LGA-based First Officer Andrea Santizo considers herself a citizen of the world. Born in Guatemala, Andrea grew up in Guatemala City until the age of 12 with her “big, loud and happy” family. Her family then moved to Canada where Andrea was pushed out of her comfort zone and introduced to new ways of life.
“Immigrating into a different country was unlike any other experience I have had since. New sights, sounds and smells as well as new seasons and a completely different language were just some of the challenges that we faced as immigrants. The first few years were tough,” Andrea shares. “As a Hispanic immigrant, I recognize the impact that these challenges had on me as I grew up. All these experiences and the opportunity to be surrounded by different cultures are what I believe have helped me be successful.”
Andrea discovered her love for aviation after her mother enrolled her in an after-school program called Air Cadets: “At 16, before I could drive a car, I was selected for a scholarship to get my glider pilot license. After that, I knew I wanted to continue flying for the rest of my life.”
After high school, Andrea went to college in Toronto, Canada where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Aviation Technology along with her flight ratings. “After converting all of my ICAO ratings to FAA, I went to Florida to get my CFI, CFII and MEI and instructed at a flight school there until I got all of my hours so I could apply to work for Republic.”
“Something that was always engrained in me by my family and culture from a young age was that hard work and dedication would always beat out talent. My parents told me that nothing would be handed to me; if I wanted something, I had to work hard to make it happen. They were my role models when it came to dedication, resilience and perseverance,” Andrea reflects. “My goal has and always will be to make them proud and show them that all their sacrifices were worthwhile. With family always at the core of everything we do, their continued support and motivation gave me the strength I needed to pursue this challenging yet rewarding career.”
While Andrea’s family served as inspiration throughout her career, there were still hurdles she had to overcome: “At the start of my aviation training, I did not have any role models that looked like me–aviation continues to be a male dominated industry. Being that I am a woman AND a minority, I know that I do not look like your ‘typical’ pilot, and I constantly get surprised looks from passengers when they realize that I am going to be the one flying them to their destination.”
This underrepresentation is what inspired Andrea to change the norm, starting by creating an Instagram account to show younger generations that pilots can come in all shapes and sizes. Andrea shares, “The plane does not care what the person behind the controls looks like; it just responds to what you tell it to do and if I can do it, you can, too.”
For the last two and a half years Andrea has seen similarities between the culture of her family and that of our Company. She adds, “Relying on each other through the good and bad times is what makes us resilient. Republic always emphasizes the importance of treating each other like family, with respect and dignity. This is especially important to me since I am away from my family a lot for work and my crew always takes their place.”
We couldn’t be happier that Andrea is a part of our Republic family and are grateful for the work she’s doing to elevate and diversify our industry.