Determined to Succeed Co-Executive Directors
Jessica Reid & Mimi Neandross

Mimi Zolla Neandross
Co-Executive Director, Education

Mimi has always been passionate about education and has spent the past 20 years working in the field. While in college, at Colgate University, she worked with teens with learning disabilities and she developed a tutoring/mentoring program for teens at a local group home. Upon graduation, Mimi earned her teaching credential and began teaching English at Belmont High School. During her seven years at Belmont, she created a Peer Counseling program to encourage high school graduation and to promote college awareness. She also mentored new teachers, ran a successful book club, and worked in the school’s college office. She eventually left the classroom to work as a college counselor at One Voice and left her full-time career when she became a mom. She began working with Determined to Succeed in July of 2011 and has worn many hats in the organization since – as an academic advisor, writing instructor, cohort coordinator, college counselor, and most recently as education director.

Jessica Penkower Reid
Co-Executive Director, Admin & Development

Jessica earned her BA in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin and her JD from DePaul University College of Law. She began her career clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Chicago. Upon relocating to Los Angeles, she worked as an associate at O’Melveny & Myers LLP. She left the practice of law to spend time with her young children and pursue volunteer work as an advocate for children’s health and education, two of her passions. She has served on multiple non-profit and hospital boards and committees, spearheaded health education and awareness programs, written articles and educational materials, and collaborated on development projects toward those ends.


Ashley Dester
Student School Site Coordinator (Ouchi High School)

Ashley Dester is an AP Literature teacher and instructional coach at Alliance William and Carol Ouchi High School and works with the 10th grade cohort of DTS students. Aside from her passion for teaching and working with students, she immensely enjoys spending time with her new baby any chance she gets!

Sara Hahn
Co-Founder & College Coordinator

After teaching at a private school, Sara became a fifth grade teacher at Brentwood Science Magnet Elementary School. She saw firsthand the differences in the educational opportunities of students in the private and public school systems and the challenges faced by her fifth grade students. Sara realized that if a passionate and caring educator were to follow the same group of students through middle and high school, the positive impact on the children would be tremendous and life changing. With the generous support of actor Hank Azaria, Sara Hahn founded Determined to Succeed in 2005.

James Hoa
Student Site Coordinator (O’Donovan Middle Academy)

Jason Morgan
Student Site Coordinator (Dominguez High School)

Maria Schultz
Student Site Coordinator (Palms & Whaley Middle School)

As a LAUSD teacher, Maria had the privilege of teaching students of various age groups, skill levels, special education and deaf students, as well as ESL learners. She is devoted and excited about her new role as Coordinator for Palms Middle School; eager to motivate and  empower Determined To Succeed students to take charge, accomplish their goals, and become life long learners.  Maria was born in Cuba and her parents came to the United States when she was a young child!

Stephanie Vargas
Student Site Coordinator (Hamilton High School); College Coordinator

Stephanie is a native of Los Angeles and graduated from Manual Arts High School. She was a One Voice Scholar, a highly selective program that provides college prep, counseling and mentoring to high achieving high school students and continues to support them through college. As a One Voice Scholar, she attended prestigious Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA where she majored in Sociology. Stephanie recently received a Masters Degree in Educational Psychology at Pepperdine University and is excited to work with our Hamilton High School students. Huge thanks to Mimi Neandross, Stephanie’s One Voice Scholars Mentor for bringing Stephanie into the Determined To Succeed family!


Gabrielle Romero
Communications Specialist, Americorps*VISTA

Gabrielle was a member of the original cohort of Determined to Succeed students to graduate from High School in 2012. She graduated in 2016 with a double major in History and French from College of the Holy Cross. Gabrielle will be serving a year of volunteer service through Americorps*VISTA as the Communications Specialist for Determined to Succeed, and will be in charge of all social media, outreach and marketing for the organization.

Morgan Smith
Development Associate

Morgan began working with Determined to Succeed in 2007 as a tutor with the first cohort of students and mentored that group until they went away to college. She has worn many hats for DTS over the years and is thrilled to be back working with the team on the fundraising and development side. Morgan has a B.A. in Sociology from UCLA.

2525 Ocean Park Blvd. Ste 116, Santa Monica, CA 90405 | Phone: 424.226.9527 (O) | Copyright © 2017 Determined To Succeed