Rita Esmeralda Naranjo, MA
Rita Esmeralda Naranjo is a dedicated and determined mother and community member who has passionately pursued her personal and professional goals by striving to be an active learner and life participant. From the time she was a young girl growing up in foster care she experienced years of instability, uncertainty, and profound longing for her family. For many years she struggled while strategically finding ways to survive. Although Rita faced significant challenges she learned crucial life lessons that led her onto paths that allowed her to effectively strive for happiness and well-being. Rita refused to give up or forget where she came from and fought to overcome the obstacles of life with a mission and vision of creating a better life for herself, family, and community.
Rita Naranjo diligently pursued the attainment of her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work with a minor in Anthropology from San Diego State University which she earned in 2004. Then in 2013 Rita earned her Master’s degree in Applied Sociological Practice from California State University, San Marcos. All this learning was done in hope to strengthen and build her capacity to advocate for children, youth, and families. Over the years Rita stayed connected to her community by being actively involved with the following respective organizations, Promises2Kids, Foster Youth 2 Success, Just-In-Time For Foster Youth, Foster and Homeless Youth Services through San Diego County Office of Education, California Youth Connection, Youth Law Center, San Pasqual Academy, Casa De Amparo, Sun and Moon Vision Production, Youth In Mind, Foothills High School, Ocean Shores High School, and San Diego Playwrights Project to name a few.
For over 15 years Rita Naranjo has served as an expert consultant, advisor, curriculum designer, keynote speaker, and trainer with extensive experience in presenting at conferences, leading workshops, participating on panels, and conducting lectures. Rita thoughtfully connects her personal life story to her experiences growing up in foster care, her commitment to community advocacy, her professional journey, and years of educational study and research, into unique and passionate demonstrations that promote critical dialogue, community building, and social justice. Some important topics include historical complex trauma, healing and restoration after the foster care journey, cultural identity, empowerment and engagement of youth, and internal and external resistance strategies of current and formerly institutionalized youth. All of which include crucial frameworks that attempt to support the increased well-being of youth, families, communities, and systemic structural functioning. Rita Naranjo started her own business, Of Many: Creative Life Action Network to serve as a vehicle for her to formally and effectively work within communities.
Rita Naranjo loves her work and strives to be a good example through her continuous community engagement. As a result she has been recognized by being highlighted in numerous newspaper/magazine articles and interviews that have appeared in various publications and television productions designed to bring attention to the issues that youth and families are facing and striving to overcome. In acknowledgment of her achievements she has received several awards such as the Spirit of Youth Award from the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the Hispanic Heritage Local Hero Award for Community Activism sponsored by KPBS and Union Bank. Most recently Rita was nominated by Promises2Kids to receive the Angels among Us Award. Her goal is to continue to support efforts that strive to make the system of foster care better for youth, families, caregivers, and child welfare professionals.