Our Staff

Yedalis Ruiz

Student Bridges Director & Course Instructor

Yedalis is the new interim director and course instructor for Student Bridges.  She is currently completing her last semester of her Ph.D. program at UMass, in the department of Educational Policy and Research with a concentration in Higher Education. Yedalis graduated in 2008 with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Education from Mount Holyoke College and earned a Master’s degree in Policies Studies in Education from the College of Education at UMass. Yedalis is a first-generation, bilingual Puerto Rican college graduate dedicated to addressing issues of access and equity in higher education. Through her professional and academic work, she has focused on the critical analysis of the educational trajectories of minoritized students. Her dissertation research examined the high school student college-going identity formation process to expand existing theories of college access and choice to include the experiences, knowledge and beliefs of youth of color who are first generation college aspirants.



Juan Martinez-Muñoz

Undergraduate Program Coordinator

Juan Martinez-Muñoz is a senior BDIC major, with a concentration in Education Television. He was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, but was raised in Springfield, MA and feels a deep sense of community in both of his homes. As president of his fraternity Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity, Inc. and co-UPC of Student Bridges, he aims to work alongside the best, brightest and most dedicated to bettering our communities.


Christian Appia

Undergraduate Program Coordinator

Christian Appia is a fourth year senior at UMass Amherst majoring in Urban Studies and minoring in Anthropology, while planning to also attend graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Christian Is from Edison New Jersey, however he grew up in New York as child. He is half Congolese and Bajan, his parents immigrated to the United States in order to provide more opportunities for himself and his two sisters. Christian hopes to do work and create programming that can help low-income first generation students at the University of Massachusetts be successful in both social and academic life. He believes that mental health is a major part of student success, and will always do his best to provide resources and create opportunities for underrepresented and under-served students to achieve at high levels. Christian is also an artist and entrepreneur, and runs his own clothing line, Audacia Clothing.



Anthonia Okafor


Anthonia Okafor is a junior Public Health Sciences major taking pre-med coursework at UMass Amherst. She also serves as an undergraduate Public Health Sciences Peer Advisor. She was born and raised in Boston, MA and she identifies as Nigerian-American. She believes in the importance of access and success in higher education for underrepresented students and continues to serve as a resource to them. Anthonia has been involved with Student Bridges since 2016 and is currently working on staff for her second year in a row.



Laura Sánchez

Retention Coordinator

Laura (Lah-oo0-duh) Sánchez is a fourth year senior who transferred to the university in her second year. She recently joined the College of Humanities and Fine Arts with hopes to receive her degree in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. After arriving from her semester abroad in Florence, Italy, she changed her track and now has a concentration in black sexuality and fashion with a theological lens. Laura is a trained social justice consultant, facilitator, and speaker who works with kids across the country in identity politics. At Student Bridges, she has worked for two years on curriculum development and retention strategizing, planning events and organizing programs within the agency. Laura is incredibly excited to expand and refine Student Bridges this year to align closer to it’s mission statement and connect closer with the students at UMASS.




Mona Yusuf

Recruitment Coordinator

Mona is currently a senior at UMass Amherst studying Sustainable Community Development. She is also currently on a 4+1 track to get her Master’s in Regional Planning. She has participated in the Student Bridges Mentorship Program in the past. This is Mona’s first year working as a Recruitment Coordinator for Student Bridges.



Eden Bekele

Recruitment Coordinator

Eden is a third year student at UMass Amherst studying Communications, Afro American studies and minoring in Studio Arts. Eden is originally from Boston, MA but has roots in Ethiopia. As a first generation student on campus, she is dedicated to working with students from underrepresented backgrounds to address different issues of equity and to support and encourage their learning.  Eden is also an Resident Assistant on campus for a defined residential community, Harambee, supporting residents who identify with the African diaspora. Eden is new to Student Bridges but looks forward to working alongside their team and serving the community.



Jiya Nair

Policy Advocacy Coordinator

Jiya is currently a junior at UMass Amherst studying Political Science and Operations and Information Management with a focus on resource allocation. Jiya has been a part of Student Bridges since 2016, after taking the service-learning class and being a part of the mentor-mentee program. This is Jiya’s first year working as a Policy Advocacy Coordinator for Student Bridges.



Chioma Gathoga-Ogbuike

Policy Advocacy Coordinator

Chioma is currently a fourth year student at UMass Amherst, studying with a double major in  Women Gender Seuxality Studies and Afro-American studies. Chioma was raised in Lynn, MA in a Nigerian household. Chioma has been a mentor in the Student Bridges mentoring program and has been a part of the Undergraduate Advisory Board. This is Chioma’s first year as a staff member of Student Bridges.

Teinya Thompson

COCA Tours Coordinator

Teinya is a fifth year student finishing her bachelors of arts in Youth Advocacy and Social Change. She was raised in Jamaica until she moved to America in 2004. Currently a resident of Springfield, MA she is passionate about using all she has learned in UMass to improve community efforts and activism against oppression. She has been a Tours Coordinator for four years now and is excited to broaden college awareness and access to marginalized and underrepresented populations. In the future, she intends to start her own non profit that creates safe spaces for cultural healing to take place.

Canaris Simmons

Student Bridges Office Manager

Canaris is named after a master spy in World War II. From a young age, he has been lucky enough to have learned the importance of sustainable farming in one’s own community- a revolutionary act. Canaris is a Political Science major with a Sociology minor at UMass Amherst. He also has hopes of being published one day. He also finds writing a bio about himself odd..



Marvens Pierre

Public Relations Coordinator

Marvens is currently a sophomore at UMass Amherst studying Social Thought and Political Economy with focus areas on Anthropology, Civic Engagement & Public Service and Public Policy. Marvens has been a part of Student Bridges since 2016. Ever since then he has volunteered and participated in Student Bridges led events and programs such as “I’m So College” and the service learning courses. Marvens is very passionate of intersecting social issues in today's society and hopes in the future that his career will reflect fighting against oppression of marginalized groups. He also welcomes creative and open-minded ideas into his life and never likes being too restricted no matter what situation it may be.This is Marvens’ first year working as the Public Relations Coordinator for Student Bridges and is very excited to help advance the mission of the organization.



Crystal Gomez

COCA Events Coordinator

Crystal is a returning Events Coordinator for Student Bridges and a junior at UMass Amherst majoring in Social Thought and Political Economy (STPEC). Crystal was raised in Lowell and graduated from Lowell High School but currently lives in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Crystal is Puerto Rican and Dominican and takes pride in her Afro-Caribbean roots. She hopes to move to Santo Domingo (or possibly Cuba) in the future.  



Nurayn Faris

Site Coordinator

Originally from Brockton, MA, Nurayn is now a sophomore at UMass Amherst. She is pursuing a double major in Kinesiology and Social Thought & Political Economy, furthering her interest in Sports Medicine. This is her first year officially working with Student Bridges, although she was involved with the class, mentorship program, and events at Student Bridges during her freshman year. She is also an Resident Assistant on campus and is committed to serving the communities around her.



Sahida Reid

Site Coordinator

Sahida Reid was born Kingston, Jamaica and migrated here when she was only three years old. She is currently a junior at UMass Amherst and studying English with minors in Political Science and Economics. This is Sahida's first year officially working with Student Bridges as a Site Coordinator. In addition to Student Bridges she is also a tutor at the UMass Amherst Writing Center.



Lamont Gooden

Site Coordinator

Lamont is originally from Springfield, MA and is currently a senior at UMass Amherst. He is majoring in Building Construction and Technology. He is also a returning site coordinator for Student Bridges who specifically worked with students at both the Commerce High School and Amherst Regional Middle School sites.