Julia Santiago’s remarkable transformation, from a young woman who never felt as though she had a voice in a tough community, into a student leader at her high school started with a small step in 2013.
She attended a lunchtime food tasting led by HealthCorps Coordinator, Precious Fortes at Health Careers Academy High School in Stockton, CA. During the tasting, she reluctantly agreed to volunteer as Ms. Fortes’ special helper in her HealthCorps cooking class. This opportunity to be of service eventually changed her life. She began to eat better, lose weight and share healthy recipes with her family. She began to feel empowered for the first time in her life.
The following year, she served as a mentor to new students in the cooking class. In this way, Julia’s life was improved by the mentoring that is central to the HealthCorps curriculum. Julia also conducted weekly health lessons for her peers. During one school assembly in which Julia taught lessons to all 400 of her classmates, she shared her thoughts on her own journey, “When people are empowered, they are better able improve their health.”
Like her mentor, Precious, Julia now aspires to become a doctor. Julia is a great example of the positive change young people and all people can make when given the empowering opportunity of purpose and service.