Meet the CAA Alumni Scholarships Team

Director, Alumni Scholars Program
Fela Thomas | 510.900.8241

As the Director of the Alumni Scholars Program, Fela oversees over $2 million in scholarships, direct engagement, and supportive services to nearly 800 undergraduate students annually. Prior to joining CAA, Fela worked with UC Berkeley’s Public Service Center managing leadership development and training across the Center’s various programs, and led the Peter E. Haas Public Service Leaders Scholarship for over 3 years.

Fela is a first generation Nigerian American of mixed heritage who has been working and living in the Bay Area for nearly 20 years. As community builder, organizer, and adviser for the last 18 years, he brings a commitment to supporting communities of people growing into their full potential and having a positive impact on the world. Fela has extensive experience as a facilitator, adviser and manager with strengths in organizational development. Prior to coming to UC Berkeley, he was the Director of Programs for Youth Together, supporting the development of young leaders throughout the East Bay and working towards racial and economic justice. He lives in Oakland, and is a proud partner and father to four beautiful and powerful children.

Program Manager, Volunteer Engagement, Alumni Scholars Program
Vanessa Diaz ’09 | 510.900.8184

Vanessa Diaz leads recruitment, training, and management of alumni volunteers and works to expand the role of alumni volunteers in helping current scholars. She is a Cal grad and former recipient of both the The Leadership Award and the Mildred Jordan Sharp Scholarship, and is passionate about public service and education.

At UC Berkeley, Vanessa was involved with The Public Service Center and ran multiple after-school and summer programs for underserved students in the Bay Area through the BUILD program. She was also a founding member of Cal’s chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha Sorority, Inc., an academic organization with service, community activism, and political awareness at its core. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A in Peace and Conflict Studies and a minor in Education and received her Master’s degree in Human Rights with her thesis focusing on the American education system.

Project Manager, Marketing & Operations, Alumni Scholars Program
Ashley Miller ’15 | 510.900.8232

While a student at Cal, Ashley was an Achievement Award (TAAP) and Leadership Award (TLA) scholar. She experienced first-hand the impact CAA scholarship programs have on students’ experiences—both in terms of financial support and the building of life-long friendships. As the Selections Coordinator, Ashley brings her experience with CAA full-circle, coordinating with alumni volunteers to read applications and serve on interview panels, communicating with prospective students, and collaborating with staff on marketing initiatives and strategic planning. During her time at UC Berkeley, Ashley was involved in the Public Service Center’s Magnolia Project program, a 10+ year solidarity initiative with New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina; she also co-founded Maji Yaje Kwanza, a multilateral initiative expanding water pipelines and hygiene infrastructure to primary schools and communities in the coastal province of Kenya, which evolved after her time studying abroad in Kenya in 2013. She also worked as a writing tutor for the Cal student-athletes through the Athletic Study Center, and served as the maintenance manager of her co-op.

Ashley received her B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from UC Berkeley, focusing on education reform and water infrastructure, to learn how infrastructural investment can holistically support justice-based community development, domestically and abroad.

Program Manager, Student Support, Alumni Scholars Program
Valeska Castaneda-Puerto ’16 | 510.900.8236

Valeska is a queer Xicana immigrant who came here under asylum as a child, single mother, and a first-generation underrepresented transfer college student. Valeska received her B.A. in American Studies with a concentration in race, class, gender and immigration policy, and was a CAA Leadership Award scholar. Valeska experienced the impact not just financially but personally that CAA has within our Berkeley community.

During her time at UC Berkeley, Valeska was involved with several organizations that aligned with her passion for social equity, such as The Student Parent Association for Recruitment and Retention and The Public Service Center. While at Cal, Valeska organized A Trail for Humanity, which raised awareness regarding the violence occurring alongside the U.S. and Mexico border for undocumented migrants. As the founder of the movement, the Trail involved organizing community members and collaborating with more than 180 immigration human rights organizations to walk for 26 days and over 350 miles from Merced, California to the U.S.–Mexico border. As KASP’s Coordinator of Student Engagement for the Alumni Scholars Program, Valeska will fuse together her organizing experience along with her CAA involvement to provide professional, academic, and personal advising to build a network for KASP scholarship recipients.

Coordinator, Selections and Communications, Alumni Scholars Program
Joanna Juarez ’16 | 510.900.8346

Joanna Juarez was an Achievement Award (TAAP) scholar while at UC Berkeley. She served in TAAP’s leadership board as the administrative chair. Through her experiences as a scholar and leadership board member, she experienced the impact that the alumni scholars program has on the undergraduate experience and is enthusiastic to be part of the team that made her time at Cal memorable.

Joanna received her B.S. in Social Welfare and Ethnic Studies and a minor in Public Policy. At UC Berkeley, she not only served on TAAP’s leadership board but she also volunteered her time at the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (EBSC) and the YWCA’s English-in-Action program and worked as an AVID tutor for Berkeley Unified School District.

Coordinator, Student Support, Alumni Scholars Program
Johanna Romero ’15 | 510.900.8208

Johanna Romero is a first generation, queer, Salvadoran woman and graduate of UC Berkeley. She received her B.A in Peace & Conflict Studies with a minor in Global Poverty & Practice. As the Student Support Coordinator for the Alumni Scholars Program, she supports scholarship recipients with professional, academic, and personal advising. Johanna brings her experiences in practicing healing justice, equitable education, and program management to build a student-led vision of academic achievement and civic engagement. Johanna has had the privilege of growing in community spaces including the UC Berkeley Public Service Center, Queer EcoJustice Project, SEEDs Community Resolution Center, Restorative Justice Center, and Teachers 4 Social Justice.