Refujio “Cuco” Rodriguez

Chief Strategist & Equity Officer

Refujio “Cuco” Rodriguez is the Chief Strategist & Equity Officer at Hope and Heal Fund. Prior to joining the fund, Cuco served as a Program Officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and was a member of the foundation’s Racial Equity and Community Engagement team. He was responsible for developing and coordinating strategic grantmaking activities aimed at addressing racial equity, community engagement, and nurturing opportunities for positive systemic change for historically marginalized communities and vulnerable children. Cuco also supported the development of a Racial Equity Leadership Curriculum for the W.K. Kellogg Fellowship Program; leading research and developing curriculum models; and developing strategic external partnerships with other foundations, businesses, governmental agencies, and other key partners. Most recently, he led efforts to integrate racial equity principles into technology initiatives which included working on new collaborative platforms and developing a racial equity-focused grantee application.

Prior to joining the field of philanthropy, Cuco served as division chief and ethnic services manager with the Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness, where he was responsible for the implementation of the new Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). MHSA is a statewide initiative intended to transform the mental health system in CA counties. Cuco was also responsible for engaging multiple cross-sector and multi-ethnic community stakeholders in coordination of the MHSA. Cuco established Santa Barbara’s first Latino Mental Health Consumer and Family Advocacy Network in order to engage Latino stakeholders in the implementation of the MHSA.

Cuco has served as department director for Family and Youth Services with the Community Action Commission, where he led the implementation and execution of all Family and Youth Services programming; funding development; development of policies procedures and training; and budget development and oversight.

Cuco has worked with communities on issues including teen pregnancy, reproductive health, youth violence, gang intervention, rites of passage facilitation, mental health, father involvement strategies, and community engagement. He has served as an adjunct faculty member for the Human Services Department at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California. Cuco has held various community service positions and served as the board chair of the National Compadres Network.

Cuco obtained a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering technology and a master’s degree in education with concentrations in counseling and guidance, both from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.