Cristo Rey Boston High School

News & Features » Alumna Kelly Garcia: Activism is a Lifelong Passion. 

Alumna Kelly Garcia: Activism is a Lifelong Passion. 

Kelly Garcia“Activism is in my blood; I grew up surrounded by strong people who believed in the power of speaking up and making the world a better place,” noted Kelly Garcia, Cristo Rey Boston Class of 2011. As a small child, I was out in the neighborhood with my family, ringing doorbells and speaking to people about creating change. Raised in the City of Chelsea, I saw my mother, Socorro Vega, and aunt, Gladys Vega, work hard to improve the community, and they remain my inspiration.  
Garcia's post-collegiate career has focused on positively impacting young students' lives through her elected roles and as a Special Education Administrator for Excel Academy Charter High School. 
Now the Councilor-at-Large for the City of Chelsea and former Chair of the Chelsea School Committee, Garcia radiates passion for her work. She has garnered numerous recognitions for her advocacy, including El Mundo Boston Latino 30 Under 30, and by the Chelsea City Council as a 'National Hispanic Heritage Month Latinx Trailblazer’ for her endless advocacy and commitment to all students across the district. 
Kelly credits Cristo Rey Boston as an integral part of her journey. "Attending Cristo Rey Boston High School was my mother's choice because she wanted us prepared to succeed in college and knew our public school would not get us there." Her determination stemmed from her experience of being told that college was not an option for a student "like her."  
Garcia noted, "My experience at Cristo Rey Boston ensured I was on the pathway to college. Both junior and senior year, I was able to attend an overnight program on college campuses, first at Fairfield, then Holy Cross, and that is when I began to visualize myself as a college student." 
"More importantly, although I arrived at CRB with a solid work ethic, Cristo Rey Boston helped me build the skills I needed to become a strong professional woman. I learned to cultivate references, gained professional experience, and created a strong resume." Garcia recalled. 
Arriving at the College of the Holy Cross campus was a complete culture shock, Kelly recalled, but she quickly found support from the school's Multicultural Peer Educators, a group that taught her about the “isms” in society. She remembers herself as "moving from a confident senior at Cristo Rey Boston to a quiet student in the back of the classroom her first year at Holy Cross, unsure of her academic footing, and reluctant to express an opinion." However, she regained her confidence over time and had a "powerful shift in brain and soul – knowing without hesitation that I deserved to be here!" 
Following graduation, Garcia parlayed that confidence into a job with Teach for America (TFA). This highly competitive program places college graduates into school systems impacted by poverty and systemic racism. She began her career as a Special Education teacher in Roxbury via the program and immediately began to think about how to create change in her hometown of Chelsea. She threw her hat into the ring for a spot on the Chelsea School Committee and became the youngest member and only educator over the last decade to serve on that elected body.  
Kelly recalled, "I wanted to make a difference at the ground level, to ensure that every child who attended the Chelsea Public Schools would understand that their future would not be determined by lack of opportunity, but instead was full of possibilities." During her eight-year tenure on the School Committee, where she served four as the President, they accomplished a lot, focusing on increasing staff diversity and beginning in middle school to focus on college preparation so students would know college was a viable option.   
Her proudest accomplishment during her tenure on the school committee was establishing the Chelsea Equity Committee, designed to address systemic injustices within the school district. As a result of this group, equity audits are conducted periodically, affinity groups were created, and books now reflect students' identities across the district. 
Garcia remarked passionately, "Our role on the School Committee is not to decide the future of our students but to support our students every step of the way and provide them with the skill set to conquer the world. It's important that all students recognize they are valued community members, despite their challenges, and that their pathway forward is well supported." 
Reflecting, Garcia is proud of her accomplishments as Chair of the Chelsea School Committee. In addition to starting the Equity Committee, they increased the representation of teachers and administrators of color within the district, moving to 30% administration of color and hiring the first Latina Superintendent. She noted, "Change takes time, and relationships are important. My voice was important on the school committee as the only educator. I could make a difference and am incredibly proud of all we accomplished together." 
In 2023, Garcia focused on the broader issues that impacted Chelsea and ran for City Council. As a newly elected City Councilor, Garcia shares that her passion still lies in helping the young people of Chelsea. She has an extensive list of priorities she intends to tackle, including the housing crisis, food insecurities, establishing a youth center, and so much more. Currently chairing the Housing Committee on the City Council, she noted, "Our families are being pushed out of the community as housing prices rise, and we see an increasing number of families utilizing the food pantry, which currently serves 5,000 people per week. These are all pressing issues that we need to address immediately."  
When asked to share her wisdom with current Cristo Rey Boston students, she had great advice: "Treat your credit as your baby; you can't do anything without good credit. Be professional, always do your very best, keep all doors open, and be the best version of yourself. In your career, learn to ask for advice, set your goals, stay focused, and work through your hardships, but don't let them derail your future.” 
The lessons learned from being raised in a family deeply committed to activism are deeply ingrained, and the skills she honed while at Cristo Rey Boston have served her well. Kelly's drive and passion for her community shine brightly, and she is truly a trailblazer for the next generation of young people in her community.