Michael Santos was born and raised in Los Angeles, where he developed a passion for education so deep that he went on to get seventeen Bachelor’s degrees from various Universities in Los Angeles. In his time at college, Michael was a student athlete with big dreams to compete in the Olympics – dreams that came true in 2008, when Michael won the Silver in the Steeplechase run. After returning to Los Angeles, Michael decided to quit chasing steeples, both literally and figuratively. He finished his final Bachelor’s degree and started his career in education as a dog trainer. In this position, he learned valuable lessons on student engagement and wellness. He took this experience and applied it to larger animals, eventually working with various touring circuses to train animals in an ethical and responsible way. After so much travel, Michael wanted to return to Los Angeles and build on his educational experiences by working with USC TRIO, where he started as an Astronomy tutor, but now serves as Program Director.
Dr. Maria Garcia is the Director for the Southeast and Central Upward Bound Programs. She has always had a passion for education and wants to help improve the learning opportunities and outcomes of low-income, first-generation, high school students. She is proud alum of USC’s Upward Bound Program and attended Los Angeles High School. Upon high school graduation, she moved to the East Coast to attend Wellesley College. While there, she studied Italian and Language Studies with and a particular emphasis on the early language acquisition in bilingual children. She also had the opportunity to live in Italy for a year and attend the University of Bologna in Bologna, Italy. After graduation, she continued her studies at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education where she focused on Administration, Planning, and Social Policy. At Harvard, she obtained a solid grounding in issues of urban segregation, administrative policy, and educational justices. Upon graduation, she returned to Los Angeles where she began working for USC’s Educational Opportunity Program Centers, now USC TRIO Programs. While at TRIO, Maria obtained a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and a Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern California. Maria has worked for USC TRIO for almost 20 years in many capacities. She has been a tutor, a teacher, an Advisor, an Assistant Director, and finally the Program Director. In her spare time, Maria loves to read, travel, and spend time with her family.