Barbara Chavez Ybarra

Interim Chief Executive Officer

University of California, Santa Barbara – Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Political Science

With 20 years of experience working with non-profits and public policy, Barbara Ybarra serves as Chief Advancement Officer for Barrio Logan College Institute (BLCI).

Barbara worked as the Executive Director of One San Diego, National Program Director for Eureka Communities, an executive training organization for non-profit leaders in San Diego, Los Angeles, Detroit, Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C. and with the Annie E. Casey Foundation as a consultant for their Neighborhood Development Initiative. This led to a $500,000 economic development grant to the Bronze Triangle area of San Diego.

Barbara is a graduate of University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in Political Science and holds an MBA. She can be reached at barbara@blci.org.

Passions: Barbara is passionate about higher education and civic participation for all students.

Favorite Quote: "I want every little girl who's told she's bossy, to be told instead she has leadership skills." –Sheryl Sandberg


Sara Boquin

Chief Operating Officer

San Diego State University – Master of Arts (M.A.) in Latin American Studies

University of California, San Diego – Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Spanish and Latin American Literature

Sara was born in Fullerton, California. At the age of three, her parents decided to move her family back to their home country, Honduras, Central America. They lived in San Pedro Sula for over six years, where she and her sister further developed their native language, absorbed the culture, and learned the realities of life in a third world country. Upon their return to California, her family moved to Riverside where her parents still reside. Sara found her passion for Latin America’s rich history and literature as an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego. Graduating from UCSD was not easy and she leaned on support programs and friends available to her. This is why she believes in supporting students in their educational path–she is grateful for those who supported her and believes in paying it forward and has dedicated her career to working with educational equity programs.  She can be reached at sara@blci.org.

Passions: Encouraging and providing opportunities for every person, regardless of background and resources, to reach their potential.

Favorite Quote: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela


Cristina Aguirre

Senior Director

University of San Diego – Master of Arts (M.A.), Specialization in School Counseling, with a Pupil Personnel Services Credential

University of California, San Diego – Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Sociology

Cristina Aguirre was born in Ramona and moved to Fresno, CA at age six and is the 3rd eldest of seven siblings. As a child of immigrants and field workers, Cristina understood the importance of an education at an early age. She is the first one in her family to graduate high school and go to college. She is an alumna of the first cohort of the University of California San Diego’s (UCSD) TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) program, a program that provided the support for Cristina to stay in and graduate from UCSD. For the last 15 years, Cristina has been working in TRIO Upward Bound programs; 4 years at San Diego State University and 11 years at the University of San Diego. (Upward Bound works with low-income first generation to college students to prepare them to be admitted into and graduate from college just like BLCI.) Working with TRIO programs, Cristina found her passion in working with educational equity access programs.

As the first one in her family to graduate from college, she understood the need and importance of advocating for those students most underserved. She is an active member of and currently serving as the President of the Western Association of Educational Opportunity Personnel (WESTOP). WESTOP is one of ten regional associations dedicated to furthering educational opportunities for low-income, first-generation and disabled students. She can be reached at aguirre@blci.org

Passions: Advocating for equity in education and closing the educational achievement gap.

Favorite Quote: “Real education should consist of drawing the goodness and the best out of our own students. What better books can there be than the book of humanity?” – Cesar Chavez


Yanet Lopez Cardenas

Director of College and Career Success

California State University, Northridge – Masters of Arts (M.A.) in Chicano Studies

University of San Diego – Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Ethnic Studies and Sociology

Yanet Lopez Cardenas is the first in her family to attend college and also pursue graduate school.  Yanet was born in Jalisco, Mexico yet grew up in coastal North County San Diego where she was able to experience first-hand how education can powerfully shape someone’s life. While in middle school and high school, Yanet participated in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, a program designed to prepare first generation students to attend college immediately after high school. At the University of San Diego, Yanet additionally benefited from being involved in federally funded equity programs including the Student Success Services and the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Program. Through the Ronald E. McNair Program she pursued research alongside her professors, presented her research at academic conferences, and successfully pursued graduate coursework at California State University, Northridge.

Yanet was deeply influenced by her own schooling as she prepares third, fourth, and fifth grade students to transform their communities via a college degree. As an educational equity professional, she has a diversity of experiences working with first-generation high school, middle school, and elementary school students across state funded, federally funded and, now, through privately funded programs. Yanet bridges together her past personal and professional experiences to inform her current position. She actively incorporates creative, high impact strategies as well as twenty-first century essential/critical skills into her programming with elementary school students. In addition to working with students, she began a Parent Academy to concurrently prepare parents on college knowledge topics.

She is active within the Southern California Chapter of the Western Association of Educational Opportunity Personnel (WESTOP). In 2018, Yanet was recognized as “Staff of the Year” at the WESTOP regional conference. She can be reached at yanet@blci.org. 

Passions: Innovation, creativity, workforce readiness, design-thinking pedagogy. 

Favorite Quote: “People are fulfilled to the extent that they create their world (which is a human world), and create it with their transforming labor." Paulo Freire


Mariela Brambila

Grants Manager

University of San Diego – Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Communication Studies; Certificate in Non-profit Management

Mariela was born and raised in San Diego, CA. She went to pursue her Bachelor’s Degree in South Orange, New Jersey but due to financial circumstances she came back home after completing her first year of undergrad. Coming from a single-parent and low-income household wasn’t easy, but her determination to obtain a college degree persevered. After taking a semester off, she transferred to the University of San Diego (USD) where she studied Communication. While attending USD, she studied abroad in Paris, France and London, United Kingdom. She also got involved with the Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness, and Social Action where she cultivated relationships within the Linda Vista and Barrio Logan community in order to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds thrive academically and personally. Thanks to the support of her family, close friends, and TRIO Programs, she is the first in her family to go to college and graduate.  She can be reached at mariela@ blci.org.

Passions: Helping others become better versions of themselves and traveling around the world.

Favorite Quote: “Don’t postpone happiness.”


Gerardo Cerda Cabral 

High School Specialist  

San Diego State University – Master of Arts (M.A.) in Education, specialization in Postsecondary Educational Leadership 

California State University, San Marcos – Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Business Administration  

Gerardo was born and raised in San Diego, specifically in the north county region. As a child of parents who had minimal access to education, Gerardo knew that some way somehow, he would seek a higher education and make his family proud. He is the first in his family to graduate with his bachelors and pursue graduate school. His experience working at the Cross-Cultural Center at California State University, San Marcos instilled and reinforced his commitment to community, advocacy, equity, and social justice. Through mentorship and guidance of his supervisor, Gerardo pursued graduate school where he studied education with a specialization in post-secondary educational leadership. Gerardo has 9+ years working with college students and is excited to be transitioning his career focus to high school students. Gerardo is determined to foster a college going culture where his students will not only thrive but instill a creative, passionate, and innovative spirit that will allow them to return to their community and be an active participant in their society. He can be reached at gerardo@blci.org  

Passions: Community building and engagement, art activism, creative thinking, educational equity, dance, music, friends, and familia.  

Favorite Quote: The future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create – Barack Obama 


Andrew Buitron

CVCI Managaer

Pitzer College - Bachelor of Arts (B.A) in Psychology

Andrew was born and in raised in San Diego, specifically the Southeast and South Bay regions. He spent the first 4 years of his life living in Queretaro, Mexico and then moved back to California before the birth of his younger brother. Andrew attended the Preuss School UCSD, a charter school for low-income, first-generation college students, for both middle and high school. Due to the college-going culture at Preuss and its close proximity to the UCSD campus, Andrew really began to imagine himself as a college student. More than anything, he was motivated to be the first in his family to attend and graduate from college.

Andrew went on to study at Pitzer College, a member of the Claremont Colleges. There, he worked for the Office of Admission, initially as a Diversity Intern that helped to organize overnight visits for students from historically under-represented communities in higher education. In his senior year of college, Andrew became an Admission Fellow in which he had the opportunity to conduct interviews and information sessions to prospective students. After graduating in 2015, Andrew was awarded a Fulbright Grant to teach English in Bachok, Malaysia where he spent the majority of 2016. This experience confirmed his love and passion for working with youth as well as his desire to learn about world cultures. Ultimately, Andrew decided to come back to San Diego to be close to his family and to give back to the community that helped him grow into the person he is today. He can be reached at abuitron@blci.org.

Passions: Intercultural understanding, educational equity regardless of background, identity formation community building, hip-hop and sports.

Favorite Quote: “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”—Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.