By Katharine Webster
Alba Garcia Camero Johnson loves to get a good debate going in her online M.S. in Justice Studies classes.
Recently, her Employment Law instructor asked students to discuss whether they would hire a blind secretary who was fully qualified. Most of the students argued that accommodating the blind woman would be too costly. Garcia researched websites about blind secretaries, found out the equipment they need isn’t very expensive, and told all her classmates – very respectfully – that they were wrong.
“I’m constantly challenging my classmates to look at things from a different perspective,” she says. “What if this happened to a loved one?”
Her views come from experience as an immigrant from Colombia and as the mother of five children ages 2 to 25, four of whom have serious health problems or special needs. Her husband also suffers from health problems that make it difficult for him to work. When Garcia lost her job leading behavioral therapy groups for juvenile offenders in the Miami-Dade Boot Camp and placing former prisoners in jobs in November 2012, her family needed food stamps to survive.
“I’ve been on the other side of the desk,” she says. “That’s why when I’m on this side of the desk, I know I need to treat my clients with respect and dignity.”
Garcia, 41, searched diligently for another job. When she didn’t get one right away, she decided she’d be more marketable with a master’s degree.
Since then, she’s earned a 4.0 GPA while carrying a full-time course load – and landed another job, helping mentally ill children and their families get services.
“It feels good to know that I’m going to make it because I’m not alone on this,” she says. “A whole team was set up from the beginning to support me so that I can succeed.”