Joey Garcia founded Rise Up Belize, a non-profit organization, in 2004 and volunteers as its executive director. Rise Up Belize is a leadership training and empowerment program for teen girls ages 15 -17. Ms. Garcia trains the teens in cultural diversity, curriculum development, presentation skills, team building, conflict resolution, classroom management and fundraising and then travels with them to Belize, Central America, where she was born, and where the teens conduct a summer school for impoverished elementary school students in various villages in Belize. Since launching the program.
Ms. Garcia has trained over 100 teen girls and those teen teachers have provided free summer school programs to over 1,000 Belizean children. Rise Up Belize also provides scholarships so Belizean teens can attend high school in Belize. There is no free education in Belize, all education is fee-based, and the fees are unaffordable for many families. Ms. Garcia also serves as a mentor to many young women in the Sacramento area and beyond.
In addition to her volunteer work with Rise Up Belize!, Ms. Garcia has written the “Ask Joey” relationship advice column in the Sacramento News& Review newspaper reaching 300,000 readers for more than 20 years (1996 – 2016). She was also among the founding staff of the Women’s Wisdom Project, an arts empowerment program for homeless women, and she has volunteered or been employed by, most of the programs serving homeless or disenfranchised teens and adults in Northern California. Joey has also taught poetry and art to troubled young people in after-school programs, transitional living centers and homeless shelters.
In addition, she has counseled teens and adults and taught communication, conflict resolution and life skills.
Ms. Garcia has received the President’s Award from the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce, The Exceptional Women of Color award, and the Lighthouse for Literary award for her work with Rise Up Belize.
A widely published poet, she received a 2014 Pushcart nomination in poetry, a Paris Writer’s Workshop Fellowship, and a fellowship to Spoleto, Italy from Writers Conferences and Festivals. Joey has also received feature writing awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.
Her book, “When Your Heart Breaks, It’s Opening to Love: healing and finding love after an affair, heartbreak or divorce” received the Living Well award for books that encourage forgiveness and tolerance.