Matthew Desmond Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Evicted and Poverty, by America

MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond and Princeton sociologist was launched onto the national stage as an expert on contemporary American poverty with the publication of his Pulitzer Prize winning bestseller Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Combining years of embedded fieldwork with painstakingly gathered data, Evicted transformed our understanding of inequity and economic exploitation in America.

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Jessi Streib Associate Professor of Psychology, Duke University

Jessi Streib is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University and the co-recipient of the 2023 Early Career Award from the Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility section of the American Sociological Association. Her work focuses on how people stay in or move out of their childhood class position and how class, gender, and racial inequalities are maintained and challenged.

She is the author of The Power of the Past: Understanding Cross-Class Marriages, Privilege Lost: Who Leaves the Upper Middle Class and How They Fall, and the #1 new release in sociology: The Accidental Equalizer: How Luck Determines Pay After College. She is also the co-author of the forthcoming book: Is it Racist? Is it Sexist? Why Red and Blue White People Disagree and How to Decide in the Gray Areas.

Valerie Rivera Founder, FirstGen Wealth

Valerie Rivera, CFP is the founder of FirstGen Wealth, a virtual, fee-only financial planning practice serving individuals and families who are the First to build wealth in their world. Her mission is to break this cycle and close the wealth divide. She focuses on providing education and meeting people where they are in life with no shame or judgment advice to change the trajectory of their lives and generations to come.  

In 2023, Investopedia named Valerie one of the country’s top 100 independent financial advisors. She is part of the 1% of Latinas holding the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER designation, the gold standard of financial planning. 

Valerie is a Forbes Advisory board member and board member of the nonprofit Working Credit, which partners with communities and individuals to interrupt the effects of structural racism by providing credit-building education. 

She is a proud first-gen Mexican-American, born and raised in the Southside of Chicago. She continues to live there today with her husband and their five-year-old daughter, Violet Esperanza.

Bailey J. Dann Research and Education Specialist

Bailey J. Dann (Shoshone-Bannock) graduated from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, in 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, Studio Art, and Secondary Education. Following graduation, Bailey dedicated four years to teaching the Shoshoni language at Chief Tahgee Elementary Academy in Fort Hall, ID. Recognizing the pressing need for Shoshoni language curriculum development, Bailey pursued and earned her Master’s degree in Linguistic Anthropology at Idaho State University in 2023. 

Today, Bailey serves as a research and education specialist at her tribe’s Language and Cultural Preservation Department, operating within the office of Original Territories and Historical Research. Her responsibilities span diverse research and education projects, collaborating with state, federal, and nonprofit entities. Additionally, she contributes to the documentation of cultural and historic sites within the Tribes’ original lands while coordinating educational initiatives and developing interpretive materials for Shoshone-Bannock tribal members, students, and the public. 

Bailey also works to develop Indigenous language curriculum tools and is establishing a certification process for Shoshone language teachers in her community. Furthermore, she serves as a board member and secretary on Chief Tahgee Elementary Academy’s Board of Directors, reinforcing her dedication to education and community service. In her free time, Bailey enjoys weaving, sewing, beading, hide tanning, and oil painting.

Diana Stephanie Lara Senior Verification Analyst

Diana Stephanie Lara is a Senior Verification Analyst for the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Regulatory group at Citi. In her role, she reviews Citi Foundation grants, affordable housing  loans, and other business activities that serve low-and-moderate income individuals and communities. Diana has been with Citi for over 5 years, serving in various roles in Commercial Marketing, Regional Governance, and Risk Management for Citi’s Retail Services, Latin America Chief Administrative Office (CAO), and Enterprise Services and Public Affairs (ESPA).

Diana earned her Bachelor’s in Business and International Studies in 2018 from Emory University Goizueta Business School and has developed her interest and experience in real estate, community development, and transformative faith in Christ. Diana currently volunteers to help asylum seekers and is an active board member for the Redemption Center in NY. She enjoys hiking, painting, volleyball and exploring new places with her mini-aussiedoodle, Ozzy. As a first-generation Honduran American, Diana is committed to continue mentoring and educating communities in need, sharing resources, and building systems for good.

Gabriel Reyes Stanford PhD student and FLi Sci Founder and CEO

Gabriel Reyes, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, is currently pursuing a PhD in Developmental and Psychological Sciences at Stanford University as a Knight-Hennessy Scholar. Gabriel’s research focuses on the psychological effects of financial scarcity and uncertainty on children’s and adolescent’s motivations, self-perceptions, and educational choices, particularly in the context of science. A QuestBridge and Gates Millennium Scholar, Gabriel earned a bachelor’s degree in cognitive neuroscience from Brown University and a master’s degree in neuroscience and education from Columbia University. 

Dedicated to empowering students historically excluded from pursuing careers in scientific research, Gabriel founded and leads FLi Sci, a nonprofit organization helping first-gen/low-income (FLi) students pursue careers in science (Sci). Created in 2020, FLi Sci is currently supported by an Echoing Green and Roddenberry Fellowship. Before FLi Sci, Gabriel worked with various organizations serving low-income students of color, taught neuroscience at New Mexico Tech, and consulted on initiatives aimed at changing the face of science.

Jessica Drescher Researcher at Mathematica Policy Research

Jessica is social policy researcher and holds a PhD from Stanford University. Informed by her experiences as an unaccompanied homeless youth and first-generation college student, Jessica pursues work that aims to fundamentally improve the opportunity structure around low-income children in the United States. While attaining her doctorate in education policy at Stanford University, Jessica worked with Sean Reardon as a member of the Educational Opportunity Project and was an IES fellow at the Center for Education Policy Analysis. She has a Ed.M. in Education Policy & Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in Sociology from Colby College.

As a scholar, Jessica studies education as a lever of social mobility and approaches test scores as the primary mechanism by which opportunity is distributed in the United States. In this spirit, much of her doctoral research analyzed national test scores: how they vary geographically, how social policies influence them, and the differential higher education outcomes that result from them. At Mathematica, Jessica works on projects related to college access, four-day school weeks, child welfare, and provides capacity-building technical assistance to state departments of education and child safety.

Tyler Coleman Startup Co-Founder

From Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Tyler Coleman graduated from Stanford with a Bachelor’s in Economics and a Master’s in Management Science and Engineering in 2021. After spending two years at BlackRock as an investor and researcher, he’s now co-founding a startup focused on democratizing investments in sports. Outside of work, Tyler has a soft spot for cats and volunteers at a cat café in Brooklyn, NYC.

Nicholas Casey Quest Leadership Alum National Politics Reporter, New York Times

Nicholas Casey is a staff writer for The New York Times whose wanderings have taken him from Easter Island to the Gaza Strip. This year he is working as a political correspondent for the newspaper writing long narratives about the difficult decisions Americans face under President Trump and Covid-19. Before 2020, Nicholas worked as a foreign correspondent in Mexico, Israel, Venezuela and Colombia, spending eight years at The Wall Street Journal. He attended the Quest Scholars Program in 2000. He graduated from Stanford in 2005 with a degree in anthropology – a field whose adventures abroad would eventually lead him to become a foreign correspondent.

Ashanti Branch Founder & Executive Director, The Ever Forward Club

Ashanti Branch, raised by a single mother on welfare in Oakland, went on to study engineering at California Polytechnic – San Luis Obispo. A Civil Engineer in his first career, Ashanti found his passion for teaching while tutoring struggling students. In 2004, as a first-year teacher, Ashanti started The Ever Forward Club to provide a support group for African American and Latino males, who were not achieving to the level of their potential. The Ever Forward Club has helped 100% of its members graduate high school. Branch is on a mission to change the way that students interact with their education and the way schools interact with students.

After being featured in The Mask You Live In the documentary, and Fellowships at the Stanford, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, and The Gratitude Network, Ashanti and The Ever Forward Club has launched the #MillionMaskMovement to collect 1 Million masks from people all over the world in a self-reflective experience that helps people visualize and realize, “I am not alone.”

Amy Elizabeth Paulson Co-Founder & CEO, Gratitude Alliance

Amy Elizabeth Paulson is a mental health advocate, writer, speaker, facilitator, trauma survivor, and the co-founder and CEO of Gratitude Alliance, a non-profit that works at the intersection of healing and social justice – helping to break generational cycles of trauma and harm, build individual and collective resilience, and democratize access to mental health resources in the Bay Area, Asia, and Africa. As an orphan and survivor of gender-based child abandonment, Amy is passionate about de-stigmatizing and de-pathologizing trauma as a mental health issue, and advocates for survivor-centered, community-led approaches to trauma-informed, healing-centered

Based in Oakland, California, Amy left a corporate finance career in 2011 to co-found Gratitude Alliance after working for over a decade in the U.S. and Europe for Deloitte, SAP, and eBay. She holds a MS in Nonprofit Management with a concentration in Global Studies from Northeastern University, certifications in Trauma-Informed Interventions (UC Berkeley) and Global Mental Health (Harvard Medical School), and is a facilitator for Stanford GSB’s legendary Interpersonal Dynamics Course.

Amy’s #MeToo story was published in The Anatomy of Silence: 26 Stories About All The Sh*t That Gets In The Way Of Speaking About Sexual Violence. Her memoir, The Wound Myth (working title) chronicles her journey as a survivor of generational, gender based violence, child sexual abuse, and transnational adoption – through the lens of trauma – and explores what it means to embrace gratitude as a powerful catalyst for transformation, from the inside out.

Isabel Cesanto Safie QuestBridge Board of Directors, Quest Leadership Alum Partner, Best Best & Krieger LLP

Isabel Safie is an attorney and equity partner in the Employee Benefits Practice Group of Best Best & Krieger LLP. She works with public and private sector clients on the design, interpretation and operation of employee benefit programs and issues related to those programs, including pension and health benefits. Isabel graduated from UCLA School of Law in 2005 and received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Human Biology from Stanford University in 2002. She is an alumna of Stanford Youth Environmental Science Program, the predecessor to Quest Scholars, Inc. Isabel has been involved with Quest Scholars, Inc. in various forms over more than two decades, including as a member of the Board of Directors. She’s married to her high school sweetheart (Omar) and has three children: Mateo Ali (12), Gabriel Esmael (10) and Olivia Nazanin (4). She enjoys cooking, running/cycling and hiking.

Omar Safie Director of Evaluation & Assessment, University of California, Riverside

Omar Safie, Ph.D. is the Director of Evaluation and Assessment at the University of California, Riverside where he guides programs on using the assessment process for continuous improvement. His approach is based on nearly 15 years of experience in assessment and evaluation in K-12 and higher education where he utilized mixed-methods, including observational methodology to evaluate schools and school programs. He strongly believes that such a triangulated approach allows for more voices to be heard, leading to a fuller picture of a program’s strengths and areas for growth. Omar Safie received his B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of California, Riverside, his M.A. from California State University, San Bernardino, and his Ph.D. from the Claremont Graduate University. His dissertation focused on identifying the factors that contribute to effective schools in high crime, high poverty, and high minority communities.

Mike Murillo Quest Leadership Alum Principal Mechanical Engineer, Carbon

Mike is a QuestLeadership scholar from 1996 (back when it was called SYESP). It was the major catalyst to his attendance at Stanford University, from where he graduated in 2001 with a degree in Product Design. Mike has worked over a dozen different jobs since then but settled on a career in Mechanical Engineering. He now leads the mechanical engineering team at Carbon, a company specializing in 3D printing in Redwood City. 

Erin Schutte Wadzinski QuestBridge Alum, Yale '12 Attorney, Kivu Immigration Law PLLC

Erin is an immigration attorney and a 2007 QuestBridge College Prep Scholar. In 2019, Erin won the Initiators Fellowship to launch Kivu Immigration Law as a social enterprise to provide immigrants access to legal resources. Erin previously worked as a staff attorney at Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and as the Director of the Yale Young Global Scholars Program. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Yale University and her JD from the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Linnea Paseiro QuestBridge Alum, Princeton '14 Alumni Relations Manager, Girls Who Invest

Originally from Northern Arizona, Linnea has worn a number of hats since graduating from Princeton with a degree in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 2014. She has taught writing to business students at a university in Kazakhstan, recruited students for State Department scholarships in Ukraine, engaged in public health advocacy in Vietnam, and worked in Talent Development at a quantitative hedge fund in New York City. Currently, Linnea works as the Alumni Relations Manager at Girls Who Invest, where she gets to support and encourage young women as they strive towards their career goals and gender parity in the finance industry. Outside of work, Linnea is an avid traveler, especially if there are foreign weddings involved. She is also actively engaged with the Princeton Alumni Schools Committee, the QuestBridge Alumni Association, and the Princeton in Asia Alumni Network.

Natalia Delery QuestBridge Alum, UChicago '17 Admissions Ambassador, Columbia University School of Social Work

Natalia Delery (she/her/hers) is a Licensed Master Social Worker and Queens native, currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. She is a proud first-generation college graduate and QuestBridge alum, and was a member of the UChicago QSN board for all 4 years. You may have seen or attended her “Designing Your Life” workshop or QSN Leaders affinity group at QB25! 

After receiving her B.A. in Human Development from the University of Chicago in 2017, Natalia served as a College Advising Corps Member and Postsecondary Coach on the Southside of Chicago, helping students apply to their dream schools. To further build on her passions for social impact and innovation, she later pursued her M.S. in Social Work with a specialization in Social Enterprise Administration at Columbia University, and recently graduated during the pandemic. She has a diverse range of work experience, from doing school social work for the NYC Department of Education’s Pathways to Graduation program, to shaping programming for the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and most recently was a Public-Private Partnerships Fellow at NYC Service, a division of the Mayor’s Office. In both her professional and personal life, Natalia is committed to uplifting individual voices and stories, advocating for marginalized communities, promoting educational opportunities for youth of color, and fighting for racial and economic justice. In her free time, she dances, writes poetry, and practices her guitar. 

Maria Taha QuestBridge Alum, Wellesley '12 Assistant Program Manager, The Diverse Future

Maria is a QB alumni with roots in Ethiopia and Minnesota. She attended Wellesley College and majored in Peace & Justice Studies. After graduating college in 2014, Maria went on to become a Princeton in Asia fellow where she taught at a university on a tropical island in Malaysia. She then moved from the tropics back to the Northeast to pursue a master’s degree in International Education Development at Teachers College, Columbia University. Maria has worked in international development, improving education accessibility and gender parity in Asia and Africa, and most recently at a mentoring program designed to help professionals of color break through the glass ceiling and help shape American national news through a more multicultural lens.