Meet Lenni Santana, School Operations Administrator at KIPP Washington Heights Elementary School, where she plays a crucial role in making sure her school functions smoothly every day. Lenni’s connection to our school community runs deep as she is not only a dedicated staff member but also a parent to two daughters who attend KIPP Washington Heights Middle School and a Regional Family Advisory Council member.
As a first-generation Dominican American, she is the trailblazer in her family, breaking barriers by becoming the first to graduate from college. Growing up in Inwood, Lenni’s family made sure to keep their traditions alive, even as they assimilated into their new surroundings. One of the ways they did this was through food, sharing recipes for dishes enjoyed during holidays and celebrating special occasions together. Music also played a significant role, with specific songs being a source of joy and a connection to their Dominican roots.
In her everyday life, Lenni continues to celebrate her culture through music, dancing, and the rich flavors of sazón criollo. She proudly wears colors that represent the Dominican Republic flag, and cooking remains a cherished tradition. Dishes like La Bandera, Sancocho, Mangú, and the classic rice, beans, and beef evoke the tastes and aromas of her homeland.
Lenni draws inspiration from notable Latinx individuals and historical figures, such as Juan Rodriguez, Julia Alvarez, and The Mirabal Sisters. Their stories of determination and resilience resonate deeply with her, encouraging her not to let anything stand in her way.
As a parent and a dedicated member of the KIPP NYC community, Lenni recognizes the significance of Latinx heritage celebrations at KIPP Washington Heights Elementary and Middle Schools. These celebrations serve as a reminder of the history, culture, and sacrifices of past generations. They inspire students to appreciate their roots and motivate them to strive for even greater achievements. Lenni is committed to contributing to this legacy and ensuring that future generations have the opportunity to achieve even more.
For Lenni, Latinx heritage celebrations are not just events; they are opportunities to create lasting memories and strengthen family bonds. She cherishes the moments when her children hear family stories, learning about life under a dictatorship and the challenges of starting over in a foreign place. Family reunions, special events, and holidays are all occasions to deepen these connections and pass down the values and traditions that define their Latinx identity.
Lenni’s story embodies the spirit of Latinx Heritage Month, celebrating the rich tapestry of culture, resilience, and family bonds that make our community so vibrant. We are honored to have her as a part of our school family and as a shining example of the strength of Latinx heritage.