Brittany Santillana Memorial Scholarship Fund

Organized by
Kathy Vestuto
Contribute to Fund:

100% tax-deductibleNo fees

100% goes to scholarship recipients

Our story

Our Brittany was pure joy, with a delightful, bell-like laugh, wicked wit, sparkling intelligence, and deep love of life. She was a dedicated LA sports fan (especially her Dodgers), loved musical theater (she never missed a touring Broadway musical, and had herself a beautiful soprano voice), an enthusiastic traveler (she was entranced by her first New York City visit a few years ago and returned as frequently as she could), and an expert on all things Disney – including knowing perhaps every inch of Disneyland, which she and her family frequently enjoyed. Family was hugely important to Brittany, who was extremely close with her parents Michael and Kathy and her younger sister Sydney, for whom Britt was a tireless caregiver and best friend. On September 26, 2022, Brittany married the love of her life, David Santillana, a young man welcomed by her parents as if he was their own son. Brittany loved her job, her co-workers, and her students, even though her daily work life could be extremely challenging. With her charming imagination and deep dedication, she met her challenges head on. Her peers recognized this, and last September, she received an outstanding teacher performance award from her school. She was grateful and deeply honored. “As teachers,” Brittany wrote at the time, “it’s so important to surround yourself with colleagues and teacher friends that get it. No one understands the daunting task that teaching has become, except for those of us who are in the trenches together. Education is quickly becoming even more underfunded, understaffed, underappreciated, undervalued, but we show up anyway. I’m grateful for my colleagues, my teacher friends and my family who have kept me going.”

Our goal

The Brittany Pearson Santillana Memorial Scholarship is designed to assist qualified high school, undergrad and graduate students in California seeking careers in special education. The scholarship is named in honor of my cousin, a special education teacher who passed away at age 34 on March 27, 2024, due to complications following brain surgery. Brittany was devoted to her students of the Newport-Mesa School District in Costa Mesa, CA, where she had taught as a fulltime special ed teacher for nearly eight years, following substitute positions in Irvine and Tustin. She received her B.A. from California State University, Bakersfield, and her master’s degree in special education and her teaching credential from National University in San Diego. A lifelong Southern California girl, Brittany learned about special needs children at a young age. She grew up assisting her parents Michael and Kathy Pearson with the care of Britt’s younger sister, Sydney, a non-verbal cerebral palsy patient. Brittany was especially close to Sydney, and Sydney inspired Britt to follow her dream of teaching students with disabilities. Brittany’s family would like to honor her legacy by helping other young people pursue this important educational field. According to NPR*, 44 states reported special education teacher shortages to the federal government in 2019; in 2022, that number increased to 48. California is among the few states that offer provisional licenses to help staff special education classrooms; however, this practice “concerns some special education experts. They worry placing people who aren't fully trained for the job in charge of classrooms could harm some of the most vulnerable students.” The need for qualified special education teachers in Brittany’s beloved home state is acute. We hope that the Brittany Pearson Santillana Memorial Scholarship can be of some assistance to future California special ed teachers to help meet this need, and to give these young people a boost toward making their dreams come true, as Brittany did hers. * Gaines, Lee V. “Students with disabilities have a right to qualified teachers — but there's a shortage.” Text of All Things Considered episode, NPR / WNYC, April 20, 2022, retrieved April 15, 2024;
Contribute to Fund:

100% tax-deductibleNo fees

100% goes to scholarship recipients

About Scholarship Funds

Zero Fees

No fees. 100% of contributions go
to deserving scholarship recipients

100% Tax-Deductible

All contributions to your fund are
100% tax-deductible

100% Protected

Your donation is safely protected
by the Foundation’s
501(c)(3) grant-awarding rules.

Contribute now

100% Tax-Deductible. $0 Fees.