Who is Victoria?

Since the diagnosis of her first child in September of 1999, Victoria has tirelessly advocated for the needs of all of her children in their struggle to overcome their disabilities. But her advocacy did not end with her children alone. It carried forward to fighting for individual children who are not hers, and the needs of children with autism, epilepsy, and other special needs on the local, state, national, and now global level as well.

Victoria began her college education at the young age of sixteen in 1993 attending the University of Texas at Austin. However, before completing her degree she decided to serve her country and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1994 at the age of seventeen years old. She completed bootcamp in Great Lakes, IL and went on to her first "A" school at Naval Technical Training Center, Pensacola, Fl in 1995 where she studied electronics and received Top Secret/SCI clearance as a Cryptologic Technician. As a reward for graduating at the top of her class she was selected to attend Seamark Network training "C" school on Sun Microsystems in Biloxi, MS.

Victoria's first duty station is what originally brought her to California. She was stationed at Naval Security Group Department as a Petty Officer Third class serving the billet as subject matter expert in the global Seamark network in Imperial Beach, Ca at the end of 1995. Victoria was then honorably discharged from the Navy in 1997 after giving birth to her first child. She immediately continued her studies in Psychology at San Diego Community College District's City College in 1997 and in one year received two associate degrees; in Behavioral Science- Psychology and in Liberal Arts, both with High Honors in the spring of 1998.

She was then accepted at San Diego State University in 1998 where she completed her Bachelor's degree in one year, graduating in 1999, summa cum laude in Psychology, at the top 10% of her class, distinction in the major, and inducted into the honors societies of Phi Kappa Phi and Psi Chi. A week after graduation that summer, she gave birth to her son Jacob and received her first child's diagnosis while her (first) husband served in Iraq during Operation Desert Shield. Victoria began working on intensive intervention with her daughter, cared for her newborn son who was also hospitalized, and continued her studies that fall until her husband returned from his long deployment. She graduated in one year, in 2000, a month after her father passed away and her divorce proceedings began, with a Master's degree in Human Resource Management.  As you can see, strong perseverance and coping through great crises is nothing new to her.

In order to begin improving the lives of individuals with autism Victoria secured a position at the San Diego Regional Center, from 2000-2004, as both an intake worker and Parent Coordinator tasked with knowing all of the resources, interventions, and be a support to other parents of children with autism. It was in this postion that she first began supporting and advocating for children with special needs in IEPs. This year, 2000, was when her second child. Jacob, was diagnosed with autism, and also when she took a position on the Board of Directors of the San Diego County Chapter Autism Society of America where she served for 10 years. She served in the role of 2nd Vice President of Programs, and then later founded its first Spanish Support component in 2003.

She further served on the San Diego South County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA)'s Community Advisory Committee (CAC) from 2003 to 2006 where she interfaced with legislators and school district personnel fighting for and protecting the needs of children with special needs. This was her first opportunity to advocate at the capitol on a state level all three years by attending its "Lobby Day", and as the CAC's Chairman in her last year.

It was in these capacities that Victoria continued to learn about the importance of policy and advocacy that lead her to apply for law school. She married her second husband, and with his support as a U.S. Marine stationed at MCAS Miramar, she was able to attend a local law school, California Western School of Law, San Diego with the award of the Faculty Scholarship for her educational excellence. From 2004 to 2007 she received honors and scholarships from San Diego La Raza Lawyers Scholarship Fund, Miramar Marine Corps Spouses Club, and the California Bar Foundation's Exceptional Merit Scholar. She served as Philanthropy coordinator for the school's Society of Public Law and Policy, Philanthropy Coordinator for Health Law and Policy, Vice President of the International Law Society and of Parents in Law, and served as Vice-President and then President of La Raza Law Students where she secured local public figures such as City Attorney Mike Aguirre, Councilwoman Donna Frye, and Senator Denise Ducheny as speakers.

While in law school, Victoria interned at the Legal Aid Society's Consumer Center for Health Education and Advocacy (CCHEA) where she specialized in Medi-Cal, In Home Support Services (IHSS), and County Medical Services appeals where she participated in appealing and preparing cases for the Western Center on Law and Poverty's case Alford v. County of San Diego, which resulted in requiring counties to provide healthcare to the uninsured working poor on a sliding scale rate.

Victoria further interned at the San Diego County District Attorney's office as a Certified Law Clerk where she appeared for the people of California in the courtroom in the prosecution of traffic and misdemeanor offenses, acted as second chair in felony trials, and briefed and argued in appellate court. Simultaneously, Victoria began her internship for the Office of Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny, where Victoria came to work as District Representative for the Senator.

During her time with Senator Ducheny, she had collaborated with many different individuals and organizations from various political, social, and economic backgrounds. During these collaborations, she has fostered balanced efforts that have helped the 40th Senatorial District and State protect the lives and health of the disenfranchised, and promote business and healthcare opportunities. Through Victoria's advocacy and knowledge she has helped save much needed social services on a statewide level, especially those that benefit the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities, and particularly autism.

Victoria founded and coordinated the first ever speech and autism developmental free screenings as a collaboration with Autism Tree Project Foundation (ATPF) and the Bi-national Health Week organizations along with the Health Institute of the Americas and the San Diego Mexican Consulate in years 2006 through 2008. And with the efforts of ATPF was able to create the same kind of collaboration in San Jose with San Jose State University and the Mexican Consulate offices of the Bay Area. It was during this time she accepted the offer of leading as the Director of Spanish Programs and has worked voluntarily and in Collaboration with ATPF since 2006 until the present to further move a bi-national agenda and global Spanish speaking need in the world of Autism.

In addition to serving the needs of constituents on individual, local, and state levels in her issues areas of expertise of: Health, Social Services, Child Advocacy, Women's issues, Public Safety, Disability, Higher Education, and Judiciary, Victoria also worked tirelessly day and night assisting in the coordination of supplies and housing needs while partnering in the countywide response of the 2007 San Diego Wildfires. She was able to help get everything from elderly adults to a safe place to sleep to leading the charge of finding special needs accommodations and refuge for children with autism whose unique needs are drastically different in event like an evacuation and change in air quality.

Amongst the many things Victoria did while in the service of Senator Ducheny were serving as Early Intervention Co-chair of the South County Autism Task Force for the Senate Select Committee on Autism, serving as Secretary on the San Diego Regional Center's Foundation Board, and on the ARC of San Diego Sulpizio Center's Chapter Advisory Board. Victoria's legacy has been the creation and continuation of The Annual Binational Conference on Autism with the collaboration of such agencies as SAY San Diego, South County SELPA, San Ysidro Health Center, The Health Institute of the Americas through UCSD, Fundación Alumbra, Motiva and Associates, Autism Tree Project Foundation, and the San Diego County Chapter Autism Society of America. Additionally, she began working for her own children's special education attorney, Caraea Lucier, Esq. on cases where she was able to use her legal, service, and assessment knowledge she had gained as a student assistant to Dr. Jerome Sattler while he authored the 2000 version of "The Assessment of Children."

In addition to advocating as an attorney for her clients on an individual level with California and Arizona Special Education Due Process Hearings and IEPs, Victoria also provides assistance with County IHSS appeals, California Regional Center, and Arizona DDD/AHCCCS Fair Hearings and Negotiations. She has obtained a unique perspective and a great depth of experience from her recent time as Counsel representing the State of California in its Disability litigation compliance, and; therefore, understands the funding, political, and negotiation perspective of governmental entities.

Additionally, with plans for their continued Annual Binational Conference on Autism, Victoria and her co-founder, Nancy Machuca, have created the nonprofit, non-governmental organization WAA for the education, collaboration and awareness of a global effort to improve the knowledge and services for children with autism in underserved countries, beginning with binational efforts with Mexico. The World Autism Alliance (WAA) or Alianza Munidal de Autismo (AMA) which has historically worked with the First Lady of Baja California Mexico is also where Victoria hopes to help assist and ensure that children in underserved countries with autism get acknowledged, counted, and served wholly to reach their maximum potential in order to have a quality of life and be treated as fellow human beings.

Her passion most of all is representing individuals with disabilities and the education and training of parents of their rights.  She provides lectures, seminars, and trainings fluently in both English and Spanish for parents throughout San Diego County both through support groups and through the non-profit World Autism Alliance.  Through World Autism Alliance she continues to advocate on a policy level as well to maintain the funding and services that serve the bigger picture of adults and children with special needs. She has also spoken and continues to speak at many conferences and events as a keynote and break out session speaker in both English and Spanish on the topics of disability, services, legal strategies, policy and advocacy.

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