New Merritt Scholars Cohort 2023!

June 20, 2023

 Merritt welcomes 20 new Merritt Scholars for our 2023-2024 cohort! 

June 20, 2023-Oakland, CA

We are thrilled to welcome the newest cohort of Merritt Scholars! As part of our Commitment to California, Merritt Scholars will continue this year with the largest cohort to date, welcoming 20 scholars to the 2023-2024 cohort. To lay the groundwork for a career in affordable housing, each scholar will be paired with a mentor, have paid attendance to industry conferences, receive assistance with job or internship placement, and have the ability to meet industry leaders and attend networking events.  

This year’s Merritt Scholars come from 13 different schools from all different areas of California with 11 undergraduate students and 9 graduate students. Four of our scholars are from schools that previously have not applied to Merritt Scholars before. This year, 85% of Merritt Scholars identify as Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color and 65% of Scholars have lived experience in affordable housing or homelessness.  

As a People-First organization, Merritt knows that solving the affordable housing crises means attracting and training the next generation of leaders, who will change the future of California. Merritt is dedicated to investing in people and housing to build a stronger California. Our future leaders will work together to ensure that everyone has a home in a community where they can thrive.  

Welcome to our 20 new scholars!  

Jose Ayala, California State University, Sacramento, Master of Public Policy and Administration 

Jennifer Carter, California State University, Sacramento, Master of Public Policy and Administration 

Ronlindia Carter, California State Los Angeles, B.A. Business Administration – Accounting 

Rosendo Cervantes, Cal Poly Pomona, Master of Architecture 

Miles Cressy, UCLA, Master of Urban and Regional Planning 

Alec Cruz, UC Berkeley, B.A. in Urban Studies, Minor in Geospatial Information Science & Technology 

Linsy Damashek, UC Berkely, B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies B.A. in Urban Studies 

Analie Diaz, California State University, Fresno, M.A. Higher Education Administration and Leadership 

Jovanny Escareno, San Jose State University, Master in Urban Planning with a Certificate in  Real Estate Development (CRED) 

Raul Felix, California State University, Northridge, B.A. Urban Studies and Planning 

Shawn Kunipo, California State University, Long Beach, B.A. Geography 

Jasmine Melendez, California State University, Los Angeles, B.S. Business Administration and Management 

Zaira Moreno Vazquez, UC San Diego, B.A. Urban Studies and Planning, Minor in Real Estate and Development 

Madison Nguyen, UC Irvine, B.A. in Environmental Science and Policy 

Adriana Ochoa, UCLA, Dual Masters – Urban and Regional Planning & Public Health 

Marina Panzetta, California State University, Long Beach, Master of Business Administration 

Noemi Ramirez, California State University, Northridge, Masters of Public Administration 

Kevin Umana, Cal Poly Pomona, B.A. Urban and Regional Planning/Urban Design 

Jazmin Vasquez, UC San Diego, B.S. in Real Estate Development with a Double Minor in Urban Studies and Planning and Sociocultural Anthropology 

Nyny Vu, UC Berkeley, Master of City Planning 

Here are a few words from our scholars:  
“I want to work in the affordable housing industry because I have personally suffered from housing instability. Having to go through this as a student, I knew that I wanted to help people that might be going through housing instability. I want to give back to my community through an environmental and critical race lens. As a Merritt Scholar I will gain an entrance point into the affordable housing development industry. This will help me to understand the industry better and network with leaders. Additionally, now I am in a place where I will not worry about paying for housing during my 2023-2024 academic year.” 

Zaira, UC San Diego, B.A. Urban Studies and Planning, Minor in Real Estate and Development 

“I am pursuing a career in affordable housing because I know that a stable and affordable home can positively impact many aspects of a person’s life and a household’s trajectory.  Merritt Community Capital is at the forefront of expanding affordable housing access to all Californians.  As a Merritt Scholar recipient, I look forward to learning from housing professionals to understand CA’s current housing climate, the existing limitations, and the creative pathways that housing advocates continue to pave in order to increase housing accessibility.” 

Phuong (Nyny) Vu, UC Berkeley, Master of City Planning 

“As a Chicano with firsthand experience in low socio-economic neighborhoods, I am driven to work in affordable housing. I believe all races/ethnicities should have the chance to contribute unique solutions to the industry. Being a Merritt Scholar will propel me toward my goals. This esteemed recognition acknowledges my potential and commitment to making a positive impact. With the aid of the Merritt Scholars Award, I can leverage my innovative solutions and insightful wisdom gained from personal experiences. I will focus on advancing inclusionary zoning practices and designing solutions that address climate change and socio-economic factors, thus increasing the availability of affordable housing.” 

Rosendo Cervantes, Cal Poly Pomona, Master of Architecture 

Read more about the Merritt Scholars program here: Merritt Scholars – Merritt Community Capital Corporation ( 

Learn more about Commitment to California here: Commitment to California – Merritt Community Capital Corporation ( 

About Merritt Community Capital Corporation

Merritt Community Capital Corporation is a nonprofit dedicated to our mission to provide equity capital for affordable housing exclusively to California. We do this by partnering with mission-aligned affordable housing developers throughout the state to ensure the most critical communities are developed and maintained for low-income residents. Since 1989, Merritt has created and/or preserved 11,000 affordable homes, through investing over $1.2 billion in 26 separate funds, providing housing for over 29,700 people.



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