iLEAD-SCVi Grad Julia Barragan Leads Meaningful Work with Mental Health Nonprofit

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iLEAD Schools facilitators challenge learners to apply their skills to work for the greater good. iLEAD Santa Clarita (SCVi) alumna Julia Barragan has taken this to heart and is dedicating her professional life to serving others and addressing community needs.

Twenty-two-year-old Barragan graduated from SCVi in 2016. In 2020, she graduated magna cum laude from Sonoma State with a degree in liberal studies and a minor in women’s and gender studies. Now she is working as the Youth Mental Health Program Coordinator in Sonoma County for National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI).

While at SCVi, Barragan was involved in volunteer opportunities and community-based projects, and she said that these experiences were instrumental in launching her career. In addition to the projects and opportunities outside the classroom, Barragan feels her overall educational experience and the iLEAD learning environment gave her the confidence and skills to take on her current work.

“Some of my best memories at SCVi were experiencing the space for expression and creativity,” Barragan said. “I admire those critical years when I learned social-emotional skills and slowly became who I am now.”

Barragan remembers how supportive the staff and her peers were, as well as the impact of her advisory class. She said that her advisory experience offered her the regular opportunity to check in with others on a deeper level and allowed space for discussing current issues and challenges.

“Advisory is where I learned how to talk about mental health with other people. I didn’t realize it, but this class informed my future in a big way,” Barragan said. “My advisory facilitator, Ms. Goiri, created an environment that allowed for personal growth.”

According to Barragan, these experiences are instrumental in her career.

“The skills I have found to be the most important in my work have been problem-solving, responsibility and communication,” Barragan said.

She may be only 22, but Barragan said she happily offers advice to current high schoolers about slowing down a bit and appreciating their opportunities and the relationships that are impacting them. She urges high schoolers to realize it’s not about having it all figured out, but rather about pursuing topics and ideas of interest and seeing where they will take you.

“Just show up and engage. Be your authentic self, sharing your desire to learn and grow,” Barragan said. “Learn from mistakes and use these lessons to develop your skill set.”

Barragan remembers the strong relationships and mentoring experiences at SCVi and encourages all learners to seize these special opportunities.

“When you have a school staff member or facilitator you admire, ask them questions and learn from their experiences as well,” Barragan said. “They want to see you succeed.”

She also urges others to get as involved on their college campuses as they do in high school. She values her experiences of being a resident advisor in the dorms, working as a summer orientation leader and even being a student assistant in the library. She said these led to further work-based experiences, such as externships, internships and more.

“I also completed internships with the university’s Department of Confidential Advocacy and the Counseling and Psychological Services Center,” Barragan said. “Through these, I found meaning and purpose working in the mental health field.”

In terms of her connection with NAMI, this too started at Sonoma State when they were hosting a tabling event on campus. After speaking with them, Barragan said she knew this was something she had to pursue. She then began working part-time on the NAMI Sonoma County Warmline, a talk line that provides resource referrals, information and emotional support to county residents.

Barragan is thoroughly enjoying her work with NAMI and the nonprofit world. She’s very proud that all the services that NAMI offers are free to the public. She enjoys working with a small but dedicated group of individuals who want to continue to learn and serve their community. She is looking forward to applying to graduate school, and her future goals are to earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology and become a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Meanwhile, her iLEAD and PBL roots are always present as she shares a recent video project from her work with NAMI titled “Coping with Stress: Tips from Youth for Youth.” She also invites current iLEAD learners, facilitators and staff to connect with her through her LinkedIn profile.

Barragan is excited about her current work and opportunities ahead.

“I am seeing where life takes me,” she said. “I am proud of what I have accomplished and excited to see where life takes me next.”

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