A total of eight new honorees will be added to the Delano Union School District’s Pioneer School Hall of Fame with the introduction of community members during the annual 2018 Hall of Fame Inductee Ceremony in September.
Two of the eight inductees will be featured this week, with the additional six during the next two weeks.
TERESITA “TESS” SANTIAGO
Tess Santiago was born in the Philippines. Her family moved to Delano in 1965 when Tess was 14 years old, starting school here as a sophomore at Delano High School. She graduated from Bakersfield College with an Associate of Arts degree in early childhood education. She began her work career in 1971 as a teacher’s aide for the Delano Union School District. Other employment included personnel coordinator at Delano Regional Medical Center, owner of Delano Christian Books and Gift Shop, manager of the Delano Chamber of Commerce and employer representation for Proteus.
Santiago’s public service included Delano City Council, where she was the first female mayor from 1994 to 1996, as well as the first Filipina mayor in California and in the United States. Community involvement included past president of Delano Soroptimist Club, Bakersfield College Delano Center Board Foundation member, charter member of Delano Optimist, past president and chairperson of Philippine Weekend Festivities, past president of Fil-Am Educational and Cultural Association, Filipino Community of Delano, Filipino Women’s Club, North Kern Employers Advisory Council and Kern County Perinatal Substance Abuse Committee
Santiago was recognized as California Assembly District 30 Woman of the Year in 1994, Philippine Weekend Grand Marshal in 1997, Delano Soroptimist Woman of Distinction Award in 1993, Business and Professional Women Club Achievement of the Year Award in 1989, Kern County Board of Supervisors District 1 representative to the Business/Minority Committee and founded the Delano Fire Department Women’s Auxiliary.
Santiago retired in 2000 and has moved to the city of Grass Valley in Northern California, where she is involved with American Red Cross work and the area of community fire safety.
Being a spirited, passionate voice for social justice during the more than 50 years she has resided in Delano, Jennie Harris has been involved in many activities that have benefitted and helped change the community. She and her children moved to Delano from Oklahoma in January 1964 so she could improve their lives. Her family was not new to the community. Her parents, Rev. and Mrs. Fred Stuart, came to Delano in the early 1950s when Rev. Stuart began as pastor of New Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Working to build her educational background, Harris studied and began a career in September 1964 as a psychiatric technician at Porterville State Hospital, where she would work until her retirement in 1988. Over the years, she received promotions up to a licensed psychiatric technician when she became board certified. During this time, she remained in Delano, driving the more than 60 miles back and forth to Porterville daily (including many years of working swing and overnight shifts and going to school to continue her studies to become a registered nurse). During her time at the hospital, she was honored by the state of California with a letter of commendation for saving the life of a resident child who was choking on a balloon.
Harris was also a champion for Delano’s children when it came to their education. The 1964 Civil Rights Act provided the means for her in September 1965 to challenge Delano’s racially segregated school system. She enrolled one of her younger children at Terrace Elementary School, which at the time was primarily a Caucasian school with some Hispanics. Her child was the first African-American child to attend the school. Her actions were significant because during the 1960s and 1970s, these types of actions were not seen. She also worked to bring equality to Delano education through enforcement of federal Title VI.
Her involvement with the Delano community included Founders Day Chair for the Terrace School PTA, Campfire Girl leader and Boy Scout den mother, active member of the Community Action Program anti-poverty agency, former Bobby Sox softball manager, former member of Cecil Avenue Elementary School Site Council, former member of the Alliance Against Mental Illness Delano Chapter and a former member of NAACP.
Her current interests include Delano Association for the Developmentally Disabled board of directors where she currently serves as secretary, member of the Friends of Allensworth State Park (the black township founded by Col. Allensworth), member of the local district and conference United Methodist Women (and was former president of the local chapter), current member of the state and national chapters, and president of the Delano Chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
For more information about the hall of fame event Thursday, Sept. 20, at 5:30 at Pioneer School, contact the Delano Union School District office at 661-721-5000.