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Our Board


Shefali Varma
CEO, Co-Founder

Shefali is a recent UCLA graduate who majored in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and minored in Biomedical Research and Community Engagement and Social Change. She is one of the founding directors for Project Lux nonprofit, and she previously served as the President for the UCLA chapter. She founded Project Lux in order to create a difference in a community after witnessing the disparities present within healthcare for unhoused populations. She is dedicated to creating a lasting change in her community and hopes to continue her work as a physician in the future. 

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Johan Carrascoza

Johan recently graduated from UCLA who majored Human Biology and Society major and Brain and Behavioral Health minor at UCLA. He is one of the founding directors for Project Lux and its UCLA chapter. He is passionate about analyzing real world problems through an interdisciplinary lens, especially the mental health struggles of the homeless community. In the future, Johan aspires to attend medical school and work toward improving pharmaceutical and societal framework for the mental health of others. 

Our Advisory Board


Thomas Ray Garcia

Mr. Thomas Ray Garcia attended Princeton University where he co-founded the Princeton Hidden Minority Council, an award-winning organization servicing first-generation and low-income students, and wrote student blogs for the Office of Undergraduate Admission. A Gates Millennium Scholar, Teach For America Rising Leaders Fellow, and Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, Mr. Garcia has combined his experiences in academic research with hands-on pedagogy. He majored in English with an interest in creative writing, literary criticism, and post-secondary education studies.

Mr. Garcia founded CSLAP in 2013. He created and taught the University Scholars Enrichment Course, an extension of CSLAP, at PSJA ISD. With over 5 years of teaching experience at the high school and college levels, Mr. Garcia has incorporated CSLAP as a 501(c)3 nonprofit to teach college access lessons at RGV high schools and connect students to near-peer mentors.

He is currently pursuing an English PhD at UCLA, writing short stories and poems on the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and serving as CSLAP's executive director.

Zack Ritter, Ph.D.

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Dr. Zack Ritter received his Ph.D. from UCLA in Higher Education, researching racial stereotypes of Asian International Students, worked at American Jewish University as a Career Center Director, University of Redlands as an Assistant Director of Diversity, Harvey Mudd College as Associate Dean of Institutional Diversity, and is now at Cal State Dominguez Hills as Associate Dean of Students.

Dr. Ritter is an adjunct professor at Cal State Dominguez Hills and UCLA.  He has co-authored two books, Marginality in the Urban Center: The Costs and Challenges of Continued Whiteness in the Americas and Beyond; and Whiteness, and Power and Resisting Change in US Higher Education: A Peculiar Institution.

Dr. Ritter has also written on Jewish and Black solidarity movements and is a Diversity Consultant at Staten Consulting Group, helping schools, businesses, and orgs imagine how to create more inclusive cultures and systems.


Dr. Brian Downs, Family Medicine

Dr. Brian Downs is a physician that has been working with St. John's Well Child and Family Center in South Central LA for countless years. He has experience working with insured and uninsured patients, and he has witnessed firsthand the issues that multiple issues homeless individuals face with healthcare access. 

Dr. Brian Downs also has experience working at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. He has been practicing for many years, and he brings his rich experiences to our Advisory Board. 

Check out our Project Lux chapter at UCLA here

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