ABOUT

GERNA BENZ

  • Senior Partner College Planning Specialists Inc.

  • Owner Bay College Planning, 

  • Senior Partner Pac Rim College Planning

  • Mentored hundreds of students over 10 years in gaining admission to their top choice school

  • Designated Certified College Planning Specialist with the Association of Certified College Funding Specialists

  • Member of the Hawaiian Association of College Admissions Counselor

  • Certified Agent Allianz Financial Services

  • COO of SBC Inc. 1990 to 2004

  • One of the Northern California  Financial Aid Experts for the John’s Hopkins University CTY Program

Gerna graduated Pierce College with a major in marketing and studied finance at the University of Puget Sound. 

Gerna is a licensed agent with Allianz Financial Services and lectures on college planning for the Johns Hopkins University CTY program.   He has worked in College Planning for over 10 years and is the owner of Bay College Planning in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Prior to starting Bay College Planning, Gerna ran his family business for 15 years managing 75 employees and a 4-million-dollar budget.  

Dr. Heidi Davila

For the past ten years Dr. Davila has guided thousands of students in realizing their goals and aspirations. She has enjoyed serving her community as a professional counselor during which she provided academic, career, personal, and crisis counseling. Prior to joining Bay Area College Planners, Dr. Davila served as an academic and college counselor at Animo Ralph Bunche Charter High School, a college preparatory school in the Los Angeles area. She collaborated with universities across the nation to organize college fairs, college admission information sessions, and campus tours for students.  She was also Head Counselor at Vacaville High School where she led a team of counselors in providing students with quality academic and college counseling services. Currently, Dr. Davila works as an Adjunct Counselor at Diablo Valley College helping students transfer to four-year colleges and universities. She has volunteered as a mentor for the PUENTE program at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, a member of the NACAC Greater Los Angeles National College Fair planning committee, and as a reader for the UCLA Alumni Scholarship. 

Dr. Davila’s educational experience began at the University of California Los Angeles where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in World Arts and Cultures with two minors in Education and Chicano/a Studies. She then earned a Master’s degree in Counseling with a Pupil Personnel Services Credential from Loyola Marymount University. In 2015, Dr. Davila earned a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership with a concentration in Higher Education Administration from the University of Southern California.

Dr. Davila is passionate about the counseling profession. She aims to establish positive and trusting relationships with students and parents and to assist students in discovering and achieving their career and educational goals.  

Gail Valeskie

Gail Valeskie has been a writing coach since 2014 for high school juniors and seniors needing assistance writing their college admissions essays.  She also writes press releases for authors and small businesses, as well as transcribes audio files for various individuals such as attorneys, physicians, and anybody else who speaks and needs a Word document.  This other type of work she has been doing for almost 30 years.

Regardless of the media, Ms. Valeskie has been called “The Virtual Word Goddess.”  With her high school students, she helps them find the “right word” and its application, checks spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, word count requirements, and overall smooth flowing formats that best express each student’s ideas and uniqueness.  One of her special “gifts” is her intuitive ability to ask questions in such a way to spark ideas and/or memories of things they’ve done in their past that can become essay topics.  Then, she helps students form a writing outline to make the writing process easier to accomplish.  Finally, she teaches students how to leverage their time and efforts by shrinking or expanding essays to fit various colleges’ requirements, something her students (and parents!) appreciate.

In order to ensure she can best serve her students, Ms. Valeskie asks them the following questions:

  • Why do YOU want to go to college?

  • What is your favorite academic subject, hobby, or sport?

  • Have you ever faced a particular challenge or obstacle?  If so, how did you deal with it or overcome it?  What did you learn from the process?

  • Who is your greatest source of inspiration?

Finally, what truly sets he apart from other college essay coaches is her added service of researching each college and university links for deadlines and application requirements. By doing so, Ms. Valeskie also knows which schools require what types of essays and can guide students in their essay writing.  She keeps flexible hours to meet with her students by phone because she realizes that they have lives, homework and need time off – but she also makes them “toe the line” and involves the parents whenever necessary.  Gail Valeskie is committed to helping students put their best selves on paper

Nancy Navarro

  • Assist and guide diverse student population with matriculation

  • Facilitate orientations, transfer and probation workshops

  • Develop student education plans that delineates exact requirements to complete in order to achieve student’s goals

  • Identify academic hindrances and offer referrals for additional support and guidance as needed

  • Instruct students on how to navigate the system and streamline their processes

  • Evaluate and verify student’s transcripts from accreditations to course verification

  • Setup specialized long-term counseling for Medical school or Law school bound program students

  • Provide encouragement and motivation for diverse student populations, including those with educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, toward personal success

  • Computer related knowledge includes Colleague, Eureka, O-Net, SARS, Assist, CCC Transfer Counselor websites, Mysers-Briggs inventory, Occupation Outlook handbook, College Source, College Board, and Princeton Resources 

Experience in teaching and facilitating Career Development workshops using measuring instruments such as MBTI and Strong Interest Inventory to undergraduate students.  Conduct presentations about the admissions process, address student concerns such as, but not limited to financial aid policies and procedures, academics, campus involvement, and personal development. 

Mitch Lee

Mitch has been teaching and working with students for over 10 years. Ranging from kindergarten to college students, Mitch has taught all levels of math, science, English, and history courses. 


In the same amount of time, he has also guided students through SAT and ACT preparation providing instruction on content as well as support in test strategies. Through careful analysis and an individualized proven methodology, Mitch has been successful in assisting students earn higher scores. He’s honored and privileged to be a part of such an important portion of each student's academic journey. 


Mitch’s background is in Psychology/Biology (B.S.) and a Biological Sciences (M.S.)

Brian South

Brian South grew up on a farm in the picturesque region of Crescent City, CA. He has been working with hundreds of students for more than a decade. He lives his passion to instruct, empower, and inspire students of all ages and walks of life to reach their full potential and transition to college or the career of their choice. Brian tutors, coaches, and advocates for college readiness by specific subject instruction by mentoring students in college entrance essays, admission interviews, and researching colleges.

Brian is a lifelong learner, a dedicated student of self-development and champion of youth. He passionately shares his training to help his students open the door to the college of their choice.

Brian has crystalized all of the knowledge in his current book, Demystifying College Admission: Learn Key Strategies to Get Into the College of Your Choice.

​As a transformational coach and mentor, Brian aligns with a students' mission and strategically navigates students step-by-step from high school to their dream college.

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