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Girls Inc. executive director named Woman of the Year

Lucy Santana-Ornelas accepted the honor from the California Assembly.

BY VICTOR JACOBSPublished: March 23, 2011 10:48 AM

Girls Inc. Orange County Executive Director Lucy Santana-Ornelas has been named Woman of the Year by the California Assembly.

"Lucy has dedicated her heart, soul, time and talent to the girls and young women in our community,” said Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim), who nominated her for the honor. “She exemplifies the mission of her organization, ‘inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold.”

The organization strives to break the barriers to success by providing girl-focused programs, adult role models and exposure to the world. Santana-Ornelas said she’s particularly proud of the academic-based programs, which have sparked interest in math, science and technology.
And, while many nonprofits have faced shrinking budgets, Girls Inc. has experienced growth.

When Santana-Ornelas took over as executive director in 2002, Girls Inc. of Orange County had a budget of $750,000 to serve 1,500 girls. That budget has since grown to $2.5 million and now serves about 5,000 girls ages 4 to 18, with 54 outreach programs operating across the county. It’s funded mainly through public and private foundation grants, corporate giving, and individual donations.

“We are so fortunate that our funding has increased during these tough economic times,” said Santana-Ornelas. “Our proven success in helping girls achieve their potential and the recognition of the growing need for our services are huge factors in our growth.”

An Orange County native, Santana-Ornelas attended Santa Ana High School. She ignored the advice of a counselor who suggested she skip pursuing a higher education and enrolled in Santa Ana College, then went on to earn her bachelor’s degree from Cal State Fullerton. In 2008, she was recognized as one of 50 distinguished Latino graduates of Cal State Fullerton during its 50th anniversary celebration.

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