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- Inaugural Executive Director - 

Alumna, SLC 1995

Luisa Ortega, Ed.D., is an indigenous, first-generation Chicana and a passionate advocate for access to education, mental health, and the needs of youth in disenfranchised communities. Her initial association with the Chicano/Latino Youth Leadership Project (CLYLP) in 1995 exposed her to cultural wealth that has motivated and empowered her throughout her professional journey.  Today, she leads CLYLP as its inaugural executive director. Her primary goal is to heighten and expand sustainable infrastructure and resources to strengthen and address disparities at the root of the growing educational and civic needs of Latino/Chicano youth.

Luisa brings a wealth of professional experience to CLYLP. As a baccalaureate intern, she served in organizations, including the Barbara Jordan Congressional Scholars Program and the National Latina Health Organization. From 2007 to 2012, following her graduate studies, she served as program manager at Social Advocates for Youth San Diego. There, she led three San Diego County contracts supporting the needs of young people, including previously incarcerated, foster, and minoritized youth, and students enrolled in non-traditional educational spaces. From 2013 to 2016, Luisa served as the inaugural director of the Onward Scholars Program (OSP), an initiative of the Smet Foundation designed to support the collegiate aspirations of first-generation students and families. Her successes at OSP included the development of day-to-day operations, mentoring support, and programming. Due in part to her program modeling,  OSP today boasts six sites and more than 100 graduates, each the first in their family to attend college. 

Luisa earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, double majoring in political science and ethnic studies.  She then pursued a master’s degree in education at San Diego State University, focusing on multicultural counseling through the Community Based Block Program (CBB). Luisa earned her doctorate from the Rossier School of Education at The University of Southern California. Her published, original research examines educational best practices for Latino males in the Los Angeles area, including examining cultural capital and mentorship for matriculation. 

The mother of three children, two of whom are in college at Princeton and Claremont McKenna College, is the proud daughter of immigrant parents whose faith, tenacity, and steadfast support are a credit to her success. In her personal time, Luisa is a board member of Cathedral High School, where she applies her knowledge and expertise in education, serving on the Strategic Planning Committee. At home, she enjoys time with family, cheering on her student-athletes, and volunteering at her little one’s school. 

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