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About: About




Ellen Chao began her professional career in finance as an analyst in investment banking after graduating with distinction from Barnard College, Columbia University, with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science. She became a Stern Scholar at NYU, where she received her MBA in Finance and International Relations. After a successful career as a high tech loan officer, Ellen took time off to raise her three children while managing her family's legal business.

Ellen was an extensive volunteer in all levels of PTA, chairing various operational and fundraising committees and sitting on high school PTSA boards (Mira Costa HS and Redondo Union HS) and Mira Costa HS School Site Council. She raised money for public schools as silent auction chair of the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation Wine Auction, advocated for public education funding in Sacramento, and served on the steering committee of two bond measures for Manhattan Beach public schools. Because of her passion for volunteering, Ellen became intimately involved in the Manhattan Beach Unified School District, advocating for curriculum improvements, recommending changes to the Advanced Placement program, and organizing the launch of the Confucius Classroom which brought Mandarin to Manhattan Beach Middle School. She has been volunteering with the MB Youth Council since 2015. 

Having parented three children, Ellen understands the complexities and nuances of the high school journey. Her children are all college graduates--WashU in St. Louis-Biomedical Engineering, Duke University-Economics, and her oldest graduated with a B.A. in Cognitive Science from Univ. of Pennsylvania, a Masters in Education from Johns Hopkins Univ., and is currently a candidate for a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University. 


Ellen received her Certificate in Independent Educational Consultant from UC Irvine's extension program and completed the "Advising the College-Bound Student-Athlete" certificate and Wow Writing Workshop "College Essay Experience."

Ellen's passion to help others, background in analytical reasoning, and knowledge of admissions trends from attending conferences and visiting numerous colleges, have allowed her to strategically and successfully assist hundreds of students over the past ten years. As a single parent and mother of two recruited athletes, her knowledge of the athletic recruiting and financial aid processes is also helpful to her families. She enjoys working with motivated students from public and private high schools in Southern California. 

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HECA Community Coordinator team -Los Angeles Region



Nancy Hersman co-founded South Bay Educational Consultants with Ellen Chao in 2015, and retired at the end of 2020 after her move to Colorado. Though she no longer works with students, she and Ellen stay in touch on the college admissions world and she continues to offer tremendous perspective.  


Nancy graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor's degree in Economics and received her JD, cum laude, from Loyola Law School. She practiced law for many years beginning in Washington, D.C. and then in Los Angeles. After moving to Manhattan Beach in 1998, she turned her full-time focus to her three daughters and the education community. 


Being a contributing partner to the Manhattan Beach community has always been important to her. She was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Manhattan Beach School District in 2005, and served as Board president, as well as a member of the SoCal Regional Occupation Center Board of Education. She was extensively involved in the PTAs at all levels and implemented many new programs such as Scholar Quiz at the middle school, an information night about the high school for younger parents, as well as assisting students in advocating for funding in Sacramento. She was also a board member of the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation for many years.


In addition to her school district work, she served as Mayor of Manhattan Beach and served on City Council after being elected in March 2017. She was appointed as a Commissioner for the City's Parks and Recreation Commission and a City Planning Commissioner. She was the former Executive Director of Mayor's Youth Council, a business mentor for the Chamber's Young Entrepreneur's Academy, and is a 2014 graduate of Leadership MB.

After going back to law for several years, Nancy decided that her real passion was for education. She received her Certificate in College Counseling, with distinction, from UCLA's extension program and completed her practicum work at DaVinci Design High School.

Nancy is a parent of three college graduates (Brown University, University of Colorado Boulder and Loyola Marymount University) who all matriculated through Mira Costa High School. Her oldest daughter completed her PhD at UCLA and performed post-doctoral research at Harvard University. Nancy lives in Colorado now with her husband, Mike and her dog, Obi.

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