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UCLA Bruin Guardian Scholars Academy
Image of Karina Garcia

Program Director
Bruin Guardian Scholars Academy
kgarcia@saonet.ucla.edu

Karina Garcia (she/ella), became the Academy Director for the First Star Bruin Guardian Scholars Academy in 2017. In her role, Karina oversees our 4-year college access program for high school aged foster youth and works with the national First Star team in expanding the program across other universities. She received her Bachelors of Psychology from UCLA, and her Masters of Learning Sciences from Northwestern University.

As the College Bound Director for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Monica she redesigned the program under a social justice model to improve key areas associated with college access and retention. In this role she expanded program reach across 10 club houses, hired and trained case managers and volunteers, and created college prep curriculum for Middle School and High School students. Karina was a leader in the formation of the Pico Neighborhood Partnership in the Santa Monica community that brought together other stakeholders in the community to work collaboratively on college access programs. By building partnerships with Santa Monica High School and the school district, the city's Social Services and Parks department, Santa Monica College, and other youth-serving non-profits, Karina was able to create a prominent college access program in the community.
Now as the Academy Director for First Star's Bruin Guardian Scholars Academy at UCLA, Karina continues her work in college access for foster-youth populations. As director her goals are to create more partnerships to better serve program youth, increase the acceptance rate of program youth into 4-year colleges and universities, and develop an alumni program to ensure successful transition into college. As an educator and first generation college graduate from immigrant parents, she is personally invested in developing humanizing and intellectually rich educational contexts for youth from underserved communities that provide mentorship, access to resources, and opportunities for personal growth.