Our Team

L.A. Cash for College is presented by UNITE-LA and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, with the support of hundreds of local partners including schools, colleges, universities, business and civic leaders.

Our staff is based at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and works to improve outcomes for local youth, from cradle to career, with an emphasis on helping them prepare for and access college and financial aid. 




Paola Santana

Senior Program Director
(213) 580-7586

Paola Santana is responsible for leading the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce’s college access and success portfolio.  She is responsible for the implementation of student programming, higher education policy advocacy, and systems change initiatives.  Previously, she developed business-education partnerships through the Chamber’s Pillar initiative, and worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education.  In that role, she advised board members on complex policy issues, and worked with educators, administrators, students, and families to improve educational opportunities in the country’s second largest school district.  Paola is a proud graduate of the Riordan Leadership Institute, and currently serves on the board of Gabriella Charter Schools.  Paola earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and is an alumna of the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she earned a master’s degree in Higher Education.     


Juana HernandezJuana Hernandez

Higher Education Manager, L.A. Compact
(213) 580-7586

Juana Hernandez staffs the Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) Collaborative, a consortium of 12 public and private colleges and universities in the L.A. region that have signed onto the L.A. Compact. In this role, Hernandez provides project management and research support to senior higher education administrators and cross-sector leaders who are part of the IHE Collaborative, its Steering Committee, and its Student Success Workgroup.  Hernandez also provides project management support for the L.A. Cash for College program, the region’s largest financial aid completion initiative.  Prior to her work at UNITE-LA, Hernandez performed academic policy research for the Assistant Commissioner of Higher Education in Massachusetts, and managed a national academic internship program for U.S. federal government agencies at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU).  She began her career in academic advising and retention programming for students of underrepresented, low-income, and first-generation college backgrounds.  A first-generation college graduate herself, Hernandez earned her Bachelor’s degree at UCLA and her Master’s in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.  


KR.jpgKristina Romero

Senior Program Coordinator
(213) 580-7549

Kristina Romero works on expanding college access and success through the coordination of the LA Cash for College program. Kristina attended Brown University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in education and psychology, and is an alumna of USC’s School of Social Work where she earned a master’s degree in Social Work.