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Meet Monica Garcia of Girasoles En Marcha

Today we’d like to introduce you to Monica Garcia.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Monica. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My story really has no starting point. I believe the circumstances in my life are connected and are the result of choices and actions made by my caregivers and the people before me. This idea and perspective of life has allowed me to accept my past and grow free from resentment. Learning to forgive others and myself has encouraged me to reflect on my flaws and mistakes and see them as milestones of growth. Life wasn’t always easy. I was born in Mexico City and raised in the melting pot of Los Angeles. I became a single mother at the age of 24 years old. At the time I was working for the City of Beverly Hills part time as a parking attendant and later as a dispatcher for the Parking Operations facilities. I worked there for 10 years until my daughter was old enough to go to school. I then began working part-time for Los Angeles Unified School District as a Teacher Assistant, while going to school part time to take Child Development classes in order to help me raise my daughter in the best way possible. Thankfully, my parents helped me in the caretaking of my daughter and sometimes financially. Growing up in Los Angeles for both my daughter and I wasn’t easy, especially when you have been raised in a traditional household. However, I tried my best to create a learning environment with growth possibilities without disconnecting myself and her to our roots and culture.

You can say that my professional career began at LAUSD. After receiving my Associates degree in Child Development, I gained the education needed to accept various positions within LAUSD, which gave me a vast experience in the profession of Education and Special Education. I experienced the rewards of teaching children with special needs and became aware of the challenges that each student would face while transitioning from childhood to adolescence. My daughter Celeste, who was 15 at a time would also raise questions regarding the hardships of being a Latina and feeling inferior and not feeling connected to her culture or the American culture. At home was trying to stay connected to her roots and at school was trying to be as modern and as “American” as possible.

This seed of discomfort within her birthed Girasoles En Marcha. Celeste founded G.E.M to promote self-worth and instill individuality. I was impressed by her initiate and drive, however starting was not an easy task. The validity of her intentions was questioned due to young age. I became part of Girasoles en Marcha as a Volunteer Program Outreach Coordinator and helped her connect with other adults and organizations that could help her and he participants in the program. Although I wanted to take over, I could not teach her leadership if I did not allow her to lead and make her mistakes in the process.

Today, Girasoles En Marcha has been running for two years. I am very proud to be part of an amazing team. As the experienced adult in the Team, I offer the lesson plans during our free tutoring events, but I also serve as a Mentor for all the girls. I encourage them to push forward when doors do not open for them and have taught them that all it takes is a willing heart to make a difference not a professional.

Has it been a smooth road?
The challenges we have faced is funding and getting professional adults to volunteer to host workshops or be guest speakers. When we let them know that we are 100% volunteer run, they shy away from getting involved. Many have also said they would love to help us and would get back to us. We currently have a co-hort of 10 participants whom we serve and the hardest part has been not being able to increase the number of girls admitted due to lack of funding and materials needed to provide for them. We have a waiting list of girls ready to enter the program. People also hesitate to donate because we are not an official non-profit organization yet (due to financial reasons also).

However, the organizations that have hosted events for us, and the few individuals that have made a donation, or have donated their time have given us hope to keep moving forward with our mission.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Girasoles En Marcha – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
The mission of our community grassroots organization is “To Inspire a positive identity for young Latinas through the preservation of their cultural heritage, to build self-esteem and explore the various paths of leadership.” We specialize is culture preservation, not only our Latin American culture but through that understanding of our culture we encourage the participants to find connections with other cultures. This allows the participants to gain pride of who they are but also build a bridge of understanding into other cultures and its value. I personally specialize in the lesson planning for the Latin American history lessons and the common core lessons during our free tutoring events open to the public. I am most proud of the passion of the young women whom I work with and their genuine love for what they do. I am also proud of the collaboration between our team, the participants and their parents. It feels like family. I believe what sets us apart is the holistic approach in which we teach important pieces of history of Latin America and the leadership skills we encourage in each of our participants at such a young age. For example, we talk about simple things that make a big difference like the importance of acknowledging all around you and greeting them, saying please, thank you and learning to use their voice confidently to politely say no or express their thoughts when needed. We participate in team building activities where each student gets a chance to be a leader and a team player.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I like the diversity of cultures and the opportunity this brings us to meet new people every day. What I like least is the busy life and lack of involvement in selected communities.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Gonzalo Guerrero
Alejandra Barranco

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