Juanita Sarmiento is the Catskill Regional Coordinator in Sullivan County, NY, an economically depressed community with some of the highest poverty indicators in the state. Juanita started as a Fellow with the Youth Economic Group (YEG) and transitioned to YEG Coordinator a few years later, a position she still occupies.
As YEG Coordinator she is responsible for coordinating the Youth Economic Group, a leadership development program for high school-aged students – one of several components of Rural & Migrant Ministry, Inc.’s Youth Empowerment Programs (YEP), which works with rural, migrant, and immigrant youth. In 2010 YEG members founded and continue to run Bags for Justice (http://bagsforjustice.com/) the only youth-led and union-affiliated (NYSUT) cooperative business that we know of in NYS.
Juanita also coordinates the women’s sewing cooperative in Liberty, Cociendo Culturas, part of our Rural Women’s Network. Cociendo Culturas/Crafting Cultures was originally founded to sew masks for rural farmworkers and other agricultural essential workers, who were being denied PPEs. Cociendo Culturas is now collaborating with the members of YEG to create the products on which YEG will print their social justice messages.
Juanita has been on the front lines of bringing pop-up vaccination clinics to both Sullivan and Orange Counties, conducting outreach, making appointments and transporting workers, along with distributing much needed financial assistance. She was integral in creating a tri-lingual facebook page, Comunidad Rural de NY/Rural Community of NY/ La Communauté Rurale de NY to disseminate crucial information about resources available and where to access them for example healthcare, including mental health information, disability and unemployment insurance, and legal assistance for renters and laborers.
Juanita has been instrumental in the leadership development of the students in YEG and the geographically isolated and marginalized members of the Sullivan County rural community.
Juanita was born in Colombia and raised in Sullivan County, NY. She graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a major in Biology and minor in Italian. During high school and college, she was very actively involved in advocating for the community and maintained leadership roles in organizations that did the same.

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