Eric Garcia: A Success Story
7/8/2010 12:34:33 a.m. - Hobbs, NM. After several brushes with the law, Eric Garcia realized he was on a dangerous path leading nowhere. Having dropped out of school in 8th grade, Eric had become a troubled kid whose life was riddled by drugs and gangs and other forms of self-destruction. Now, looking at the possibility of incarceration, it was time to make some major changes or risk losing his freedom—or even his life.
Hoping to remove himself from the bleak dead end that so many other street kids had fallen victim to, Eric realized that he had to take control of his life immediately. Encouraged by friends at the church he had begun attending, Eric hesitantly turned to New Mexico Junior College. Although he had been a good student in his early years and had even earned his GED several years before, Eric had let himself down a number of times since. Blinded by a fog of self-doubt and uncertainties, a college degree seemed as unreachable as the stars. But something deep inside forced him to try anyway. At the age of 24, Eric James Garcia enrolled at NMJC.
Within a few months, Eric connected with the people he found at NMJC. Encouraged by supportive staff and faculty who seemed genuinely interested in him and his accomplishments, Eric surprised himself repeatedly by one success after another in the classroom. A growing self-confidence emboldened him enough to apply for—and earn—a position in the Campus Ambassadors program, a prestigious student leadership organization.
In addition to serving as a Campus Ambassador, Eric soon became a leader in the NMJC chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and was named to the Vice President’s and the Deans’ Honor Lists. One of his greatest surprises came a few months before graduation when the entire campus voted Eric as the NMJC Homecoming King, a role traditionally held by student athletes.
It was also during Eric’s last semester at NMJC that he knew for sure his past no longer had hold on his future. Possessed of a maturity beyond his years and an appreciation for the opportunities that only education can provide, Eric had been named to the position of Residence Hall Supervisor for the school’s dorms. There, in addition to his regular duties and responsibilities of oversight, Eric found a sense of purpose and even peace in encouraging his fellow students to complete their educations in spite of obstacles and hindrances, often sharing his own story when needed. To this day, a number of students credit Eric for helping them stay the course, thanks to his quiet example and gentle but consistent encouragement.
After graduating from NMJC, Eric transferred to University of the Southwest, a private, Christian-based college just down the road from NMJC, where he attended on a Presidential Scholarship and became a Campus Ambassador there, as well as a member of the Students in Free Enterprise team. It wasn’t long before he was graduating from USW with his Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology.
Today, Eric is enrolled at Kaplan University where, not surprisingly to those who know him, he is working toward a Master’s degree in Higher Education with an emphasis in Administration and Leadership.
But Eric’s success story doesn’t end with academics. Thanks to the self-confidence and self-assurance that he says higher education directly and indirectly provided him, Eric was recently able to address one of the most important personal issues in his life: finding his father.
After discovering in the fifth grade that his biological father had left before his first birthday and the man who had been raising him wasn’t his real father, Eric spent years confused and angry, especially since his stepfather had often been abusive.
Years later, in a heart-to-heart discussion with his mother, Eric finally learned the truth about his father and the circumstances of his leaving. Shortly after Eric’s birth, he had joined the Navy, and upon returning, had discovered that Eric’s mother had married. The young sailor, realizing that she had moved on with her life, decided not to intrude and eventually moved away.
Although it took several months after his mother’s revelation before Eric found the courage to finally contact his father, the wait was worthwhile. Locating his father in Chicago, Eric was joyfully reunited with him within the year.
“I don’t think my story would have had a happy ending,” said Eric, “if I hadn’t gone back to school. I went through some really dark years, and without college, I’d probably be in jail now, or worse. And I know I wouldn’t have had the courage to find my father without it. Besides my faith, college has been the single biggest blessing for me personally. I know that education’s provided the way out, and I’ll be devoting my life to helping others find success in their lives through education. It really is that important.”