Growing up in Bosnia, Vlada Vladic and her girlfriend would walk to school each day and share their dreams of leaving their country and living in the United States.
For Vladic, the dream came true.
"I always knew," she said, "that America is who I am."
In 1989, she left her job as an airplane electrician and, with a few dollars and lots of anticipation, arrived in Escondido to live with a sister-in-law and start a new life. Vladic was 19.
From the beginning, she embraced her new homeland. She found work in El Cajon, caring for the children of an attorney who helped her on the road to citizenship.
"I found myself here," she said, "and am so grateful and feel privileged to call myself an American."
Since settling in Temecula, Vladic has lived the American Dream. She and her husband, Mike, a contractor, have two children, Mikeela, 7, and Marko, 5, and she has concentrated on keeping them healthy.
That, in fact, has become her cause.
In Bosnia, she said, "I grew up eating healthy. Everything was made from scratch. Coming here, it took a few years to adapt to a different diet. Then my husband had a heart problem that required surgery, and it woke me up to eating healthy."
Through research, Vladic learned the seriousness of child obesity.
"Our kids are getting sick and underperforming in schools partially because of poor nutrition," she said. "Over 30 percent of our kids are now obese. By 2015 some are estimating 40 percent of our nation will be overweight."
Beyond providing healthy meals at home, Vladic is reaching out to others through her website, www.cookingandkids.info.
"Kids are my love, but cooking is my passion," she said. "To all who know me, they know how passionate I am about cooking and keeping kids healthy."
The website offers encouragement and suggestions for parents on healthy cooking for their families. Recipes range from chicken fingers to desserts. Vladic also offers cooking classes in her home.
"Kids will do what you teach them to do," she said. "Parents need to talk to them, explain what food will do and get them involved in making food."
Vladic has become a celebrity of sorts in Temecula. Last year, her stepdaughter submitted some of her recipes to the Food Network. Vladic was chosen to participate in a contest, and won the 2010 Thanksgiving Family Feast Challenge.
"It was so much fun," she said, "but there are more important challenges ahead of me, so I shall do what I do best -- cook and teach -- while focusing on my mission: Helping America to conquer childhood obesity and related diseases, and preparing children to pass healthy lifestyles to our next generation, by enabling young families to make permanent changes in their daily diets and lives."
If you have an idea for an Inland People profile, contact Assistant Metro Editor Mark Acosta at 951-375-3725 or macosta@PE.com