Vicky Santana is a longtime leader in our community who has created opportunities for local students as Trustee of the Rio Hondo College Board and managed helped manage billions of dollars in public budgets and saved taxpayers millions in her department management roles for Los Angeles County.
Vicky’s story is one of perseverance and service. Born in East Los Angeles and raised in Bell Gardens, Vicky was the fourth of eight children. Her father often worked overtime as a drywaller while her mother stayed home to care for the family. They worked hard to promote the value of education to Vicky and her siblings as a pathway to more life and career opportunities. Vicky excelled in school, graduated from Bell Gardens High School at the top of her class, and became the first in her family to attend an Ivy League college when she attended Columbia University with the help of financial aid and scholarships from local organizations like the American Legion.
After giving birth to her son, Vicky transferred closer to home and earned her degree from Whittier College. She went to work as a disability management specialist, connecting injured workers to services and support, and helping them rehabilitate and get back to work so they could better support their families. All while raising her son as a single mother. It was in this job that Vicky grew frustrated with how government was serving working families. She became dedicated to improving services and opportunities for residents, and she applied to and earned acceptance to Harvard’s prestigious Kennedy School of Government. Vicky took her son with her to Boston and earned her Master’s Degree in Public Policy.
Vicky began working for LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina as her Senior Justice Deputy and her Education Deputy. In that capacity she was able to make government work, be more responsive to the community, and oversaw $4 billion worth of law enforcement-related budgets and worked directly alongside Supervisor Molina to significantly increase Sheriff’s Deputy patrol levels in unincorporated neighborhoods, like unincorporated West Whittier, for the first time in 30 years. Vicky also helped roll out the LA Universal Preschool (LAUP) initiative to provide preschool to all four-year-old children in underserved communities—including Montebello, Pico Rivera, and unincorporated West Whittier—and she monitored the LA County Office of Education, which administers the largest HEAD Start program in the nation.
Vicky currently serves LA County as the Probation Department’s Risk Manager, a position in charge of five units comprised of over 40 employees who work every day to provide efficient and effective services to the Probation department while saving taxpayers money. Her job includes managing the Emergency Preparedness Unit, which ensures the Probation Department works with other public safety departments and the county’s Emergency Operations Center to be better prepared to respond to emergencies and natural disasters.
Always grateful for the doors her education opened for her, Vicky ran for the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees to lift more kids out of poverty through the opportunities provided by a quality education. She was the driving force behind the Rio Hondo Educational Center at Pico Rivera and as the current Vice President of the Board, Vicky is helping to lead the district to hire more counselors, address the systemic issues that prevent students from completing their education, and show students the benefits of higher education by providing free first-year tuition through the Rio Hondo Promise.