Program Staff


Deborah Lowe Martinez, J. D. is the Director of the Berkeley Hope Scholars program. She received her B.A. from University of California, Berkeley and earned a J.D. from the University of San Francisco. Prior to accepting the position as Director of Berkeley Hope Scholars, Deborah practiced law as a Child Welfare attorney, representing both children and parents in juvenile dependency proceedings. Her professional experience also includes juvenile defense work, counsel for children in high conflict divorce cases and as court appointed guardian ad litem to child victims in adult criminal proceedings. She is an active member of the California State Bar, the National Association of Counsel for Children and serves on the Advisory Board for AdvoKids, a non-profit organization dedicated to the ensuring the rights of foster youth.



Zefora Ortiz is a former foster youth from San Diego County. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, she received her B.A. in Chicano Studies. Since freshman year, Zefora was a member of Berkeley Hope Scholars (BHS) and currently serves as the Community Outreach Coordinator for BHS. As a student, Zefora was also a Tier II intern with California Youth Connection (CYC), a youth led organization that develops leaders who empower each other and their communities to transform the foster care system through legislative and policy change. She is committed to improving educational outcomes for other youth.

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Ryan Farquhar is a recent graduate from the Central Valley. While at UC Berkeley, he received a B.S. in environmental biology and another in nutritional studies. As an undergraduate, Ryan conducted research in ecology, was a director in the Suitcase Clinic, was a curator of at the MVZ, and started his own nutritional education program for underrepresented students. In his free time, he enjoys cooking, running, eating, drawing, playing video games, watching movies, and going on adventures with friends. He hopes to help expand resources for BHS students, working on improving the courses BHS offers, and building a strong BHS community!

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Rebeca Borges is a sophomore interested in Business and Economics. She is an avid reader and Netflix watcher. Rebeca is very excited to be interning with BHS. As a Community Coordinator, she will be working to build our community and support BHS students. She hopes to organize more academic workshops and social events catering to BHS student interests. Rebeca is very excited to get to know all of you and support you all in any way possible! Her end goal is to give back to the community that so readily took her in.

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Ian Kolaja is a senior Nuclear Engineering major who transferred from Fullerton College, located in Orange County, California. Currently, he is conducting nuclear physics research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Ian's interests also include filmmaking, songwriting, programming, photography, dogs, and tea. His dream is either to launch a startup that successfully commercializes nuclear fusion, or to become a successful singer and perform with Sia or Kehlani. Ideally, both. As a BHS media intern staff, he will help maintain the program's website and produce a promotional video.

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John Vuu is a senior in the undergraduate economics program. He is originally from Oakland, California and stayed in the Bay Area during his entire time in care. As an untraditional student, he completed his lower division requirements at Santa Rosa Junior College and then transferred to UC Berkeley. Some of his interests include basketball, volleyball, anime, working out, and being a foodie. He looks forward to building a strong BHS community alongside his peers and new students during his time as BHS Administration Intern!

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Elizabeth Huitron is a junior transfer from Irvine Valley College located in Orange County where she grew up. She’s an English major interested in pursuing a career in law. She currently works for the Visitor and Parent Services department at Cal. During her free time, she especially enjoys music, concerts, philosophy, exploring new coffee shops, traveling, books, and having a good time with friends. In the future she hopes to start a non-profit organization focused on empowering former foster youth in order for them to reach their greatest potential in academia and achieve their career goals. She’s extremely excited for this opportunity to be able to work with the BHS community here at UC Berkeley. She hopes to fulfill all of her duties as the outreach intern and go beyond! Go bears!