MENDOCINO COUNTY, Calif. – The newest member of Mendocino College’s counseling department provides general academic counseling with a special emphasis in American Indian outreach.
Guillermo Garcia was hired six months ago.
He fell in love with community college education when he was a student himself.
“I went to community college, a counselor inspired me about education, and I saw what education could do for somebody,” he said.
Garcia worked previously at Long Beach City College, doing outreach and financial aid counseling.
“It’s been a really smooth transition,” he said of the change. “The community is really welcoming, staff and faculty have been really great.”
He now works Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on the Ukiah campus, while Tuesdays and Thursdays he is at the college’s Lake Center in Lakeport.
“He’s a bundle of energy,” according to college Interim President/Superintendent Roe Darnell.
That energy is helpful this time of the academic year, as students are finishing up their fall classes while also registering for the spring semester, which starts Jan. 22.
Garcia was attracted to the counseling position at Mendocino College because he appreciates the natural beauty of the area, and the natural fit of the population with which he would be working. “I’ve always wanted to work with Native American youth, and this is a great place to do it.”
Being a first-generation college student is a common challenge for both the American Indian and Latino populations in our area, Garcia said, and this can mean growing up with a lack of access to information and encouragement.
“Parents may not understand the importance of education, or they may simply not be aware of what’s out there. Many times parents may encourage ‘work, work, work’ first, before education, but right now it’s the other way around. Get your education first, and then go ahead and get yourself a fruitful career,” he advised.
Another barrier to college education may be a high school experience that wasn’t rewarding. This is where Garcia hopes to intervene.
“I think there’s a big disconnect there,” he said. “As an outreach counselor, I like to get students engaged with how higher education can be different from the high school experience.”
Summer bridge programs are a great way for students to begin their higher education and improve their math and English skills if they need some help getting up to speed.
One example of such a program is the Summer Math Institute, offered by the college’s Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA) program.
This resource is useful for a variety of students, Garcia said, including “students from high school, adult reentry students, and everyone in between.”