A Contra Costa College alumna and Richmond native went from struggling with poverty, domestic violence and hopelessness to becoming a college-education officer for the Richmond Police Department.
Carmen Santana’s inspiring story of juggling work, school and RPD training all at once — and the rewards that followed — were recently shared by CCC, which helped her along the way.
During high school, Santana worked in order to buy basics for her financially-struggling family, missed a lot of school and lacked positive role models, always doubting herself.
A Richmond High pal told her about the RPD Explorer Program, which exposes youth to police duties while providing skills and tools to build their self-confidence, leadership abilities and character.
Meanwhile, she was inspired by CCC professor Rick Ramos to pursue a college degree. She endured the difficult balance of working full-time as a security guard at Walmart, being a student and also going part time as a cadet at the RPD.
Professor Ramos helped her secure scholarships, and she also used CCC’s tutors and teachers as resources to succeed.
In 2013, she became the first member of her family to graduate college. She then joined the RPD and works as a Community Resource Officer at De Anza High, where she helps guide kids through problems, including suicidal thoughts.
She’s also established a Strive for Success scholarship, which she pays into herself in order to help students wanting to work in public safety to afford school.
“Giving back to my community is the best,” she told CCC. “I truly love what I do. It’s not just a paycheck. It’s a blessing.”