In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, the South Jersey Times is profiling members of the local Hispanic community who have made a difference in the lives of others.
With a firm belief that education is the key to a better tomorrow, to a tomorrow full of success, change, and fulfilled dreams, it’s no wonder that Dr. Pedro J. Santana has dedicated his life to educating others and guiding them to their success.
And it is through those successes that Santana finds his.
“I’m very fortunate that by what I’ve done and what I’ve been able to do has gotten me to my dreams,” said Santana.
“But I’m even more fortunate because by living my dreams I can make a difference and challenge others, like I’ve been challenged, to work hard and start living their dreams, too.”
His aspirations of educating and guiding have pushed him to work hard and because of this and his drive to help others Santana is one of four South Jersey residents being presented with the Puerto Rican Action Committee of Southern New Jersey’s Lifetime Achievement Award on Oct. 24.
“I’m so humbled to have won this and I will accept this knowing it is a great responsibility,” said Santana.
“There were people supporting me every step of the way and they created the spark that drove me to deserve this. I’ve done this through my education and education is really a magical thing.”
Santana currently serves as the Dean of Students at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey making him responsible for the leadership of programs that provide support and services to a student body composed of 8,500, both graduate and undergraduate.
Santana’s drive to help others succeed and driving force behind getting so heavily involved with education was an experience during his college career.
“I had this wonderful educational opportunity counselor who guided me, provided unconditional support and challenged me, all while mentoring me in the right direction,” said Santana. “At the end of my college experience I said to myself ‘That’s what I’m going to do.'”
Santana did his research and found out what he needed to do to make it a reality.
“From that point, it was all I wanted to do — work with people and help them to achieve their goals and reach their dreams,” said Santana.
While at Stockton College he has dedicated much time to providing oversight in the expansion of the college’s Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program.
The EOF program is designed to serve students from economically and academically challenged areas. The program has grown and flourished in such a way that it is nationally recognized and serves as a model for schools of New Jersey.
“Education is a true equalizer and it allows individuals to transform not only themselves but their communities and the future as well,” said Santana. “The EOF program gives more students the ability to do that and work to achieve their dreams.”
Although Santana currently holds a high administrative position he remains grounded in the classroom by still holding teaching positions at Stockton College’s School of Business and at the Wilmington University College of Business.
Santana has taught courses in Organizational Behavior and Business Management among others.
In order to achieve his goals of educating others and helping students to achieve their dreams, Santana went through many years of schooling received his doctorate in Business Administration from Wilmington University, a master’s degree in Student Personnel administration from Buffalo State College, and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and American Studies from the University at Buffalo and a master of master’s degree in Organizational Management from Eastern Connecticut State University.
In addition to his degrees, Santana has received numerous awards and honors. He has received the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators award, New Professional of the Year in the state of Connecticut, 2006 Advisor of the Year, and the Stockton Community Engagement Award.
Santana has also participated in multiple executive leadership development programs including a year-long Leadership New Jersey Fellows program and the Executive Leadership Academy, a year long program sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges.
Santana’s awards and achievements are a testament to the hard work and efforts he puts in to bettering the community and the lives of countless students.
Santana uses a quote by Winston Churchill to explain his efforts and work ethic.
Churchill said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
“We all need to view the world as an optimist because that means seeing the world through the eyes of hope and chance and that’s how I want to see things,” said Santana. “Looking at the world as an optimist makes insurmountable goals obtainable.”
Santana will be given the 2014 PRAC Lifetime Achievement Award with Mayra Arroyo, Andres Lopez and Lucy Jimenez at the PRAC of Southern New Jersey 2014 Gala on Oct. 24 at the Running Deer Golf Club in Pittsgrove Township.
“There is always an opportunity to work and to make a difference and that’s what winning this means, it means moving the needle in a positive direction,” said Santana.
“We all have great days and not so great days, but it’s still a day that we’re given. We should all take that day, count our blessings, and work towards making dreams come true.”
– Caitlyn Stulpin, Staff Writer
This article originally appeared on http://www.nj.com/