A reinvigorated Girls Inc. of Carpinteria is entering exciting new territory under the leadership of Executive Director Victoria Juarez.

Juarez is working tirelessly toward the organization’s mission to create strong, smart and bold girls, and in her seven months at the helm she has established an important foundation for Girls Inc.’s future successes.

“Victoria has met with nothing short of an enthusiastic response from all quarters. She is admired by staff, adored by the girls and has energized our board,” board President Craig Price said. “She knocked our socks off from day one and has been doing so ever since. We couldn’t have a finer or more inspirational leader.”

In addition to new passion and energy, Juarez serves as a role model who shares common ground with many local young women. As a Mexican-American who grew up in the small California farming community of Kettleman City, her roots are similar to the majority of the members of Girls Inc. of Carpinteria. She represents the first generation in her family to attend and graduate from college — a personal history that gives her the empathy and motivation to change lives, and allows her to be an accessible symbol of success for members of Girls Inc.

Juarez moved to Santa Barbara four years ago to work at Storyteller Children’s Center, a preschool for homeless children. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from California State University-Long Beach, and she served in the U.S. Peace Corps for two years in Russia, where she decided to dedicate her career to nonprofit work.

Building academic success is a cornerstone of Juarez’s young efforts at Girls Inc. She and her staff have made great progress in establishing a first-ever program in collaboration with THRIVE Carpinteria and the Carpinteria Unified School District to target the specific educational needs of every girl in the organization’s heavily enrolled after-school program and provide direct instructional support.

Juarez’s long-term goal is to increase the number of Girls Inc. members who go on to earn college degrees.

“Advancing their education is going to change their lives, their families’ lives and the community,” she said. “I know this from personal experience. Education changed my life.”

None of Juarez’s efforts would be possible without her tireless fundraising work. The recession and its slow recovery have left their mark on the Girls Inc. budget, and the organization must now compete more tenaciously for less grant funding than ever before. But Juarez is undaunted. She brings years of development experience to her position, and she is committed to establishing new partnerships with local corporations and strengthening ties with foundations and organizations whose support is critical to Girls Inc.’s growth.

“We can all help change a girl’s future,” Juarez said.

Ways to get involved include providing academic support during the homework hour, one-day service projects, career intern sponsors, program helpers, and program and event sponsorship.

For more information about Girls Inc. of Carpinteria, click here or call 805-682-9585. Donations can be made online by clicking here.

— Lea Boyd represents Girls Inc. of Carpinteria.