With the expansion of our career and college readiness programs in Saint Paul Public Schools and other organizational growth, we've been building our team to meet the needs of our students and organization. We're delighted to introduce eight outstanding new staff members who are serving on our career and college readiness school-based team, Step Up and measurement and evaluation team.
Career and College Readiness Coordinators
Matt Carlson, Highland Park High School in Saint Paul
Matt came to Achieve from College Possible, where he first worked as an AmeriCorps member, supporting 12th grade students at four high schools through the college admissions process, and then served as high school program coordinator, supervising Americorps members at 13 high schools. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management form Gustavus Adolphus College.
Katie Lorenz-Walraven, Edison High School in Minneapolis
Katie has over 14 years of experience with direct youth support in a variety of capacities, including support of adjudicated youth as a juvenile justice transition coordinator. Katie’s career path started in broadcast media as a news reporter and anchor at a news talk radio station in Albany, New York, followed by work in Massachusetts with National College Advising Corps. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and communications at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
Lucia Mendez-Gutierrez, Longfellow Alternative High School in Minneapolis
Lucia formerly worked at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, where she was a co-founder and co-chair of the State Enterprise-wide Black Indigenous Women of Color Employee Resource Group. She also has extensive experience with TRIO and GEAR UP programs, serving students in Minneapolis, Bloomington, Robbinsdale, Richfield and Edina. Lucia holds a M.S.W. from the University of Minnesota.
Cha Billy Vang, Johnson Aerospace & Engineering High School in Saint Paul
Cha Billy earned his bachelor’s degree in youth studies from the University of Minnesota and was the first in his family to obtain a college degree. He began his career with the Page Education Foundation, later exploring his passion for teaching youth as a paraprofessional. His professional experience ranges from student advising, mentoring and academic support to college access coaching. He loves working with students who need guidance in identifying resources and achieving their lifelong dreams.
Mae Yang, Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis
As a former College Possible staff member, Mae has tremendous experience in providing college access support for ACT preparation, FAFSA completion, college applications and much more. She has also worked in residential life at the College of Saint Benedict and the University of Wisconsin River Falls, where she created a welcoming and supportive environment for students to thrive. Mae is a graduate of St. Mary’s University in Winona, where she studied environmental biology and zoology.
Step Up Team
Maren Lundgren, Step Up Employer Engagement Assistant
Maren has worked extensively with youth as an arts educator and mentor through programs such as YMCA Beacons, and she has also served as an administrative assistant at several Twin Cities nonprofits. She graduated from Columbia College with a bachelor’s degree in music business.
Nicolas Pickett-Berryman, Step Up Youth Services Assistant
Nicolas has worked in human services for most of his career, serving as a personal care assistant, independent living specialist and case worker. Nicholas is driven by a strong desire to help people and support their individual paths for growth. He is excited to transition from serving the elderly and disabled to serving young people in his new Step Up role.
Measurement and Evaluation Team
Gao Thao, Monitoring and Evaluation Data Specialist
Throughout her career, Gao has worked in organizations that break down systematic barriers and support students in their college and career journeys. She has guided students in their college research and application processes, managed multiple scholarship portfolios and worked as assistant director of the Century College TRIO ETS. Gao holds a master's degree in experiential education from Mankato State University and a certificate in college admissions counseling from Hamline University.