LMU alumna Monica Santos is founder and executive director of the Augustinian Scholarship Fund-A Su Futuro, an organization that provides disadvantaged students who live in and around the border city of Tijuana, Mexico access to education and support for academic success. In Mexico, 50% of the students do not have access to education beyond the sixth grade because their families cannot afford to pay tuition and other school-related expenses. Santos founded ASF in response, saying, “The work of ASF is so important because increased education can and does significantly impact the lives of these students.”
Monica earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from LMU and teaching credential through the School of Education. She says of her courses in the SOE, “The quality is unmatched. Potential students cannot go wrong by attending the LMU School of Education. It really instills in you a sense that education can uplift society.”
As an undergraduate she was involved with Campus Ministry, and with encouragement from Fr. Tom Maloney, S.J., Monica chose to spend a summer at Hogar Infantil La Gloria, an orphanage for abandoned, neglected and abused children located 13 miles south of Tijuana, Mexico. She says of the experience, “The summer with the children dramatically changed the course of my life”.
Monica returned to California after her summer at La Gloria and after graduating from LMU, began teaching full-time in the Lennox School District. While she felt extremely prepared and was happy in Lennox, she could not stop thinking about the children of La Gloria, saying, “No matter how good I had it in Lennox, I could not shake the desire to be at the orphanage.” She went back to La Gloria the following summer and spent the next eight years developing programming and instruction, eventually becoming the orphanage’s director.
After Monica moved back to California, she and her husband settled in the Chula Vista area and started their family. Monica continued her work with the orphanage in various capacities, and later returned to the classroom as a Spanish teacher at Discovery Charter Elementary School. She remained very much connected to the La Gloria community and wanted to find a way to do more to support these children through education. In an effort to send youth from the orphanage to school past the sixth grade, Monica developed the Augustinian Scholarship Fund to provide the children of La Gloria the opportunity to continue their education.
The fund now serves more than 70 students from La Gloria and five surrounding communities. “Nine of my students have graduated from college and 12 are currently working towards their degree. The program has grown to be a real source of strength and community for the students,” says Monica.
In addition to her work with ASF, Monica is a dual-immersion kindergarten teacher in the Chula Vista Elementary School District.
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