100-foot journey from dishwasher to executive director for suburban Mexican American man

At 16, like most teenagers who want to look cool, Julio Macias was eager to buy a car, for which his Mexican American immigrant parents predictably said he'd have to work hard and save money.

It prompted Macias to get a job as a dishwasher at Covenant Living at the Holmstad in Batavia, where he moved up the ranks to become a server in the dining room and in charge of the salad bar. It was an eye-opening experience that inspired him eventually to pursue a career in senior living.

“I don't see them as seniors. The more time I spent I saw them as people,” said Macias, 40, a Geneva High School graduate now living in Maple Park.

Macias earned degrees from Waubonsee Community College, the University of Illinois at Chicago and Keller Graduate School of Management of DeVry University. He then became a sales representative at the Holmstad and worked for other senior living organizations.

In April, Macias marked his anniversary as executive director of the Holmstad, where his 100-foot journey began in the kitchen.

“I wanted to come back just knowing that I wouldn't be where I'm at without what this place gave me when I was a 16-year-old kid,” he said. “I don't know if I chose it, I think it chose me.”

Roughly 500 residents live at the Batavia campus of the continuing care retirement community, which provides residential, catered and assisted living, and memory and skilled care.

“They enjoy sports. They enjoy the good life ... (they are) still part of the chamber working in their businesses, caretakers for grandkids,” Macias said. “It's a misconception sometimes people think senior places are not as vibrant and active, but they truly are.”

Senior meals

The DuPage County Sheriff's Office's next “Meals for Older Adults” distribution event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at 421 N. County Farm Road, Wheaton.

The program is run by the sheriff's Community Resource Unit in coordination with the DuPage Senior Citizens Council.

Adults 60 and older are eligible to receive five frozen meals.

To register, call (630) 407-2318 or (224) 580-3748.

Latin dance

Want to get your salsa on?

The village of Round Lake Beach and the Round Lake Beach Cultural Civic Center will host a Latin Night Dance Party Friday at the Round Lake Beach Cultural and Civic Center, 2007 N. Civic Center Way.

For a $10 fee, participants can enjoy dance music from DJ Marco Herrera Mix, who will play the best Latin and today's musical hits. There also will be salsa, bachata and cumbia dance lessons by LTX.

There will be a light up dance floor and drinks available for purchase.

The event is only for people 18 years and older. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the music runs until midnight. Free parking available at the civic center parking lot.

To purchase tickets, visit friday_nights-latin-

Budding Latina scientist

Waubonsee student Kaithren Garcia of Aurora, a first-generation Latina, recently was selected to participate in a competitive 10-week summer research boot camp called Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students.

The program is offered through a partnership between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Parkland College. Only 10 community college students who apply nationally are selected to participate in the unique research immersion program.

Garcia graduated with an associate in science in biology degree Saturday from the Sugar Grove college. Now, she will study the proximate and ultimate causes of individual differences in threespined stickleback fish, under the direction of a postdoctoral fellow at UIUC.

She will conduct ongoing projects to investigate transgenerational plasticity, brain gene expression correlations, and the causes of behaviors of fish populations. 

“Receiving this opportunity is amazing because I never thought I would go to college,” said Garcia, a graduate of East Aurora High School who overcame health and academic challenges to become the first in her family to graduate college.

Garcia plans to study neuroscience focusing on behavioral and cognitive aspects at Loyola University in Chicago. She also hopes to inspire women who want to pursue STEM careers. 

Student scholars

Five suburban students are among 161 high school seniors nationwide named 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars, recognizing their accomplishments in academics, the arts, and career and technical education fields.

Illinois' scholars include: Henry L. Xie of Lisle, Naperville North High School; Rishi Patel, Jaisnav Rajesh, and Piya Shah, all of Naperville and Waubonsie Valley High School, Aurora; and Jui Khankari of Oak Brook, Hinsdale Central High School.

The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as a demonstrated commitment to community service and leadership.

The Presidential Scholars Class of 2022 will be recognized this summer during an online program.

Celebrating AAPI businesses

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will host a series of virtual events for business owners throughout May in recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Illinois is home to 99,000 AAPI-owned businesses, representing 17% of all businesses statewide. Since the COVID-19 pandemic's onset, AAPI-owned businesses have suffered losses with a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.

Register for AAPI Heritage Month virtual events on the DCEO's page,

• Illinois Changemakers Creating Companies: A Conversation with Health Tech Entrepreneur Sona Shah, CEO and co-founder of Neopenda, 8 p.m. Thursday. Presented by the South Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Illinois.

• Let's Rise Together: How to Support Illinois' AAPI Community, noon May 24.

• From International Student to Successful Illinois Tech Entrepreneur (webinar in Mandarin), 7 p.m. May 24. A conversation with Chowbus CEO and co-founder Linxin Wen. Presented by the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community.

• Grow Your Online Business in 2022: From Experts Who Have Done the Work, 10 a.m. May 25.

• Share stories, news and happenings from the suburban mosaic at

Kaithren Garcia
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