Q&A: Isabel Santana Chica, Executive Director of the Linda Ray Intervention Center

Executive Director of the Linda Ray Center, Isabel Santana Chica, stands with The Evolv3 Leadership Miami team to celebrate the opening of the new and improved Best Friends Park, a revitalized playground that opened at the Center in June. 

Dedicated to helping at-risk children and families in need, the University of Miami’s Linda Ray Intervention Center is a beacon of hope aimed to change the trajectory of children’s futures.

At the helm with a vision to expand the Center’s advancements in research and its visibility in the local community is the Executive Director of the Linda Ray Center, Isabel Santana Chica. Chica joined the center in June of 2021 after the retirement of the Center’s former Executive Director Lynne Katz.

A&S News connected with Chica to learn more about her vision for the Center and how its collaborative affiliation with the College of Arts & SciencesDepartment of Psychology assists in the Center’s role in providing interventive services and school readiness initiatives for children in need.

A&S News: What attracted you to join the Linda Ray Intervention Center?

Chica: The center’s research-based approach to supporting children and families is what attracted me to join the Linda Ray Intervention Center. I am thrilled to be part of such a unique place developed to provide high-quality early intervention to children and families in need.

A&S News: How does your professional background in leadership and supportive programming for children and families tie into your role at the Center?

Chica: I have a profound love and commitment to serving children. Especially, children with developmental delays and varying abilities. For nearly 30 years I have had the opportunity to engage with many great community leaders and articulate a vision of building a community and team culture that embraces diversity and promotes equity. As the new Executive Director of the center, I look forward to fulfilling the center’s mission and vision by enhancing our family-centered approach, developing future leaders, and being part of research-informed best practices.

A&S News: What is your vision for the Center now and into 2023?

Chica: We are highly focused on increasing the center’s visibility by generating awareness of its cutting-edge research. I remain committed to the center’s mission to support and facilitate positive developmental outcomes with high-quality services, thereby improving young children’s school readiness and future student achievement. Through new collaborative partnerships and fundraising efforts, we hope to increase program access by providing transportation, offering extended program hours, and developing enrichment programs.

A&S News: How do you see the Center’s impact grow in the South Florida community?

Chica: The UM Linda Ray Intervention Center has a fundamental impact on the success of the most vulnerable members of our community; young children who are substance-exposed, victims of abuse and neglect, including those who are part of the child welfare system. The center has been a catalyst for change in how these young vulnerable children are seen and valued in the South Florida community. The center remains at the forefront of change to best serve young children and provide equality and equity to ALL children.