We had the good fortune of connecting with Joelisse Galarza and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joelisse, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I think about risk as flipping a coin: its either heads or tails. Life is like a coin, you never know what you are going to get but you are hopeful for the side you want to choose. I always reflect on risk as something that can go well and if it doesn’t, I ask myself, “how can you navigate through this? Was what you originally wanted going to bring you growth?” Within the course of my career, I have taken many risks. I originally was set on teaching 5th-6th grade, adamant about going in the classroom and executing lessons. As time passed, I realized my heart served a different purpose than planned. I packed my bags and moved to New York to study Social Work in some of the toughest neighborhoods of New York City, the South Bronx and Washington Heights. I knew my purpose was greater than what I had originally planned for myself, I was determined to figure it out. I decided to take the risk because if all else fails, I would’ve navigated a different way to the end goal. I took a risk going to a primarily white institution, Columbia University, as a Latina who had rarely left the lines of Texas. Why? I wanted to challenge myself. I also wanted to show San Antonio and every child of color out there, that what you put your mind to, you can achieve. So often, we, as people, take on imposter syndrome, doubting our abilities due to societal views and opinions of others that are irrelevant, I wanted to show people that it was attainable. Being in the field of Social Work, it can be very overwhelming and at times, complicated, I took the risk of taking the role of founding Social Worker at my school at the age of 23. Here I am two years later, having created a social emotional program where the students can receive therapeutic services, where they can feel safe, seen and heard. Some believe taking risks is too much of a price, in my mind, taking a risk means having the opportunity to accomplish things no one has, to create a legacy. I look at risks as opportunities for growth, if I fail, in the end, I will always rise.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My career in the field of Social Work began in 2017, shortly after leaving teaching I changed my life and moved to New York to figure out this field of work and what it entailed. Social work is challenging, I became passionate about the idea that I could impact the lives of people through therapy. I could navigate their deepest traumas within their lives with them and assist them in their healing. Many people stray away from mental health because its difficult and its uncomfortable. To me, Social Work is all about the connection. Building a connection with the client is so crucial in their healing. If they do not feel safe and secure with you, how can they navigate their trauma with you? How can they heal? I am most proud of the relationships I have built with people throughout this work. Trust is so crucial and often lost in our society. When I gain the trust of my clients to assist them and their healing, I feel accomplished. I have so many things going on right now from school social work to my second job as a therapist for, “The Purple Couch.” It is so exciting to witness and engage in various types of social work both the institutional side and the side of entrepreneurship. I am excited to have started working for, “The Purple Couch,” a private practice ran by Jessica Reynolds, LCSW, where I provide therapeutic services for the community for a sliding scale fee. I am proud of the fact that I am always finding new ways to engage in this work, to paint a positive picture of all of the things we as Social Workers do to help people. I want people to know that I am someone who is resilient, that never gives up in this field. I am always striving to find new ways to bring light to this work, to bring about additional opportunities and show the world that Mental Health is a vital part of life.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Firstly, I would like to shoutout my mom. My mother always told me to shoot for the stars, that there was no limit on my dreams. She encouraged me to go to Columbia University and change my life, saying I am going to be somebody. I appreciate her more than words can describe. My mentor, Brandi, she lifts me up in so many ways. Meeting her was a blessing in disguise for me at age 18. She talks about me in rooms I am not even in, always looking to bring me the upmost opportunities for my success. She created her own non-profit, “The Lemonade Circle” to empower young women of color. She inspires me with her work ethic and vision. Thank you for your selflessness, Brandi. My best friend, Vanessa, 10 years down the line and she still is my biggest cheerleader. Every graduation, awards ceremony, birthday and special event, she’s in my corner. Thank you for your friendship Vanessa. To all my friends, my family and my supporters: thank you for all of your congratulations, prayers, uplifting messages, phone calls and the list goes on. Having people in my corner who support me and my vision for this field means the world to me.
Photo Credits: Sarah Sharp, San Antonio