Placed Leaders

Maria D. Aquino

Senior Program Officer

The James Irvine Foundation

We partnered with the James Irvine Foundation on the search for a Senior Program Officer. The James Irvine Foundation is focused on a singular goal: A California where all low-income workers have the power to advance economically.

The search resulted in the recruitment of Maria D. Aquino to the role.

Aquino has over fifteen years of government and philanthropic experience.

Previously, she served as a Senior Program Officer at First 5 LA, an independent public child advocacy organization with a goal to support the safe and healthy development of young children in LA County. There she oversaw a portfolio of $159M for initiatives to improve child and family outcomes and was part of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Governance Board aimed at operationalizing equity for the agency.

Prior to this role, Aquino was a Program Officer leading a place-based effort at First 5 LA, focused on cross-sector collaboration for initiatives promoting early childhood wellbeing. In this role, she engaged diverse stakeholders to ensure parent and resident voice informed community plans and budgeting decisions.

Before joining First 5 LA, Aquino served as an Outreach Liaison and Eligibility Worker at LA County’s Department of Public Social Services. There she cultivated partnerships with community and faith-based organizations to co-locate social services in places families and individuals trust, leading to improving access and enrollment.

She also served as a lead in the Placita Homeless Project, a government and nonprofit partnership to secure housing, income and social services for the unhoused community.  

She serves on the board of the LA Food Policy Council, which works to ensure food is healthy, affordable, fair and sustainable for all.

Aquino is passionate about supporting LGBTQ+ youth of color and volunteers for various efforts, including fostering queer youth leadership.

Aquino is the daughter of immigrants and a native of Los Angeles. She was raised in Mexico and various Southern California cities.

Aquino holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s Studies with a focus on Gender and Globalization from UCLA. She earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration from California State University, Northridge.