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Yulil Alonso-Garza, For a Community Without Gangs

-Editorial

During this time of crisis, we’ve seen how valuable it is to be resilient, to be strong, and to be able to overcome challenges and difficult times, so on this edition, we brought the story of a very strong woman with a defined vision of the future, who cares deeply about the community she’s part of and has fought to make changes that can contribute to a better society. Yulil Alonso-Garza is not only a wife and mother, she’s an educator, unionist, community organizer, a leader for the youth, and an activist who used her tragic experience to generate change and leave a legacy for her murdered child.

Yulil Alonso-Garza is the founder and president of the California non-profit organization MAG Coalition. She is a proactive resident of Imperial Valley, who has dedicated her life to fighting for change after her family faced tragedy on January 6, 2013, when her only son, Martin Alberto Garza, was murdered by a gang member.

After a tragedy of this magnitude, Yulil turned her terrible experience into a movement to create change in her community to ensure no other family experiences this immense loss, and to leave a legacy for her son.

Mothers & Men Against Gangs Coalition (MAG Coalition) is an organization founded in January of 2013 by the Garza family and the community of a young unaffiliated innocent teenager, Martín Alberto Garza, who lost his life due to senseless gang violence but whose legacy is changing lives.  Its mission is to prevent gang activity amongst youth throughout the State of California by providing gang awareness intervention programs for these individuals through partnerships that would create CHANGE for the betterment of their future in memory of all victims of gang crime.

Her Childhood:

Born in Mexicali, Mexico, on July 1st, 1972 to Maria and Horacio Alonso, two people in love that met in Mexicali and dreamed of a better life in the United States. Her mom and grandmother, were already citizens and her mom knew she wanted to raise her children in the United States but her dad was a true patriot who wanted his firstborn to be born in Mexicali. They immigrated to the United States in 1973 in pursuit of a better life. She started living in Los Angeles county where her parents ended up settling in Pomona, a city known for its dangerous gang activity. They then moved to Rialto and ended up living in public housing which was infiltrated with immense drug activity. Although she surpassed academic troubles while attending Eisenhower High School in Rialto, it was not the community her parents wanted for their children.  They both again decided to uproot their children and again decided to move the family to Imperial County, where she started attending Central Union High School in 1988.

Her Education and family:

Yulil graduated from Central Union High School in 1990 and served as the first Mexican ASB President.  She attended Cal State San Bernardino where she met her husband Martin Garza.  They married in 1992, moved back to Imperial County in 1993, and had two children, Martin and Yulinda Garza. After returning to Imperial County she enrolled at Imperial Valley College and attained an AA in Liberal Studies.  Soon after she transferred to San Diego State University IV Campus where she received a Bachelor’s Degrees in Liberal Studies and Spanish.  During her enrollment, she represented the Associated Student Government for two one-year terms as ASC president, a member of the California State Student Association, a student representative at HACU conferences and legislative weeks in Washington D.C., and a student representative of the Student Aid Commission.  Working on the newly introduced DACA legislation with CSSA members is one of her proudest accomplishments as a student leader. She also worked on the DACA legislation with CSSA members when it was first initiated as legislation. She attained a Masters in Multicultural Ed. and Single Subject credential from National University. She’s been teaching English for the past 18 years and is currently teaching at Enrique Camarena Junior High in Calexico.

Her activism:

Moving back to Imperial Valley, to Yulil and her family meant “safety”. Imperial County was perceived to her as a place where she could raise her children safely, and where she and her husband were able to find stable jobs. Ironically, this idea was challenged when their family was faced with a tragedy on January 6, 2013, when her son Martin Alberto Garza was tragically murdered by a gang member.

“Little did we realize at that moment that Martin’s life would have so much meaning and that who’s legacy will leave a lesson for all of us to learn.  It will ensure that we all learn to persevere, stay positive, and believe in God. And more than anything that we help others by preventing them from going into gangs and guiding them to a safer path,” said Alonso-Garza.

“Becoming an activist has been part of me since I was born. In High School, I became an activist by rallying my classmates and being elected as the first Mexican ASB President at Central Union High School.  But I knew there was something more that I wanted to do. I had a plan to be a professional but God had a different plan and I fell in love, I had my kids and became a housewife and mother. As a result of that, I still wanted to create that change for my children more than anything. So when the tragedy happened to my family and my son was taken away from us it became personal. Our goals now became personal.  “GO BIG OR GO HOME!” was our family motto all the time.”

The movement:

“It started at Imperial Valley College with the Board of Trustees. Dr. Victor Jaime at the time was the president and from there I felt the passion to continue and move forward in our community with our city councils, our local high schools, Imperial County Office of Education, and the County Board of Supervisors. As we moved into 2020, we worked very closely with our Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia and co-sponsored the legislation, AB73, along with our Imperial County Board of Supervisors to declare in January a month of action to empower our youth and help other non-profits across the state to have a month dedicated to them.  We hope that once this pandemic is over we can get back to normal and that AB73 will be signed by Governor Gavin Newsom and declare January Youth Development and Engagement month of action to prevent gang activity in the state of California.”

Running for an elected position:

“As a result of what I do and the different hats that I wear, I had to look at what my next responsibility was going to be. One of my passions has always been higher education because it was the core of my leadership growth.  I feel that my work as a candidate right now for the Imperial Valley College Area 4 when elected, I can be that extra voice at the table that is coming from a mother, a teacher, an educator, a unionist, and a partner with this (IVC) institution and with the policymakers, assembly members, and senators who create the policy that dictates our funding and how and what we do to engage our community. “

Future Goals:

“Women often forget about their dreams when we become mothers but now that I’m an empty nester I have my ambitions and my dreams, and a supportive husband and family. What I hope to accomplish is to write the story that has helped me become the leader I am today.  Also, write our son’s story to be able to publicly speak and share his story to save lives. More than anything it is to represent the women who have no voice, to represent the voiceless children, and to also bring the change we need in our community.”

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