“If you believe in community, you believe in giving back because that is part of our faith. That’s why I am here.” Her faith is what Dorene Dominguez intertwined with her drive to give hope to children by creating the Dominguez Dream in 2004, a non-profit foundation in memory of her late father, H. Frank Dominguez.
“My father believed in the importance of education and giving back to your community,” said Dorene, who leads the Vanir Group of Companies Inc. that her father founded.
The Dominguez Dream, conceived to “Educate, Empower and Achieve,” has nine partner schools, with two more in the pipeline. One of the schools – Mother of Sorrows Catholic School in Los Angeles – is an example of the impact that the Dominguez Dream brings to students which it supports: The school has a successful literacy program called “Project Leads” that helps students read at their grade level or above, and a parental engagement effort known to increase student success.
Dorene’s connection to Mother of Sorrows came about more than 10 years ago through her participation on the Latino Studies Advisory Board at her alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. Fellow board member Rev. Tim Scully connected them, creating more opportunities for the students at the school.
“I am very passionate about education, as is the Archbishop,” said Dorene. “It’s a game changer and equalizer in so many communities. If you can change one child’s life, it changes the entire family.
“So many of these students are just rock stars, so articulate and passionate. The key is to help light their path with the shining ray of hope! To help them realize that if you can dream it, you can achieve it!”
In the classroom it is all about STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and math – where the third, fourth and fifth-graders are given the tools to prosper in otherwise underserved communities, and it’s those students who inspire Dorene to keep her line of vision on expansion, and reach children who still don’t have the opportunities that the Dominguez Dream can bring them.
“I see it in the individual students, who get involved in learning about building bridges or baking cookies with solar energy,” Dorene said. “Their minds are now open to engineering, particularly the young girls. As a Latina leading a group of companies in real estate, construction management and solar energy, I know it’s important to expose them to an industry that they otherwise might never think about.”
“My goal is to have more of a national footprint for Dominguez Dream, and be in every city where I have an office,”, noting she has 17 offices nationwide. “I’m proud that my company not only donates to our non-profit effort, but we have employee ambassadors who volunteer their time to teach engineering, robotics and improve literacy.”
Born in San Bernardino and devoted to the Immaculate Conception Catholic parish in Colton growing up, Dorene said her father was the family’s spiritual force – a lector who had his family in the front row every Sunday, and Dorene sitting right by his side.
“He set the example of giving back and remembering where you came from,” she said.
When it came time for her to consider college choices, she was not sure she wanted to leave the comfort zone of her hometown, Colton, or her church, for South Bend, Indiana. Thankfully, an English teacher encouraged her to apply to the sister school, St. Mary’s, and that leap of faith took her there first, then she transferred into Notre Dame to complete her degree in finance. Today, Dorene is an active member of the board of trustees of the University of Notre Dame.
In addition, Dorene takes time to reach out and talk to underserved high school students about the possibilities of higher education, and works to expose them to her to her alma mater, Notre Dame, as well as other universities.
As a businesswoman who sits on the board of KB Home, CIT Group, Inc. and Coca Cola’s Hispanic Advisory Council, Dorene is also proud of her status as the only Latina shareholder in the NBA being a member of the ownership group of the Sacramento Kings, as well as the city’s “Republic” soccer franchise. Dorene also takes pride in her active role on the boards of the Catholic Educational Foundation and the Catholic Community Foundation that helps with investment vehicles for the church.
Dorene believes it is important for her to be visible in the community and set an example for young women. “It’s a way of giving back and instilling hope. That’s what motivates me to keep doing this. It’s important to be a role model for these students. If one can see what I’ve done, maybe they will feel like they can do it, too.
“My work is important to me, but my Catholic faith is the beacon that guides my life.”