Jennifer Garcia sits in the corner of her front porch on the 3300 block of South 15th Street, surrounded by family.
Garcia spent much of her childhood in St. Francis, a small municipality just south of Bay View, but has seen a lot of Milwaukee, also living in West Allis, on the north and east sides of the city and attending Hamilton High School on the south side. What’s her experience been like? “Diverse,” says Garcia. “Especially, now, having kids, I want them to be diverse so it’s not like they’re just secluded with one race.”
Why is diversity important to her? “Cause there’s people of all different colors around. Just meeting different people, learning their cultures, ethnicities, what they eat, what they do…” – it’s important, says Garcia.
“I’ve been to like fourteen different schools so I’ve seen my fair share; we moved a lot,” she says.
“I went to Hamilton, which is on 61st and Forest Home, and then there was an alternative program within that – I went there, got pregnant at 16 – and then went to Grandview Alternative, which is on 32nd and Greenfield.”
What was that like, being a young mom? “Hard, having a kid at a young age, but I did it. Hard, though.”
Her oldest daughter is 14, now. But, back when she was younger, family members helped out a lot, says Garcia. “They were really close with me and close with her, so; didn’t have much help from the dad. But that made me grow into the person that I am today, I guess – responsible and independent.”
“I suck at dating,” she says. “I just want to meet my equal or somebody that can – not be above me but – teach me something I haven’t already taught myself, like, just in life, in general.”
When I ask her what she’s found, so far, Garcia responds: “Struggles. It’s hard being a single parent, it is. Um, a lot of losers that want women to take care of them, pretty much. I work hard and…just to mooch – a lot of those around; a lot.”
“I want to give [my kids] things that I didn’t have…and, once I graduate, I’ll have the money to do it.”
Despite becoming a mother at a young age, Garcia managed to attend MATC and graduate with a degree as a Health Unit Coordinator (basically, a hospital secretary). But when she couldn’t find a job, Garcia ended up working at Aldi.
“They said [I couldn’t get a job] because I didn’t have experience in the medical setting… But, then again, it doesn’t make sense – I went to school for medical and, then, I just couldn’t get anything.”
“I figured Aldi wasn’t where I wanted to be for 20-some years – it’s a lot of work lifting and stuff – so, then I went back to school.”
Now, Garcia works at St. Joseph’s as a Phlebotomist and is in the process of getting yet another degree. She wants to be an X-Ray Technician and, though it’s been challenging, Garcia knows it’ll be worth it in the long run.
“I want to give [my kids] things that I didn’t have, like traveling…and, once I graduate, I’ll have the money to do it,” she says.
“You know, you’ve gotta go to school to succeed, pretty much.”
And that’s not only when it comes to her. Garcia stresses the importance of school to her kids, as well – an advantage she says she didn’t necessarily have, growing up. “I learned from what I didn’t get as a child,” says Garcia. “With schooling, I’m very specific on where my kids go to school.”
Her daughter attends Greenfield High School and her son is enrolled in the Spanish Immersion School. “Greenfield’s a really good high school. I’m not puttin’ her in an alternative school or just an MPS school – the learning just sucks.” And, of her son, Garcia says, “I think being bilingual will benefit him, in the long run.”
As far as looking ahead, Garcia’s only concerned with one thing: “Seeing my kids grow up and be happy; it’s all about me and my kids.”
Did you find value in Jennifer’s story? If so, please subscribe to our newsletter; we publish the story of a different Milwaukeean every week.
Milwaukee Stories is a nonprofit organization that works to bring you the real stories of regular people all across our city. This work is solely supported by individual contributions from people like you. Please consider becoming a sustaining member, or make a one-time donation, today.
Patron | $3 monthly (or $50 one-time) donation
Member | $7 monthly (or $100 one-time) donation
Partner | $25 monthly (or $500+ one-time) donation