We had the good fortune of connecting with Karolina Villagrana and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Karolina, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I would like to reframe this question as to how I came up for idea of supporting my community.

With the pandemic, a lot had shifted really fast, especially schools. In the spring of 2020, we saw all learning move virtual. This impacted our communities on resources that we depend on and access to simply learn. As our Southwest community was especially impacted per the pandemic, our youth needed alternative programming and resources as schools were previously meeting this need.

As an educator, I also recognized how vital early education influences the trajectory of our students’ academic success and the need to socialize with their peers. Thus, there were two goals I was trying to accomplish during the early onset of the pandemic: 1) Ensuring our students were still able to engage with learning live 2) Be able to interact with their peers, while staying safe. Thus, this led to “Books in the Park, Libros en en El Parque.” Our Southwest community is rich in language, so I wanted to make sure we honor this by being inclusive of our bilingual kids.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started in education right after college teaching in Kansas City and then I was a founding teacher for an elementary school in San Jose. I am a Denver girl and I knew I wanted to this work at home, in my own community, so I moved back home and forever grateful to continue to serve my Southwest Community, the area that became home for me as interned with Former Councilman Paul Lopez.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would say Southwest Denver, I would showed them what home and Denver is for me.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would say my soon to be husband, Nicholas Martinez. He truly inspires me with his work and motivates me to get involved within the community. His work encourages me to find ways to use my stregnths that I have gain from work as an educator and utilize it within the broader community, which is big as I am a little shy. He truly helped me to find a way to serve Denver, as I have relayed on my role at schools in past to do so, however, with the pandemic this shifted immensely and I needed to find a way to be active within my community. Seeing him organize the Peace March to address the community harm over the summer and organize students to become civically engaged to ultimately use their voices in bringing a youth center in our community, has demonstrated how I can use my passion for education beyond just a school but within the community I truly love.

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