Gutierrez

    Hello! My name is Yvonne, and I’m a fourth-year student studying MCD Biology. I’m from San Diego and I enjoy swimming, going to the beach, reading, cooking, trying out new food and going on road trips.


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    Ikenna Kuba

    My name is Ikenna, I’m from San Jose. I'm going into my 2nd year, proposed Human Biology major. I enjoy playing video games, socializing, and meeting new people.

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    Cassandra Maal

    My name is Cassandra Maal, I’m a fourth-year MCD Biology major affiliated with College Ten. I’m from San Diego, I love visiting the beach, camping, traveling, and playing ping pong.

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    Joey Wong

    My name is Joey, I’m a fourth-year student, born and raised in San Francisco, majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. When I’m not working in the lab, I enjoy fishing, hiking, doing yoga, reading and running