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Strive for College is a new approach to correcting the inequalities of college access. Strive recruits undergraduate student mentors from local universities to guide low-income high school students through the process of applying to, enrolling in and paying for four-year colleges and universities. We are a national organization with chapters across the country.

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Strive for College Management Team


Michael J. Carter
Founder, President & CEO

Michael founded Strive for College in his freshman year of college, and since then has grown Strive into a national movement with chapters at college campuses across the country. Michael raised over $200,000 during the recession and hired his first full-time employee for Strive while he was a junior in college. Since its inception, Michael has raised over $2.5 million for Strive and helped hundreds of low-income high school students gain admission to universities across the country.

While in college, Michael taught at-risk middle school youth during the summer, ran the initial Strive model at his university, interned for a venture capital firm and Google, and did public policy research and analysis at American Enterprise Institute. He wrote his senior honors thesis on a history of admissions to elite universities in the US and UK. He received a full-tuition merit scholarship to attend Washington University in St. Louis as an Annika Rodriguez Scholar. Michael graduated cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis in May, 2010. He also studied at Oxford University in England, and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.. 

Michael's work with Strive has been featured widely in the media, including Forbes, Education Week, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, and he has spoken on various panels, including at the Brookings Institution and as a featured speaker at the Points of Light National Conference on Volunteering and Service. Michael was named a 2011 Echoing Green Fellow, a highly competitive award given to those identified as some of the world's most promising social entrepreneurs. Michael was also named a 2012 Bluhm Helfand Social Innovation Fellow and a 2013 CNN Hero. Michael strives for a day when college students across the country mobilize to ensure that all qualified, underserved high school students who have earned the right to go to college make it there, and achieve their dreams.


Adessa Kiryakos

Director of Programs

Adessa graduated in December 2011 from San Jose State University (SJSU) with a B.A. in Behavioral Science, double major in Sociology. Having a passion and understanding the need for serving the community early within her college career, she began volunteering in an array of events and programs and eventually worked at the Cesar E. Chavez Community Action Center (CCCAC) on her campus. Having wished that she had a mentor to work with her and support her through her college applications and journey, she got involved with Strive for College in its early stages of development at the SJSU chapter through the CCCAC as a volunteer for a year. As the program grew so did her passion for its mission and her ranking from being a volunteer to running the SJSU chapter for two years. Through her work, she implemented ideas that soon became incorporated into the curriculum used nationwide. Growing the chapter from a few mentors to over 60 within the two years, she became experienced in providing training, guidance, and support in ensuring preparation for mentorship and leadership experience, as well as a college bound culture within the high school that the mentors volunteered at.  

With the success of the SJSU chapter, she wanted to continue serving Strive for College's mission. Once she graduated, she became the Bay Area Regional Director, where she oversaw many chapters in the area, including her alma mater. Now, with Strive for College's expansion to more regions, she is thrilled to take on the Director of Programs positions where she will be supporting the Regional Directors in their roles and fostering the Strive culture nationwide.    

  Neehar Garg
Director of Strategy and Development

Neehar joined Strive for College’s management team for the first time his junior year of college, just as Strive was beginning to expand beyond Washington University to chapters across the country. After graduating cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis in 2010 with degrees in economics and political science, he went to work as a consultant at Bain & Company. While there, his work spanned the energy, telecommunications, agri-business, IT services and foodservice industries.

Strive is at an exciting point in its history, on the precipice of turning what is already a multi-city organization into a national movement. A former US Presidential Scholar, a national award given for scholarship and service to 120 students across the country, Neehar’s passion for helping provide students from all backgrounds fair access to higher education compelled him to come back and join Strive to help achieve its aggressive growth goals.


Ryan Hallagan
Director of Operations

Ryan graduated magna cum laude from the University of San Diego with B.A.’s in both English & Psychology. It was during his time in college as a Residential Assistant that Ryan first became passionate about higher education, as his talks with many of his residents convinced him that many students (and their families) must endure great hardships in order to realize their dreams.

Soon afterwards, Ryan began working for The First Tee of Silicon Valley, where he created a comprehensive style guide for all marketing materials and devised a social networking strategy for the organization. In addition to this, Ryan worked extensively with many of the youth participants, including assisting senior participants apply for various scholarship opportunities. His time there further convinced Ryan of the need to make sure qualified students apply to and enroll in college. He is steadfast in his belief that a college education provides innumerable benefits for students and in turn helps shape the leaders of tomorrow that our nation will one day come to depend on.


Nikole Moffet

Bay Area Regional Director

Nikole Moffett recently graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A degree in Psychology. In addition to academics, she was very involved on campus and took on various leadership positions. One of these positions was Volunteer Coordinator at the Cesar Chavez Community Action Center (CCCAC), in which she connected students with volunteer opportunities based on their interested as well as developed and maintain community partnerships.  The CCCAC became the avenue for her role as the Assistant Chapter Director of the SJSU Strive for College Chapter. Her energy and enthusiasm helped SJSU’s Chapter to become one of the most successful chapters.

Before she sprang into the role of Assistant Chapter Director, she started out as a mentor with the program. Through volunteering with Strive and other programs, she was able to see how there was a definite need to fix the education disparity. Her passion for supporting the community and its youth has been the driving force that led her to her work with Strive for College. A continuous advocate for education, Nikole is excited to engage in Strive’s mission to present resources and support to high school students Nationwide.


Christopher Grady

Houston/Dallas Regional Director

Upon completing his undergraduate studies at Northwestern University, Christopher embarked on a multi-faceted career in the music business that began creatively (a published songwriter and recording artist, performing hundreds of international dates), and transformed ultimately into business management (a venue’s chief operations officer, primarily concerned with all facets of marketing, promotions and new business development). But it was his work creating mentorship programs for young people to better understand all facets of the music industry that had the greatest personal resonance, and he yearned for a professional direction with a greater sense of purpose and therefore a deeper sense of satisfaction.

Christopher believes that the college experience is one that should be made available to as many bright minds as possible - because it develops not only an applicable set of skills, but a positive sense of personal identity that inevitably contributes to the health and wealth of culture as a whole as well. He looks forward to sharing the Strive mission of providing a reliable avenue for college access to many future innovators and leaders in the Houston area.


Kristin Collins

DC Regional Director

Kristin graduated from Yale with a B.A. in Political and Intellectual History. She worked in the U.S. Senate for two years developing a background in policy before transitioning into the nonprofit sector. Kristin directed the founding year of The Future Project in DC, a mentorship organization that helps high school students build social entrepreneurship projects.

Before coming to Strive, Kristin took her passion for serving underprivileged youth to Peru, where she managed a leadership development program for young girls in Cusco. Kristin is dedicated to Strive's mission and eager to provide its invaluable support to youth in DC.


David Wallace Eastwood

Idaho Regional Director

David Wallace Eastwood was recruited on a debate scholarship to the University of Georgia where he graduated with a degree in Political Science. He immediately entered public service in college and career readiness. He has been a teacher and coach for elementary, secondary and college students and worked with Vocational Rehabilitation, Department of Corrections and the Idaho Department of Labor. He has always been dedicated to helping diverse individuals make informed decisions about their college and career options.

David Wallace has been elected as the President of the Idaho Career Development Association (ICDA), a division of the Idaho Counseling Association, who provides professional development, research, professional standards and advocacy in career development. He is the Executive Board Vice President of the Treasure Valley Tennis Association (TVTA) a non-profit that provides programming and funding to low-income players and school programs.

As Training, Support and Marketing Coordinator at the Idaho Career Information System (CIS) he worked with intoCareers, the largest national network for online delivery of college and career readiness resources. He worked closely with the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation (JKAF) on Go-On School initiatives and is excited to continue partnering with JKAF while bringing Strive to Idaho helping students reach further then they thought possible and achieve their personal goals.


Carly Williams

New York Regional Director

After graduating from the University of Rochester, Carly moved to New York hoping to work on programs that served the needs of low-income New Yorkers. She worked at the City Bar Justice Center for a year before transitioning to a more client-intensive role as the Immigration and Special Projects Coordinator.

In her second role with the Justice Center, Carly helped undocumented youth apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a form of short-term immigration relief that gives young immigrants the ability to work legally and more fully participate in student life. Carly loved working with high school and college age youth in this position, and is extremely excited to continue to help better the futures of New York City students with Strive.


Eli Goldman

Americorps VISTA Program Associate/Independent Regional Coordinator

Having served three prior terms with AmeriCorps, Eli moved to California to serve his final term with Strive For College and continue his work with Social Justice Issues. Working with the AmeriCorps Bonner Community Scholar Program, City Year and VISTA Eli is dedicated to pursuing a career in which he gets to enable traditionally disenfranchised youth the chance to succeed personally, professionally and academically.   

Inspired by the mission statement of Strive For College Eli viewed the AmeriCorps VISTA Independent Regional Director position as an amazing opportunity to help enact the change he seeks to make in the world. New to California from the NYC Metro Area he is extremely excited to work with such outstanding people in Strive’s office and having the ability to continue pursuing both his personal and professional passion of living a life and pursuing a career in which he gets to help and serve others.



People who used to work at Strive have gone on to

do amazing things, including:


  • - Yale School of Management
  • - Vanderbilt Law School
  • - University of Southern California -Rossier School of Education
  • - Univeristy of Massachusetts - Amherst
  • - University of Pennsylvannia
  • - Rhodes Scholarship
  • - Bain Consulting
  • - Truman Scholarship
  • - John S and James L Knight Foundation
  • - Teach for America
  • - Asst Director of Admission at WashU