Vanessa Luna Shannon is the Director of Gateway to College at SRJC Petaluma. She is a second generation Mexican-American who was born and raised in the Napa Valley and East Bay Area, and is passionate about preparing disadvantaged, underrepresented students to complete their college education and move into positions of leadership.
Upon graduating from St. Helena High School, Vanessa enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) to attain her associate degree and complete transfer coursework. While at SRJC she enrolled in a Community Service course to begin volunteering at local non-profit organizations that supported victims of crime then later, to support young parents in completing their high school education. Vanessa graduated from SRJC and transferred to California State University Sacramento so that she could stay close to her family while going to college. Vanessa worked multiple jobs and attended school full-time; she often commuted back-and-forth daily between Sacramento and Napa to both work and spend time with her family.
After completing a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology, Vanessa enrolled in graduate school in pursuit of a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. Vanessa attended both Alliant International University and John F. Kennedy University. While attending school Vanessa continued to work at several community-based organizations and K-12 organizations. She worked as a substance abuse counselor, case manager, and program manager for gang-affected youth. She began counseling and teaching at Napa Valley College, coordinating the Puente mentor program and Umoja learning community, to support first-generation college students.
In March of 2013, Vanessa was hired as Director for the Gateway to College program at SRJC Petaluma. She led a team to launch an innovative, dynamic, and collaborative concurrent enrollment program that serves disadvantaged students 16-20 years, whom are motivated to complete their high school diploma while earning college credits at the same time.
Outside of work she participates in community boards, committees and community groups aimed at closing resources & opportunities gaps for young people. Her long-term goal is to evolve student services and break down barriers in the education system for all students.