The growth of Determined To Succeed has been significant since Sara Hahn began operations from her home in 2005. The acquisition of an office/student space and the expansion and reorganization of our staff to meet the needs of our growing student capacity has refined our infrastructure and fostered our sustainability as an organization. Meet our Determined To Succeed staff:

Abby Adams
Executive Director

Abby began her professional career in the mailroom at Creative Artists Agency, retiring 14 years later as head of the television literary department. Abby’s creative, business and negotiating skills have been of great benefit to the Santa Monica-Malibu school district where she has raised millions of dollars and been a tireless advocate at the local and state level. The opportunity to take Determined to Succeed to the next level drew her back into the workforce.

Ken Dawkins
Student School Site Coordinator (Whaley Middle School)

Ken has been employed by the Compton School District for several years as a Counselor in middle and high school. His experience and relationships at Whaley is an incredible asset for our students and staff.

Ashley Dester
Student School Site Coordinator (Whaley Middle School)
Ashley is an English teacher at Ouchi High School, the sister school to Christine O’Donovan Middle Academy. Her passion, intelligence and enthusiasm for teaching is a true gift.

Sara Hahn
Co Founder & Program Director

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.

Ellie Herman
Writing/ Reading Instructor, Student School Site Coordinator 

Former television writer/producer turned English high school teacher initially volunteered to instruct the Monthly Writing Workshops for our new middle school students. When Ellie was considering going back to teach full-time, we pleaded with her to work with us!

Samantha Macher
Artist in Residence

Samantha Macher is a graduate of the University of Virginia (BA), and the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University (MFA). Sam has worked with DTSLA since August of 2011. In association with Book Roots (an LA literacy/education non-profit), she has taught playwriting, essay writing, and a fiction genre writing intensive with both the seventh graders and the ninth graders. When Sam isn’t working at DTS, she fills the time writing plays and screenplays and doing other theater-y sorts of things (like directing). She has 6 published plays for youth and adults, and her newest work War Bride won 7 StageSceneLA awards including Best New Play in 2012. Her plays have been produced in cities across America, and as of April in the UK as well.

Mimi Zolla Neandross
College Counselor, Literary Instructor

Mimi has always been passionate about teaching. While in college, at Colgate University, she worked with middle school students with learning disabilities and she also developed a tutoring/mentoring program for teens at a local group home. Upon graduation, Mimi began teaching English at Belmont High School. During her seven years at Belmont, she created a Peer Counseling program in order 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.

Emilie Zepeda
Development/Program Assistant

Emilie’s past accomplishments include being a straight A student at Paul Revere Middle School where her teachers included Angel and Craig Honda! She brings a wealth of skills to DTS, assisting in both development and programming. Her fluent Spanish skills are a huge bonus in communicating with many of our parents.


P.O Box 5363 Santa Monica, Ca 90409 - Phone: 310-452-7295 (O) - 310-452-7313 (F) - Copyright © 2013 Determined To Succeed.