Stanislaus State grad student motivated to succeed and lead

Stanislaus State graduate student Maribel Garcia, 24, center, works with Turlock High junior Kirstin O'Connor while counselor Chuck Boswell watches.
Stanislaus State graduate student Maribel Garcia, 24, center, works with Turlock High junior Kirstin O'Connor while counselor Chuck Boswell watches. Modesto Bee

TURLOCK -- Succeeding is a matter of internal motivation. But it also helps to get outside motivation from family members or school officials. That's how California State University, Stanislaus, student Maribel Garcia explains her good fortune.

Garcia, 24, came to the United States with her family shortly after she was born in Mexico. She learned English and obtained legal residency, but perhaps her biggest struggle was growing up in a poor family and overcoming a wild freshman year in high school.

"I was failing. I was ditching (classes) a lot. My close girlfriends were two years older, and we were into partying," Garcia said. "My counselor was pushing and supporting me. ... (In my) sophomore year, I got back on track. It was like my turning point, like a light bulb turned on."

Though money was hard to come by, Garcia said there was always food in the house and that her parents did a good job of keeping their financial concerns away from the eyes and ears of their four children.

Garcia's parents have been on disability assistance since she was a child -- her father has debilitating arthritis and her mother is hearing impaired; neither can work.

In the fall, Garcia was named one of 23 recipients of the William Randolph Hearst/California State University Trustees scholarship. The $3,000 award goes to one student at each CSU campus each year.

The Turlock resident earned her bachelor's degree in psychology in 2005 from Stanislaus State. She's working toward a master's in education and hopes to someday counsel high school or college students. Garcia said she was motivated to attend college, but that support from her family and her Turlock High School counselor, Chuck Boswell, helped her succeed.

Garcia and mentor Boswell talked with The Bee last week about how others can learn from her story.

Q: Why did you focus on psychology?

Garcia: "In high school, I became a lot more interested in it. You learn about the mind and how it works. It's interesting to study the differences people's brains can have, how they can be different in different people and how that contributes to people's behaviors."

Q: Why do you want to be a counselor?

Garcia: "I decided on counseling my senior year because of my own high school counselor. ... My parents, although they knew education was the way, my counselor had the knowledge. Just having him tell me I had the potential to do it and that I could do whatever I desired in the future -- I knew with the knowledge that he had, he must be right."

Q: How do you think you were able to reach Maribel?

Boswell: "I could tell she was not taking school seriously. I tried to get her to believe school was a good tool or vehicle for her to get where she wanted to in life. ... I think she finally believed if she kept doing what she was doing, she wasn't going to go anywhere."

Q: Why would Maribel make a good counselor?

Boswell: "People who have gone through life experiences, the struggles she had in life early she can use to help other people. ... She's caring, wonderful, attentive, she wants to give back and make a difference. Counselors have to love kids. You have to be honest, not judge them. You have to be very honest with them. I think kids can read you in a second if you aren't those things."

Q: What will be your goal as a counselor?

Garcia: "I hope to have an impact on students and motivate them to pursue a higher education and (show them) that it is attainable, regardless of socio-economic status, regardless of ethnicity or even regardless of hardships in your life."

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.