Carmela F. Garnica, Blythe

Carmela F. Garnica, Blythe

CARMELA GARNICA is one of the heroes of A Choice for Our Children, by Bonsteel and Bonilla. Chapter 17, entitled "A Flower Blooms in the Desert," portrays the miracles she haswrought at Escuela de la Raza Unida (School of the United People), a small, community-controlled private school in Blythe. She was a cofounder of ERU in 1972, a graduate of it, and its director (and one of its teachers) from 1978 to 1998. Along the way, she earned a degree in management from the University of Redlands.

At present she is site director of a child development center operated by Campesinos Unidos, Inc., a nonprofit organization serving the migrant farm workers of lower Southern California. She remains active at ERU by serving on its board of directors.

In 1984, and again in 1989, Carmela was honored by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors for her work at ERU and for being instrumental in establishing Blythe's first noncommercial radio station, KERU (88.5 FM), which is operated by ERU students and community volunteers.

From 1991 to 1995 she served an elected term as a public school trustee for the Palo Verde Unified School District. In 1993 she received the Boardmanship Award of the California School Boards Association, and she served on the board of directors of Parents for Educational Choice during the Prop. 174 campaign –the Parental Choice in Education Amendment.

In 1990 she gave testimony on school dropout prevention to an educational task force headed by U.S. Secretary of Education Lauro Cavazos. She has also testified twice before the California Senate on education reform, and in 1993 she engaged in public debates on Prop. 174 with then Lt. Governor Gray Davis and State Senator Diane Watson.

Her drive for educational reform and institutional change has been inspired by the teachings and examples of the late C├ęsar Chavez–a frequent visitor to ERU–and the United Farm Workers. Her father, Alfredo Figueroa, was one of Mr. Chavez's most ardent field-labor organizers in the 1960s and 1970s.

A lifelong resident of the lower California desert, Carmela lives in Blythe with her husband, Rigoberto, and three of their children, Esthercita, Julio Cesar, and Rigoberto Jr. Their eldest daughter, Amnesty, is married.

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