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Meet Genesis Jara of Gown Me Up in Downey

Today we’d like to introduce you to Genesis Jara.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am a first generation Latina and a proud child of an immigrant. My father immigrated to the United States from Mexico when he was just 16 years old and soon after met my mother. At the young ages of 18 and at 20 they had my older brother, and two short years later they had me. My parents had all the odds and people stacked against them, even family members.

No one believed teenage parents living in Compton would stay together much less amount to anything. My parents worked extremely hard to secure stable jobs, buy a home in Downey, California and raise us in a city with a great public education system. My parents, like so many others out there, have overcome and accomplished a lot. And this past year, they celebrated 24 years of marriage.

Seeing my parents work so hard and make sacrifices for our family has always given me courage, and it’s why I am the leader and person I am today. Since elementary, all the way up until now I have served in student government. Service to others has and will always be my passion because of the morals they instilled in me, and though they have helped me lead a morally grounded, leadership focused life – I still suffer from this thing called the impostor syndrome.

When I got to Long Beach State in 2015, I realized how real the imposter syndrome is for students of color like me. The imposter syndrome is defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. It’s easy to feel invalidated or not capable in spaces you feel like you don’t belong and I know this is a feeling that exists for many students of historically marginalized communities in higher education.

I utilized my mentors and resources around me to build the confidence I needed to succeed in higher education. Throughout my college career, I have served as the President of the Hispanic Students Business Association, the Chief Government Relations Officer of my student government, a Civic Engagement Officer for the Cal State Student Association, and now the student body president of my entire university comprised of 37,000 students.

I focus all of my efforts on serving and advocating for all students at my university and all student within the California State University System which consists of 23 campuses across California. My efforts consist of advocating for students from underrepresented communities by making our campus more affordable, accessible and inclusive for all.

While in college I have also had the opportunity to intern and work for Amazon, Honda, Coca Cola and will be interning at Boeing this Summer 2019. While staying busy with leadership positions and work throughout these four years of college I have also started a nonprofit organization with my mom called Gown Me Up.

When I was asked by a high school girl from my home high school if she can borrow a gown for prom because she couldn’t afford one it sparked an idea in my mom’s head. We should help more girls who can’t afford gowns. As I had previously stated my mom grew up in Compton, CA in a low-income family and could never afford gowns for her high school dances let alone prom, and she remembered what it felt like.

We wanted to be able to help the girl by providing them with a gown but also making their experience in choosing a gown for their special day a memorable one. So far we have collected over 100 gown donations, and we hope to help as many girls as we can this prom season. We will be partnering with low-income housing facilities and foster youth programs.

I have one more year left of my undergrad college career, and I hope to continue making a difference in the lives of others even after I graduate. My ultimate goal is to be a public servant and one day run for office. I strongly believe representation matters.

Has it been a smooth road?
I mentioned them in the previous question, but my main struggle has been the imposter syndrome. Being the first in the family to go to college hasn’t been easy, and there have been many times where I have doubted my intelligence and my capabilities.

Another major struggle has been being a woman of color in my current leadership role as student body president. As a woman in this position, I am expected always to look the part, speak articulately, and be overly respectful. As soon as I don’t do one of those things I am judged, called names, or no longer respected.

The most difficult part is even when I am doing all three, there are still people that just don’t respect me because I am a woman, and even more so because I am a woman of color.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Gown Me Up – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We are a nonprofit organization that specializes in providing Prom gowns to high school girls in need. We will be servicing in the City of Downey and surrounding cities. We know that financially Prom can become costly to many families, but we want every high school girl to feel fabulous and confident on their special night. Ultimately, we want to make a lasting and positive impact on the lives of high school girls.

We are proud to have collected over 100 gown donations thus far, and we are looking forward to helping as many girls as we can this upcoming prom season. We will be partnering with different organizations to host events where girls come in, try on gowns, and have an overall memorable experience in selecting their prom gown.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and the least?
I like our diversity, our inclusivity, creativity, and the sense of community that all of these factors create. In my opinion, LA is the best city to live in. We are a short driving distance from so many landmarks and beautiful places. There’s never anything new to do or experience, I love LA!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Anthony Luis Najera, CSULB ASI, CSSA

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