From Yakima to L.A.: Designer, activist seeks to inspire local students to follow their dreams

Throughout his career as a fashion designer, Isaiah Garza has worked with big-name celebrities like Cardi B, Rihanna, Chance the Rapper and Khloe Kardashian.

Garza’s been to fashion week in New York and Paris; he’s a musician, activist and public speaker. And for the next two weeks, he’s in Yakima to inspire students to follow their hearts and their dreams.

“My story is what makes me unique; I’m from Yakima, Washington, you know?” Garza said. “I come from the inner city. I struggled growing up.”

Garza says he had bad grades when he was young and that his family struggled financially.

“I got expelled from school,” Garza said. “Now I’m speaking at all the schools across Yakima.”

In October, Garza spoke to 700 students at Eisenhower High School, sharing his story in the hope that it would inspire them and make them believe they could aspire to do more, to become the kind of people they want to be.

Afterwards, students reported, “very positive engagement” and “life-changing motivation,” which inspired Yakima School District Superintendent Trevor Greene to bring Garza back for more, according to a district news release.

Garza said he’ll be speaking to students at more than a dozen Yakima-area schools in the coming days.

“The biggest message I really want to just tell these kids is they need to find what they truly love in life and go for that,” Garza said.

Life wasn’t easy for Garza growing up: like many in Yakima, his family struggled.

“The pain and struggle that me and my family went through was what actually drove me to get out of the city,” Garza said.

He left home with very little money and few possessions and headed to Los Angeles. Garza was periodically homeless and was often left wondering if he’d be able to afford to continue to seek to make his dreams a reality.

“I think a lot of people think too much with their brain and not enough with their heart,” Garza said. “I don’t work with my brain: I literally work with my heart.”

Garza says a combination of hard work, determination and luck got him to where he is now.

Among the many hats he wears is that of activist: Garza is incredibly passionate about combating human trafficking, helping the homeless and saving the lives of children dealing with mental health and depression.

To help with those issues, when Garza releases a new song, he also releases merchandise he designed that will help donate to various charities working on the societal problems he cares deeply about.

“I want to inspire the world and I want to help try to change the world,” Garza said.

Garza’s speeches are part of the school district’s “Reimagine” campaign, which asks students, staff and the community to help envision the district’s future.