Alejandra Juan to launch Women’s Week with speech that fits 'Women Leading the Way' theme _lowres

Advocate file photo -- Alejandra 'Alex' Juan is the executive director of the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial and Museum.

A few special people have changed Alejandra Juan’s life for the better. Those same people taught her an important lesson about giving back.

“If everyone did a little bit, it might not seem like you’re doing something extraordinary, but you are because you’re helping to change things,” Juan said.

On Sept. 25, Juan will open this year’s Women’s Week with a speech encouraging women to work within their communities, fitting in to the overall theme, “Women Leading the Way.”

Juan, 37, is better known by her nickname, Alex. In 2013, she became the first female executive director of the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial and Museum in Baton Rouge.

A tireless volunteer, Juan spends 40 hours a month as a hospital advocate for the Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response Center. She also helps with animal rescue groups and a homeless ministry.

The people who assisted her growing up inspired Juan to give her time to the community, she said.

Born in Chicago, Juan split time between her mother’s family in Guatemala and the United States. Her mother moved often, from Chicago to Florida and California to Louisiana.

A progressive, adventurous woman, her mother worked hard to raise Juan separate from the male-dominated society of South America. She helped other women everywhere she lived, providing an example for Juan.

“I was exposed to a very strong opinionated woman who was very driven and did so much,” Juan said.

But her mother also struggled with alcoholism and often beat Juan.

In those rough times, Juan found help from a Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor who led the armed forces training program at her high school. He taught her to serve others in the community even when her life was difficult.

“There are so many people in the same struggle I’m in,” Juan said. “It’s not unique to me.”

That ROTC instructor also helped Juan’s mother get sober and change her life.

After high school, Juan served in the Air Force for 12 years, starting in the security forces as a “cop.” Later, she served in the Louisiana National Guard and earned her degree from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond.

In her life of service, Juan has learned that the things we do can change the world.

“A lot of people feel like they don’t have a voice, or the things they do don’t matter,” she said, “but they really do in the grand scheme of things.”