We are pleased to announce that Julia Vergara Executive Director The Puente Project, has been selected as a Hispanic Lifestyle 2023 Latina of Influence. Ms. Vergara will be recognized for her leadership in our community during Hispanic Lifestyle’s Latina Conference 2023 to be held on November 9, 2023 at Wilson Creek Winery, Temecula, California.
Julia is a visionary leader who is passionate about pursuing equity, elevating the voices of BIPOC communities, and using education as a catalyst to inspire social change and a more just society.
Since joining The Puente Project in 1995, Julia’s role has evolved as the heart and soul of Puente, paving the way for transformative contributions to this award-winning program. Puente’s mission is to increase the number of educationally underrepresented students who enroll in 4-year colleges and universities, earn degrees, and return to the community as mentors and leaders to future generations. Puente’s focus is on educational reform, accomplished through the training of faculty in secondary and community college institutions. During her tenure spanning over two decades as a faculty trainer, Julia imparted knowledge and skills to over 800 educators within California and Texas. Throughout her multifaceted journey with Puente, Julia has consistently led with an unwavering commitment and passion for the program’s core principles and mission. Regardless of her title, she has always considered her most important responsibility to be an advocate for instructors, counselors, and students. Now, as executive director, Julia’s genuine support for her constituents continues to be the heart of her work. Her leadership, innovation, and inherent belief in access and equity for underrepresented students is the compass that continues to guide her, and Puente’s work, today.
Under Julia’s leadership, The Puente Project’s budget has multiplied impressively from $3.1 million to $15 million. This means each Puente campus throughout California now has access to providing more services, multi-cultural experiences, and extracurricular opportunities that support their scholars’ academic journeys toward earning university degrees. Guided by Julia’s vision, Puente is strategically positioned to grow exponentially. As it expands its acclaimed programming and professional development opportunities, Puente seeks to increase the reach of its success to include educators across all disciplines and throughout the United States.
As a first-generation student whose parents immigrated from El Salvador in the 1960s, Julia is deeply committed to advocating on behalf of, and creating opportunities for the communities she serves. Before joining The Puente Project she worked as a gang intervention specialist in San Jose where she helped conceptualize and implement the first tattoo removal program in the country. During this time, she also realized that institutions needed a radical change if they were going to help support and empower students from all backgrounds. Julia has also worked for Justice for Janitors and The Mexican-American Community Service Agency.
In her free time, Julia enjoys travel adventures with her husband, daughter Gabriela, stepson Anthony, and her mother. Her greatest joy comes from sharing laughter and being in community with her immediate family and her Puente familia.
Submitted by Josefina Canchola a 2017 Hispanic Lifestyle Latina of Influence