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Robert Santana

By Kelly St. JohnPublished: November 01, 2012

CEO Boy & Girls Club of Santa Ana
Hot factor: Has overseen the nonprofit’s growth from serving 150 kids per day to 1,000

Big things are happening at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana (BGCSA), and a key force behind that success is its young, dynamic CEO, Robert Santana.

An Air Force veteran who grew up in Santa Ana and planned to be a police officer, Santana initially came to the nonprofit to volunteer for a two-week stint. Instead, he found his calling: working to keep the city’s most vulnerable children safe and on track for success.

Under Santana’s leadership, BGCSA has grown from serving 150 children each day to 1,000 per day, with a staff of 65 professionals at six different sites. BGCSA offers kids a program of academic, physical fitness, and life skills activities, as well as a crucial relationship with an adult mentor who can encourage them to stay in school and away from gangs and other risky options.

BGCSA is also embarking on a campaign to fund a $2 million expansion of its original Highland facility. The effort will not only give the 60-year-old building a face-lift, it will expand it to include a new teen center, where the club can boost programming designed to combat the area’s high school drop-out and teen-pregnancy rates.

And at the helm of it all is Santana.

“I certainly feel fortunate to have found something in life that allows me to serve so many kids,” Santana says. “It’s great to see the Boys & Girls Club level the playing field for these kids. Where you grow up shouldn’t determine whether you get the chance to succeed.”

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