For Women’s History Month KGET, Dignity Health, and Clinica Sierra Vista want to recognize Remarkable Women in our community. Every Wednesday on 17 News at Sunrise we’ll share the stories of our four finalists in this year’s search. As we introduce you to our third finalist, we actually have to tell you about two women… because their stories are so intertwined, one might not have turned out the same way without the other.
A sisters’ love binds Olivia Garcia and Dina Ronquillo-Calderon. “We grew up in a tough neighborhood, a poor neighborhood and a lot of our cousins didn’t have a lot of opportunities, and they fell to the tough life,” says Olivia. That “tough life” landed Olivia and Dina in their grandmothers’ home… where she raised the cousins as sisters. Dina actually thinks it was God who orchestrated the shift in their lives that would forever change their futures. “I think God put us in each other’s lives at a time when we needed each other. She was an inspiration to me that I never had, she was like a light that just happened to come through and I think that was all God because she made such a path for everybody, including myself.”
Olivia would forge her own path. It started at Bakersfield College, and has landed her back there today as a professor. “I was the first in my family to go to college. I felt a little bit lost and overwhelmed because I was like, I don’t know what I’m doing. I met a journalism teacher and a counselor, and they took me under their wing and showed me that college was possible.” “This girl would get up, we didn’t have a lot of resources, she would get up, walk, take the GET bus, whatever she had to do to get here to make sure she was setting a good example,” remembers Dina.
After BC, Olivia graduated Fresno State and went on to become a reporter and editor at the Bakersfield Californian. But as much as she loved reporting, her story would come full-circle when she was asked to teach part time at BC. “I fell in love with the students,” she says. “Education was so important to me because it opened so many doors and I always wanted to give back to the place where it all started.” Now she’s a history professor at BC and a lecturer at Cal State Bakersfield. But that’s not all. Olivia married a marine and has four sons, two of whom have served in the military. That led her to another passion, the Devil Pups program where she and her husband volunteer and have been honored for their dedication to the kids involved. And through it all, her sister has been by her side, the one who nominated her as a remarkable woman.
“It’s more than just a nomination for me, it’s acknowleding that she broke this viscious cycle,” explains Dina. “When I heard about this award I’m thinking she’s the one deserving it because she’s my hero and I love her so much and I’m just so blessed God gave me her in my life,” says Olivia with tears in her eyes.
And now they’re by each other’s side as Dina fights cancer. Encouraging and lifting each other up just like they always have… stronger together, soul sisters, a pair of remarkable women.