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I Love My Community: Jenna Santoyo

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Jenna Santoyo, MSW, LCSW, a life-long Lodi resident and clinical supervisor and mental health clinician for Lodi Unified School District, sat down with HERLIFE Magazine recently to share her dedication to family and community.

HLM: How long have you lived here? What do you love most?
JS: I was born and raised in Lodi to a family with agricultural roots. I grew up going to Houston School and then Lodi High School. I love that Lodi has become more diverse over time yet still keeps its small-town feel. We have countless dedicated, involved community members that make our town what it is.

HLM: How is your heart inspired to serve the community?
JS: From a young age, I began finding meaning in helping those within my community. Through several volunteer opportunities in places such as homeless shelters, children’s hospitals and community nonprofits, I found my way to social work and eventually psychotherapy. Giving back to my community, finding purpose in my work and the life I live has always been at the heart of what I do. I have provided mental health services in schools for about 15 years. Being able to provide a service to students that otherwise wouldn’t have access to mental health services is extremely important to me. Countless students in our community and school district have experienced trauma. Providing them with a space to process that trauma and gain new coping skills can be life altering for them.

HLM: What sparks joy for you?
JS: My two sons, Samuel and Benjamin, spark an immeasurable amount of joy in my life. Their kindness, empathy, humor, work ethic and more give me so much faith for future generations and make me so proud to be their mom.

HLM: Top three bucket list goals?
JS: Travel through every part of Mexico, one of my favorite places; become more involved in policy that impacts social issues at the local level; continue to live a full life and not only exist.

HLM: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
JS: After 15 years in the field, one of my greatest accomplishments and privileges is getting to wake up every day and be trusted by my clients to walk with them through their journey. It is an honor to sit with my clients through some of their hardest moments in this life and I hope that I am able to give them a space to heal and grow.

HLM: Can you describe a key event that had an impact on your life?
JS: My eyes were opened to matters of social justice throughout my college experience. Traveling abroad helped me have a better understanding of the oppression and social marginalization of different groups within our country, specifically our community. My passion for advocacy began to develop from this place of social justice and continues to fuel my motivation to reduce barriers and access to support services for the children I have the privilege of working with.

HLM: How is your time best spent outside work?
JS: I love to be outside, especially playing soccer and hanging out with my family. Exercising, reading and eating good food are also high on my list. And the very real mom answer is spending time grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, organizing, planning and juggling all things family! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

HLM: Do you have a favorite quote?
JS: One of my favorite quotes is from Christine Arylo: “Be nice to yourself. It’s hard to be happy when someone is mean to you all the time.” I think this quote is a simple reminder to be gentle with ourselves. To give ourselves love and grace in a society that expects so much.

HLM: What are you currently reading?
JS: I am an avid reader! My current read is The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger.

HLM: Favorite food or dessert?
JS: I could eat Mexican food every day for the rest of my life and be happy! One of my current favorites is tamales de chaya. For dessert, a cup of cafe de olla hits the spot every time.