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Boss Ladies of CLE: Cleveland City Councilwoman Jasmin Santana

Santana has dedicated her life to the health of Cleveland's Clark-Fulton neighborhood. During the pandemic, that work took on a whole new importance.

CLEVELAND — "A boss lady is somebody who boldly chooses her own direction. She gets stuff done, she often strays from the conventional path and blazes her own trail. She often works towards a higher purpose outside of her own personal success." - Maggie Sullivan, author of "Boss Ladies of CLE"

Councilwoman Jasmin Santana has dedicated her life to the health of Cleveland's Clark-Fulton neighborhood. During the pandemic, that work took on a whole new importance.

"I always say, Healthy women, healthy community,'" Santana, a former MetroHealth Community Outreach Coordinator, told 3News. "I serve a very vulnerable community, so access to food was important. Many families lost their jobs during that time."

As a member of City Council, Santana represents Ward 14, which includes the Clark-Fulton, Stockyards and portions of the Brooklyn Centre, Tremont and West Boulevard neighborhoods. She was elected in 2017, the first-ever Latina on Cleveland's legislative body.

"Because I am the only Latina council member, I have bilingual staff," she said. "[During the pandemic,] my office was open...and I have families from all over the city, not just my ward, that didn't speak the language, and we helped them."

Santana says she faced challenges when first taking office.

"I'm very honest and transparent...No one is prepared right to be a council member. There's not a manual right?" she laughed. "But once I found my way and I found my unique niche of woman empowerment and really put into place what I've learned in my journey... I was able to just be at peace with 'This is what I represent, and this is what I bring to the table.'"

Despite seeing positive change, Santana sees there's still much work to be done, but she says she's committed to seeing it through.

"I will step away once the work is complete, once I see the development, once I see people kind of restore that hope, that momentum."

And she is seeing growth and new investment in Ward 14, as MetroHealth's campus expands. However, Santana says her first priority is investing in people.

"The blueprint, it looks beautiful. But the vulnerable community because they've been displaced throughout other neighborhoods... they know what investment means to a neighborhood," she explained. "It could be very scary, and it caused a lot of anxiety, so it's been [about] building these bridges."

To build those connections, Santana has prioritized reaching out to long-time residents, and championing those who need it most -- often moms like her. In 2018, she helped launch the Freshly Rooted SEEDS program.

"SEEDS stands for support, engage, empower, develop, and sustain. I's a woman development program. I have a lot of single moms in the neighborhood that really want to do something right and they really want to serve our neighborhood but they just need that opportunity," Santana explained. "I am just so ecstatic to say that most of our graduates [have seen success,] some of them opened their business, they bought their home."

As a mom of two teenagers, Santana says, the reality is, it's hard to juggle family and career. But she remains steadfast in her goals.

"I try not to focus on the small things, I think small things are distraction," she said. "And I think ultimately, we know what we're meant to do, it's instilled in our heart, and it's like our GPS. So we just have to stay full-focus and keep going."

Credit: Councilwoman Jasmin Santana
Councilwoman Jasmin Santana and her children.