SEO was built on values of realizing human potential through education, mentorship, and access to opportunity. We are a dynamic team of talented, committed educators and professionals who are as likely to start a book club as we are to collaborate on a new college seminar that will impact generations of Scholars to come. We create a supportive environment that encourages and leverages diversity of thought and experiences. Together, we expand SEO’s ecosystem of excellence.
We Believe That
- education can break the cycle of poverty that has entrapped so many Americans.
- with rigorous out-of-school-time academic support and advising, underserved public school students can attend and excel at America’s top colleges and universities despite their economic circumstances.
- America’s economic future depends on ensuring that students from all walks of life get the education they need to make a substantial contribution to our society.
High School: New York City
High School: San Francisco
Executive Director – SEO Scholars, San Francisco
Omar Wandera joined our #SEOFamily in September 2020 ready to embark on the challenge of changing the lives of thousands as the Executive Director of SEO Scholars San Francisco! Omar was born and raised in Oakland, CA, and is the product of college access programs that forever changed the course of his life. He grew up in a single-parent household, strapped with traditional inner-city struggles, but made it to Norfolk State University because of the love, support, and guidance given by programs much like SEO. Omar’s life’s journey through education was cemented by the idea that he had to give back all that was given to him. He has spent the last 20+ years doing just that.
Prior to joining SEO, Omar taught middle and high school students for Norfolk Public Schools, was an Academic Coordinator at the Holy Names Upward Bound Program, supervisor of a clinical mentoring program in the Mission, administrator at KIPP SF Bay Academy, and spent 15 years as the founder of Leadership Public Schools Hayward. At LPS, he scaled a school with no students, no parents, no culture, and no identity, into one of the top-performing high schools in the state of California and recognized as one of the best high schools in the country by US News and World Reports. In addition, the school sent over 80% of its students to four-year colleges and universities, had multiple Gates Millennium scholars, and became the premier destination for families of low-income, first-generation students that wanted to pave the way for generations to come.
Omar has also served as the Director of African American Student Achievement for West Contra Costa Unified School District and Director of the National Summer School Initiative for the Oakland REACH.
Vice President – College Scholars
Catherine Finneran joined SEO in 2019. She is responsible for managing the college support, retention, and success components of SEO Scholars, including all college programming and advising. With a 25-person team of College Persistence professionals, the SEO Scholars, College team works with 1038 students attending more than 195 colleges around the nation and achieves a 90% college completion rate.
Prior to joining SEO, she most recently served as the Program Manager of UBS NextGen Leaders, UBS’s multi-year, $10 million initiative focused on expanding college and career success for students who are the first in their families to go to college. The cornerstone of this initiative is UBS’s partnership with SEO, where Catherine worked with the team in shepherding the 125 UBS NextGen Leaders students toward college graduation over the last four years.
Throughout her 13-year career, Catherine has worked to unlock opportunity for underrepresented students through multiple sectors including corporate philanthropy, nonprofit leadership, and teaching. Prior to taking on her role at UBS, she was the Program Director of The Posse Foundation’s New York office. Catherine began her professional career teaching high school history in the South Bronx through Teach For America. She holds a B.A. from the University of Southern California where she graduated summa cum laude.
Catherine lives in Jersey City with her husband, Stephen, and rescue puppy, Hudson.
Aysegul (Ays) Necioglu
Vice President – Clinical Coaching, Training, and Development, College Scholars
Ays Necioglu built from the ground up the highly-successful college support, retention, and success components of SEO Scholars, including all college programming and advising. Ays led the college portion of SEO Scholars from the time she joined SEO in 2006 until 2017. Since 2018, she has worked as Vice President – Clinical Coaching, Training, & Development, where Ays oversees the clinical advisory curriculum and training of our College Persistence Advisors (CPAs).
Ays is a New York State Licensed Master Social Worker and a Field Instructor for graduate students from Columbia University School of Social Work and Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. Prior to joining SEO, she spent a year at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) headquarters researching post-crisis development indicators, held a one-year graduate internship at Planned Parenthood, and worked as a program development consultant at LearnServeEthopia.
Ays holds an MS in Social Enterprise Administration from Columbia University, an Advanced Certificate in Clinical Practice with Adolescents from New York University Silver School of Social Work, and a BA from Vassar College. She is a member of National Association of Social Workers, National Network for Social Work Management, and the International Association for Youth Mental Health.