In "Alhambra Characters" we highlight our favorite snippets from past interviews. The series puts a spotlight on Alhambra's diverse and vibrant cast of denizens.
Joanna Vargas seems to be everywhere. She owns Fit Factor on Main Street and assists in managing the Jayvee Dance Center. She'd served as president of the Downtown Alhambra Business Association, and once took the lead in an organized pub crawl. Last year she was responsible for Alhambra's first annual "5K Pumpkin Run." Vargas wrote to us saying that more than 1,200 runners participated. "We hope that this year we grow the run to over 2,000 runners and that we get more of the community involved through route cheerers and festival attendees," said Vargas. In interviews from 2011 and 2013, she showed a more personal side as she spoke about her experiences growing up in Alhambra.
On the ethnic diversity of Alhambra:
I went to college at UC Santa Barbara in 1995, and I went through culture shock. I’m used to the melting pot; I thought all cities were like Alhambra. Then I get to UCSB and everyone looks at me like Joanna the Mexican. I don’t even speak Spanish. I’m like the whitest Mexican you’ll ever meet. I did two quarters. Cried every day. Then I went to Long Beach State. I loved it. In Long Beach I had all sorts of friends.
How Alhambra gets a bad rap sometimes:
I want to see a shift in the way we’re perceived. For example, I feel like people don’t think that there’s money or there’s smarts in Alhambra. But the young, hip entrepreneur types, they’re here.
On teaching children at Jayvee:
It’s important for me to teach kids dance and creative arts because it assists with their self-esteem. It helps their grades go up, gives them confidence, and teaches them the importance of being in front of crowds. It fulfills my soul because teaching is what I love to do.