For two sons of migrant workers, the move to Sacramento for college was a night-and-day change from their small farming community homes: Sacramento State is home to more students than the combined populations of Galt and Esparto, the respective hometowns of David Garcia and Cuahutemoc Vargas, owners and co-founders of the midtown boutique Kulture.
Despite the dramatic change of scenery, Garcia and Vargas found a home away from home on campus in the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), a federally funded scholarship program that helps first-year students from migrant and seasonal farmworker backgrounds transition to and succeed in college.
Years later, the former “CAMPers” are parlaying their successful business into a way to give back to the program that gave them so much.
“Sacramento for other people might not seem that big, but to me it was,” Vargas says. “So CAMP helped me a lot and made it easier. Since they did that for me, why wouldn’t I want to give back to them?”
Since 1981, CAMP has helped thousands of students from migrant families adjust to college life. Each year, the program fosters a family-like environment for a cohort of 70 students and provides assistance with everything from financial aid and housing to tutoring and counseling.
Garcia and Vargas met at Sacramento State through mutual friends at CAMP, connecting with each other and other CAMPers through shared experiences and humor. In 2013 at the urging of friends, the duo launched their own clothing line, Keepin’ It Paisa, and two years later opened Kulture at 1006 24th St.
The store celebrates the Latino migrant experience through clothing, art, home decor, and more. Their casual wear line Keepin’ It Paisa – a play on the phrase “keeping it real” – features shirts, hoodies, and hats with Spanish-language slogans and phrases that put a twist on colloquialisms and pop culture references. All the additional art, decorations, and products are hand-selected by Garcia and Vargas with a focus on bringing in local and authentic items.
“Pretty much all of the stuff that’s in here we can relate to,” Vargas says.
“People like hearing stories about, ‘Oh, where did this come from?'” Garcia says. “So they buy the story behind it, too; it’s not just an object.”
But for the two entrepreneurs, the best byproduct of their business is the ability to provide the same opportunities CAMP provided them to the next generation of CAMPers, which is what the Keepin’ It Paisa Charity Golf Tournament is all about.
Now in its third year, the tournament raises money that benefits CAMP students. The field has expanded from 80 players its first year to more than 140 in the 2016 competition, which will be held May 27 at Cherry Island Golf Course in Elverta. Proceeds go toward scholarships and an end-of-the-year mixer for CAMP students.
“In a classroom setting, some people are going to listen and focus, some people are going to tune out,” says Garcia, who met his wife through CAMP. “But in that atmosphere, it’s different if you’re out there playing volleyball or whatever, [students] come up to you and feel more comfortable.”
Few better understand the impact of CAMP than Vargas and Garcia; today, they are able to inspire a new generation of CAMPers to pursue their loftiest aspirations.
“I want to let people know that, yes, you can do it,” Vargas says. “Even if it doesn’t work out, go for it and follow your instincts. Don’t be afraid.”
Click here for more information about the Keepin It Paisa Golf Tournament and how to register.