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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Valeria Galarza

September 29, 2016 | Camden, Community News, Community News and Media

Valeria Galarza

Valeria Galarza’s extended family embraces the culture and heritage of the Dominican Republic on her mother’s side, El Salvador on her father’s side, Puerto Rico on her husband’s side and the USA where Galarza and her husband were born and raised.

Galarza is senior project manager for Cooper’s Ferry Partnership and project manager for New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Camden where she provides leadership to the Get Healthy Camden initiative. Get Healthy Camden seeks to advance policy, systems and environmental changes that create equity and sustainability for a healthier Camden. Thanks in large part to Galarza’s leadership, Camden City Council recently adopted a wellness resolution committing the City to consider health in all policies moving forward.

Spanish was Galarza’s first language, and she gained command of English through ESL classes and exposure to Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Being bi-lingual has proved to be a distinct advantage in a career that has merited accolades from a broad array of organizations and publications. Galarza’s recognitions include: South Jersey Magazine (Woman of the Year), SJ Magazine (Exceptional Women Entrepreneur & Executive), Camden County Board of Freeholders (Sustainability Champion), South Jersey Young Professional Association (Angel of the Year Award), Rutgers University (Distinguished Alumni Award) and the Campbell Soup Company (Healthy Communities Partner Award).

After growing up in a family with a history of high blood pressure and heart disease, health became her passion. Early on, she identified public health, specifically with communities of color, as the field in which she wanted to contribute.

Healthy living is the goal of her work and the purpose of her family life. Galarza tries to find the healthy way to do things whether it’s baking empanadas instead of frying them (a tip learned from her Mom), or substituting water for juice and sugary drinks and then adding a slice of fresh fruit for taste and color.

These days, family-fun time includes bike riding. Galarza’s six-year-old son just accomplished riding without training wheels. Now, as often as possible, the family bikes on trails and safe streets in southern New Jersey.

Another ambition, although not yet started, is to plant a small garden. “So much of the Latino and Hispanic culture is about growing your own food,” Galarza said. “It’s important to continue those practices here in America. Nothing is healthier or more rewarding than cultivating the earth. It reflects who we are and where we’ve come from.”

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