EDUCATION AT THE HEART OF BARAJAS FOUNDATIONCOMMUNITY NEWS | USTA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
SEPTEMBER 26, 2023 | STEVE PRATT
EDUCATION AT THE HEART OF BARAJAS FOUNDATIONCOMMUNITY NEWS
USTA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
SEPTEMBER 26, 2023
Jamie Barajas of the Barajas Foundation (right) with Kermit McKenzie principal Alex Jauregui (middle) and teacher Rosie Garcia (left).
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You won’t find any tennis courts in the city of Guadalupe, a small migrant farming community of 7,500 people situated a few miles from the beach on the Central Coast 70 miles north of Santa Barbara and seven miles west of Santa Maria.
But that has never stopped Jaime Barajas from giving back to the community where he was raised after moving from Jerez, Zacatecas, Mexico at the age of 7 and was supported and encouraged by so many teachers and mentors. Back in 2013 Barajas founded the Barajas Foundation that is currently headed up by his daughter and foundation president Elizabeth Barajas.
“The impetus for starting the foundation was the demographics of the area in Guadalupe,” Jaime Barajas said. “The area’s residents are migrant farm workers who really need to have the exposure to what is out there for them in terms of higher education.”
A longtime Woodland Hills resident, Barajas said he knows first-hand the needs of the area having attended elementary and middle school in Guadalupe. He said youngsters can get lost without the proper guidance and learning about their education options.
In high school, the incoming freshman students from Guadalupe are bused 15 miles south to the town of Orcutt and Righetti High School, just like Barajas was more than 40 years ago.
It was while at Righetti that Barajas stumbled onto the tennis courts and fell in love with the game playing for the tennis team before doing the same at Hancock College, a two-year community college. (Full disclosure: Like Barajas, this author also played tennis at Righetti High and Hancock College). He then walked onto the Cal-State Northridge team when the Valley school had a men’s program.
Barajas said that because tennis has given his family so much, he wanted to find a way to return something to a community that so badly needed it. “We go back each year and give a presentation and bring in alumni, tennis pros and put on a leadership presentation,” Barajas said. “The reason we selected to focus on the eighth graders is because that is the age the children are so influenced and can really turn to bad things.”
Barajas said the foundation raises money for scholarships and recognizes local teachers because, “We believe the teachers are so important. The major goal of the Barajas Foundation is to continue to promote higher education,” he said.
The Barajas Foundation recently took part in a panel discussion at the US Open put on by the Latin American Tennis Foundation, and has partnered locally with the Pete Brown Foundation’s Marty Woods, Rosie Casals’ Love Love Foundation, as well as the Pancho Gonzalez Foundation in Arizona.
The Barajas family and Jaime’s son, who also goes by the name Jaime, grew up in the same Woodland Hills neighborhood as the three Nava boys – Eduardo, Diego and Emilio, currently ranked No. 164 in the world having played in the recent US Open. The Nava’s cousin Ernesto Escobedo also competed with the four on the SoCal junior circuit and is currently a Davis Cup player representing Mexico.
The younger Jaime Barajas received some great news over the summer as he was named an assistant coach at the SEC Conference’s University of Tennessee under head man Chris Woodruff.
It wasn’t getting the job that most surprised the elder Jaime, but the one he gave up to take it.
“He was traveling the world as one of Brandon Nakashima’s coaches,” Jaime said. “He did it for one year. I thought he had the best job in the world as a tennis player. But he’s getting married and figured that traveling that much wouldn’t be the greatest thing for a young newlywed.”
Jaime Jr., served one year as an assistant coach at the University of Pacific in Stockton in 2021-22 before setting out to help San Diego’s Nakashima achieve a career-high ATP World Tour singles ranking of No. 43 and winning his first ATP singles title winning his hometown San Diego Open.
Barajas played at Utah State for four years and played at No. 1 singles in 2016 and 2018 going undefeated both seasons and being named Mountain West Player of the Year in 2016. He was also named All-Mountain West in both singles and doubles.
Father Barajas said growing up and becoming so close to the Navas and other SoCal junior tennis families was the highlight when he looks back at all the training and tournaments and travel the families took part in. “I sometimes stop and just think back and am amazed at how tennis exposes us to so many things and how we make livelong friendships along the way.”
To learn more about the Barajas Foundation, click here: https://barajasfoundation.com/