Since becoming Mrs. California USA Ambassador 2019, Sacramento native Kennedy Garcia has only furthered her mission to change the way we look at success, both personal and communal. In turning a passion project of nine years into an official nonprofit organization, Mrs. California created The Dream Academy, where high school girls are given the support and resources to pursue their dreams, whether that continues into college or more personal ambitions.
With degrees from University of California, Davis, Stanford University and Pennsylvania State University, Garcia has reached national ranks in her career within the fields of chemical engineering, computer science and public policy. Having worked alongside legislators to improve health care policies, Garcia is well aware of the potential her dreams have in the real world.
In the midst of all her work, Garcia was made aware of the alarming suicide rate for girls and its many causes. With an identifiable cause she knew she could address, and ultimately prevent, The Dream Academy found its driving force to success.
“I found that there is something called the gender dream gap,” said Garcia. “And it is that boys continue to dream from childhood all the way through adolescence to adulthood, whereas girls at the age of 11 stop believing in the dreams that they’ve had because they’ve either been met with some adversity or someone has told them that they can’t, they shouldn’t, or they won’t, and at some point they believe it.”
With a 98 percent acceptance rate at four-year universities among Dream Academy alumni, Garcia is clearly making a difference.
“It’s getting them to just think differently about their life and what kind of impact they want to make,” said Garcia. “We get them to think about more than just themselves, and then we put plans together for how they’re going to do that, and college is a piece of it.”
By implementing a program that offers self-development, interview skills and life skills, in addition to the exposure of STEM opportunities and careers—with engineers, computer scientists and doctors coming in to speak with the girls—The Dream Academy is filling a void society has long left neglected. Thus far, the program has made an impact on more than 100 girls’ lives, with a goal of reaching a million by 2030.
In order to accomplish such a feat, Garcia has done her best to ensure the girls who make it into college not only make it, but rather thrive and build a network of mentors for the future group of girls to strive toward. Once The Dream Academy became an official nonprofit in 2017, Garcia was able to secure a scholarship fund for both continuing students in college and those entering their first year.
However, while society and Garcia’s efforts have continued to progress, not everything has progressed in the same breadth. Women are still largely underrepresented in STEM-based career fields, with institutionalized education behind in the movement, modern tools are serving a greater purpose—for which Garcia is grateful.
“I actually think that that’s one of the reasons why I am not solely focused on college bound students,” said Garcia. “Because things have changed such dramatically. Education can come in many forms, right, but I think what this generation has, is the privilege of taking advantage of, is that there’s education all around you.”
As Mrs. California, Garcia has supplemented her own personal education with life skills that showcase a confidence most individuals lose early in their life. By participating in her first national pageant this week, Garcia finds herself in a unique position to put all her hard work on the line of a new frontier.
“I think people talk about pageants all the time and we kind of give them a bad rap,” said Garcia. “But the women that win these pageants and hold these titles aren’t doing this for the pageant. This is our life, this is what we do. We’re just people who care about the world and want to see something happen and we utilize the pageant platform to amplify our voice, to bring light to the efforts that we’re already doing.”
Whether or not Garcia is crowned this weekend as Mrs. USA Ambassador, her diligence has paved the path for a whole new network of possibilities. While the national crown would certainly expedite the goals she has set for her foundation, the crown she has now holds plenty of weight.
To follow the USA Ambassador Pageant this weekend via livestream, visit Pageantslive.com/store/misc/2019/usamb19.
For more information on The Dream Academy, visit DreamsBC.org.