Growing up in Vallejo, Victoria Grace-Barksdale often thinks of her childhood. Now she’s doing everything she can to help the youth in her hometown.

After a long search for a first-ever Youth Coordinator, the City of Vallejo selected Grace-Barksdale during the summer. She began the job in late August.

“Vallejo is my home and I grew up here,” the youth coordinator said. “I am so honored to be able to put my passion for improving opportunities for youth to work as the Youth Coordinator for the City of Vallejo. It is important for us, as a city, to invest in our youth, utilize our resources, and collaborate with the community to help better Vallejo for generations to come.”

City Manager Mike Malone said in a news release that he was pleased to give this job to Grace-Barksdale.

“We are excited to fill this critical position with the right person for the job,” said Malone. “As a Vallejo native who is already actively engaged in the community, Victoria clearly exudes a passion for what she does. Vallejo is lucky to have her on staff.”

Grace-Barksdale says there is a lot of work to be done to help the city’s youth.

“We have a multitude of concerns so right now it’s about taking a step back and doing the coordination,” Grace-Barksdale said. “What do we have to offer already? We find that out and then we develop a city-wide strategic plan on what we need, and go for direct funding and grants. I’m really about creating a more robust pipeline from schools to colleges and careers for the youth.”

Grace-Barksdale also wants to tackle mental health and safety issues, as well as the need for a new sports center.

“The No. 1 thing I’d love to see in Vallejo is a sports center,” Grace-Barksdale said. “I mean, I don’t think I have met one person that said they were against that. It’s a huge missing link for us because it was a criteria we once met (the location on Mare Island) and do not anymore. It’s a project I’d like to get started on, but it’s a little too early to say where we might have one.”

Grace-Barksdale attended K-12 schools in the city, eventually earning her BA in Sociology with a minor in Education and Applied Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Previously she worked as an Academic Support Provider for the Vallejo City Unified School District while also serving as an event coordinator and youth advocate. Grace-Barksdale has been an active community member and is passionate about improving opportunities for youth and helping connect youth and families to the resources they need.

She serves on the boards of Vallejo Together and the Vallejo Sister City Association. In her free time, she focuses on building partnerships and collaborating with different nonprofits, schools, churches, businesses, and other community organizations to improve the lives of youth in the community.

But her appreciation for working with youth started with one person — her mother Shirley Grace.

“I got my passion for working with youth while going to school at Cooper Elementary,” Grace-Barksdale said. “My mom was heavily involved with the PTA and was known as “The Popsicle Lady.” She was on campus all the time, to the point where people thought she worked for the school. I learned all the different aspects of what it took to run a school, not just with the teachers and staff but everyone. And that always sat close to my heart.”

Grace-Barksdale said her favorite part of the job is meeting new people every day.

“I’ve had a lot of connections with nonprofits and other organizations through my other jobs, but since I was hired as youth coordinator more people have reached out to me who I didn’t previously know,” Grace-Barksdale said. “I’ve been meeting a lot with the colleges in town like Cal Maritime, Touro University and Solano College and I’ve loved the work they’ve done to immerse the students in. They, along with a lot of youth, have been involved in cleanup and youth-driven events. It’s giving them a purpose and I love that mentorship.”