Gloria dela Garza (Rankin) was born and raised in Edinburg, TX. She moved to San Antonio to study biology at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Gloria is a graduate of LeaderBOARD Community Leadership Academy and Texas Partners in Policymaking, which is an advanced leadership training program for self-advocates and parents of children with developmental disabilities (DD). She describes herself as a special education advocate, a disability rights advocate, and an active community volunteer. As a special education advocate, she dedicates her time to helping families navigate special education services, understand Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and access critical supports their children need to succeed.
To share her knowledge, she has volunteered for a number of community organizations, including Any Baby Can, the Down Syndrome Association of South Texas, Kinetic Kids, the Rio Grande Valley Down Syndrome Association, Texas Parent to Parent, Habitat for Humanity, and Benjamin’s Right Hand. She is a member of the Junior League of San Antonio on the Signature Project Committee, and has been involved with the Centennial project since 2018. She is a member of the National Down Syndrome Congress and Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates.
Gloria currently serves on the Easter Seals of Central Texas Project Advisory Committee, and the Autism Society of Texas Advocacy Committee.
Gloria credits her three amazing children for setting her on her path as an advocate. No matter how busy the week is, she always makes time for her kids. Their favorite activity is Friday Family movie nights at home with real movie snacks! Popcorn! Candy boxes! And nachos with Rico’s cheese! Occasionally, it will be bedtime by the time everyone agrees on a movie, but they all still enjoy their time together with memories they have created as a family.
Gloria hopes her role in the Paving New Paths campaign will generate a positive impact on our community. She is only one person, but together, anything is possible.
Why have you decided to serve as a Trailblazer for the JLSA?
It has been an honor to be involved in the Junior League of San Antonio Signature Project Development Committee from 2018 to now as I have had the chance to see how much the project has evolved. I agreed to be a Trailblazer because this project is so near and dear to my heart. I truly believe our partnership with Clarity Child Guidance Center has the potential to have a long lasting positive impact not only in our local community, but also all over the country. Helping to end the stigma of mental health, promoting mental wellness in our children, and influencing change in our communities have become lifetime goals for me. I am raising money for an important cause that I face on a daily basis. I have learned there are not many resources available for our youth, and many remain unaware of how to reach out to those resources—or are afraid to do so. I look forward to seeing how this project will help increase awareness, provide resources, and offer skills to children and their families in overcoming difficult times. We need to teach our children that they are not alone. There is help available.
Who and/or what inspires you to pave a path in our community (be a community leader/participant)?
I am the mother of three children, two of whom have disabilities. My three children, Michael, age 10, Mason, age 8, and Malisa, age 6, are my inspiration. They are my world.
“1 in 5 children in the U.S. suffer from a mental, behavioral and emotional concern.” 1 of those 5 is mine. We have experienced my oldest child going through a mental health crisis, and not knowing where to turn. Thankfully, we were pointed to Clarity Child Guidance Center. Having a child with mental health concerns remains one of the most difficult life experiences for a family to bear—an experience a person cannot fully understand unless they have been through it. I believe that in telling and sharing our stories, it will help to end the stigma associated with mental health. I hope to inspire others to share their stories. If our story helps one individual, it will truly be worth it.