The Mighty Barraza
Selfie quote — “Chiquita pero picosa”
Her Inner Light - seeing the good in everyone regardless of where she is from or what she has done
Her message to women everywhere — “Love the person that you are. Yesterday has made us. And we are mighty, awesome, beautiful.”
Nubia Barraza had a happy early childhood in Mexico, growing up close to her mother’s family. She became an older sister at the tender age of one, and three years later she and her family stole across the United States border with who she remembers as a kind coyote. The tough years that followed shaped her resilience, and she became the independent, strong woman she is today. Nubia struggled in school. Homelife on a dairy farm was rough, with Nubia's mother suffering from a serious accident and her parents’ marriage being rocky. Nubia’s father’s unsteady employment forced the family to move from place to place. Through it all, Nubia held on to her sense of self. In high school she joined the wrestling team as the healthier alternative to the social circles that had taunted her during the earlier school years. She studied hard, setting her sights on college. The first year she started college, her family broke apart. Her parents divorced, and she lost both sets of grandparents within some months of each other. Through these rough times Nubia said to herself, “I am taking good care of myself now so that later I will be able to help others.”
Nubia joined the Oakland Police Academy after college. She saw roughness on the force, and she was surrounded by a culture she didn’t understand. But in her heart she knew she wanted to serve as a bridge between the community and the law. When an opportunity came along to work with at-risk youths at an after school program as team leader, she knew she had found the place to build her bridge. She advocated for young people in the juvenile system, who had gone through foster care and/or were struggling with substance abuse. Nubia realized that in order to do this work well, she needed more learning. She applied to graduate school and obtained her masters degree in family therapy and counseling.
Throughout a good part of the last decade, Nubia has served minors who have been victims of assault, human trafficking and other trauma. She has volunteered at domestic violence shelters and worked professionally with minors at youth detention facilities. In her various roles, in addition to supervising the daily activities of detained minors, she has offered individual and group counseling and overseen their emotional well-being. Since obtaining her degree in counseling, Nubia has been serving as a program coordinator and lead clinician at the Girl’s Program with StarVista, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming the lives of children across San Mateo county. Girl’s Program is an intensive court-mandated program that provides psycho-therapy, group and family therapy services for incarcerated girls between the ages of 13 and 18 who are dealing with trauma and addiction. The human trafficking training program Nubia had taken during her time on the Oakland Police Force also serves her well.
“Working with high risk youths is where my passion is. These girls are resilient, and they teach me so much.” With her empathy and huge heart, Nubia supports the girls’ physical health, emotional stability, and social interactions. “They know that I see them for who they are. That I care about them, and I hold space for everything they are going through. That I can help them recognize their strength, courage and intelligence, that’s what I love most about what I do.” Nubia draws upon her strength and compassion to lift them out of crisis.
Nubia has modeled resilience throughout her own life. At the age of 32, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. While fighting for her life in and out of the hospital undergoing treatment, Nubia continued to work with at-risk girls. She is in remission now. Thankfully this force — this intelligent, beautiful, perseverant force of light — continues to shine upon the lives of those vulnerable among us who would otherwise be lost.
This story was captured by Cheng-Ling from Herliograph.