It’s a passion for her community, especially children, that drives Julie Garcia to take action and find solutions, steering others to call her a leader, who leads by example.
“Julie Garcia is an amazing grassroots leader in the Calistoga community,” said Jenny Ocon, executive director of UpValley Community Center. “Because of her experience as an active parent, she has encouraged many parents who are new to the school system and helped them to feel comfortable getting involved, asking questions and identifying how they can support their child and the school community. She has been a role model for other parents — by seeing her example of sharing her ideas and getting involved, they feel more at ease to do the same.”
Councilmember Irais Lopez-Ortega said Garcia was one of the first people she met when she moved to Calistoga 17 years ago.
“She is to me one of the most hard-working women and a good example of how much you can do for the community,” Lopez-Ortega said. “Julie already was very active in the school and she was the one who (got me involved) in volunteer work there. She is always is doing something to advocate for our kids.”
Together Lopez-Ortega and Garcia worked with other mothers to put together an after-school program called Casa de la Cultura, “which was an arts program where kids learn folk dances and music classes, along with painting, and other activities,” Lopez-Ortega said.
Over the years most of Garcia’s focus and volunteer work has been on doing things to help children, including things that would benefit her own five children, all of whom have or are attending Calistoga schools.
“Julie is a very responsible individual and an outstanding mother. She is very active in her children’s education,” said Indira Lopez, program director for UpValley Family Centers. “Julie is a shining example to other mothers in our community.”
In addition to owning and operating Julie’s Hair and Nail Spa on Lincoln Avenue, she twice served as president of the English Learners Advisory Committee (ELAC), Lopez said Garcia has “she has actively participated in several parent education groups, learning about the school systems, and how to better help her children succeed in school,” volunteers in “our annual event ‘School’s Open Family Day Celebration’” and attended MALDEF Parent Institute in 2009, Lopez said.
Ocon said Garcia “is also an active parent representative on the UpValley Partnership for Youth – an Upvalley coalition dedicated to prevention of youth substance use and abuse. On the coalition, she works with law enforcement, faith organizations, nonprofits, school personnel, businesses, and youth. She has played a critical role in helping outreach to local parents and bringing them to City Hall listening sessions about Proposition 64, and educational workshops on the effects of marijuana on the adolescent brain.”
Garcia said she likes to “get involved” and her “main priority is to help the community and students for sure.” Among her recent activities is raising money to help fund a program at the schools to tutor struggling students. It’s especially necessary now that the schools cut teacher aide jobs.
“It hurts me when I see kids failing,” Garcia said.
Through various fundraising events, such as a family dance event with a raffle and silent auction she helped organize, she has raised $6,500 for the school district earmarked for a tutoring program.
“So many parents, like me, we don’t speak good English, so it’s hard for us to help them,” Garcia said.
Without help at home, she said she’s seeing students with failing grades and unprepared to go on to college.
“That’s not fair,” she said.
Without college as an option, she sees kids taking jobs in town at restaurants and stores, and it bothers her because she said she knows they are capable of much more.
But she’s not solely focused on school and learning. She sees a need for older children and teenagers to have more activity options in Calistoga.
“Last month, Julie and a group of parent leaders called Adelante, helped UpValley Family Centers to organize a town hall that brought over 70 people (youth and adults) to discuss ideas for outdoor recreational activities in the community,” Ocon said.
Garcia said kids would like to have a skating park or an indoor soccer space so “young adults don’t have to drive to Santa Rosa or Vallejo to play year round.”
Once the group gets more ideas from the community and a better plan in place they will approach the city to “make something nice for our community,” she said.
“Maybe it’s a dream, but dreams come true.”
Garcia said she is “lucky to live here” because there are “so many good people.”
Garcia is marked to be one of those good people.
“She sincerely cares about the well-being of everyone in Calistoga and is a positive force in our community,” Ocon said.