By Christopher Oak Reinier

When Jonathan Galicia went to high school in Santa Rosa, he joined a group of classmates helping undocumented immigrant youth make their way in a potentially hostile environment.  The friendships he made there inspired him to become a social worker. He found new cause for his dedication when he saw that many of his qualified classmates could not go further with their education, as he could, because of their undocumented status, or the cost of the fees, and other expenses.

At Santa Rosa Junior College, Jonathan met classmates involved with the DREAMers movement, which focused on helping undocumented youth brought to the U.S. by their parents.  He helped to form the Sonoma County Dream Alliance which became The North Bay Immigrant Union, now an effective force in the defense of these vulnerable young people.

For instance, when the Union was first formed, the police were arresting young drivers for minor infractions and then impounding their cars.  The expense of recovering their cars was so high it made recovery almost impossible. The Union found legal help to combat the practice and the automatic impounding is no longer practiced. The Union  assists the youth in many different ways, including helping them with college applications.

rom the J.C., Jonathan went to U.C. Davis where last year he earned a B.A. degree with a double major in psychology and sociology.  Intent on pursuing his interest in social work, he interned as a legal aide for youth in Sacramento for a year. “I learned a lot” Jonathan says, “just being in that situation.” This spring he returned to Sonoma County at the time WCCS was looking for a replacement for Vivian Diaz, who has been serving as the Director of Youth Programs.  She is going to Sonoma State this fall.

In the coming year, Johathan will be working with 12 young clients “and counting” in a program funded by the State’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Enrollment is open all year for this program, in which he will assist youth who are employment-challenged, helping them to find work and to become self-sufficient.

Jonathan has found the kind of work he has been preparing for since his high school years in Santa Rosa.  WCCS is fortunate he’s found it here.