Celeste Pico thinks she just can’t say no, but others recognize her strong will to serve the community in a variety of ways.
Pico, Principal of Lompoc Secondary School, was named Lompoc Valley Woman of the Year at the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce’s annual event, where recipients of four awards been unveiled.
“Celeste Pico was nominated by several members of the community for her lifelong dedication to our local youth,” said DeVika Stalling, president and CEO of the chamber.
She praised Pico for “working tirelessly to help launch Future for Lompoc Youth with his time, space and ever-present support and encouragement.”
Pico credited her own amazing teachers and her love for children for guiding her in her career.
“I think that’s always been my passion – kids, giving back, wanting more for them,” she said.
Pico was named principal of Lompoc High in 2020 after serving as vice principal since 2014 following a transfer from Lompoc Valley Middle School. She has also worked or volunteered at other Lompoc Unified School District campuses over the years.
But Lompoc High has a special place in its heart. She graduated from the school in 1992, and her husband and three children also attended.
“I bleed blue,” she said of the Braves’ color.
After attending Santa Barbara City College and then Chapman University for her bachelor’s degree, she earned her master’s degree at California Lutheran University.
“I think at first I thought teaching would be enough,” Pico said. “I love being in the classroom and having that connection with the kids, but I recognized that to influence change more I needed to be in different positions.”
Lompoc High has approximately 150 faculty and staff as well as 1,700 students.
“I say I have 1,700 children,” she said.
She saw “her children” struggle after the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the resources provided by the district, LHS has provided additional support for the campus due to need.
This meant adding a full-time social worker, another social-emotional learning counselor, and another guidance counselor to the Lompoc campus.
“We just looked at our funds…and figured where it would benefit our students the most,” she said. “We are reviewing our way of doing things.
“How can we correct the behavior in a way that is going to be more rehabilitative and positive, and not just send the child home, and away, and ignored. They need resources, they need help, they need tools to be able to cope. They are young. They are children. They need help. They need support.
Pico missed the awards show due to a family emergency, but her son filled in for him while she watched via FaceTime. She remembers being shocked and humiliated when she learned that she had been chosen.
“It’s beautiful because I work with amazing people, and they make all the things that have happened that have been successful possible,” she said.
Pico has been involved in a variety of community and educational organizations, including serving as President of the Parent-Teacher Association, as a board member of the Lompoc High Alumni Association, helping to form Futures for Lompoc Youth, owned by the American Association of University Women, serving as a mentor for the Grizzly Youth Academy in San Luis Obispo and supporting the California Highway Patrol’s “Every 15 Minutes” program.
“I have always been involved in the community, with my children, without my children,” she said.
Pico still manages to find time for a unique hobby – working as a restaurant waitress at the Cajun Kitchen, a role she held for 20 years after 10 at the now closed Baker’s Square.
“It’s kind of an outlet,” she explained.
Her love of students means she has no plans to leave.
“I feel like I need to be where the kids are,” she said. “…They energize me. They give me life. They make me wake up every morning.
Recipients of other Chamber of Commerce honors were:
» Colleen and Matt Grant with the Outstanding Community Support Award for their efforts to form the local chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, which makes beds for children in need.
Annette Hernandez of Just 2 Sweet Candy Creations & Events with the 2022 Small Business Hero Achievement Award.
Halle Bedford Dyer, South Side Coffee Co., with the 2022 New Business Award. A former employee of the company, Dyer purchased it and reopened in 2020.
Dianna Ludden, retired teacher, as the 2022 Chamber Volunteer of the Year.