Ricardo Garcia

Student at PCCC Library

Passaic County Community College
38 th Commencement – May 2010

Ricardo Garcia
Proving Ability by Degrees

A standing ovation is sure to follow when Ricardo Garcia glides in his wheelchair to the podium where he will receive his Associate’s Degree on May 20 at Passaic County Community College’s 38th Annual Commencement.  The 38-year-old Paterson resident has been a student at PCCC for a decade, taking courses whenever he could while working and raising his son as a single father.

“It took a while, because being a good father is very time-consuming, and being in a wheelchair sometimes makes it hard to find work, but I feel great,” said Garcia who will receive his Associate in Science (A.S.) degree in Human Services.  “This is a very important step for me, and I feel that I did something good for my son.”  The accomplishment is especially meaningful to Garcia, because his son, Luis, just started his freshman year at PCCC. “I want to give him the best I can,” said the proud father.


2010 Graduate Ricardo Garcia with
his son, Luis, a freshman at PCCC

His Life in Peru
Born in Peru where he was one of ten siblings, Garcia was stricken with polio as an infant and has used a wheelchair most of his life. He coped well with his disability, enjoying school and his family and friends. With plans to study psychology, he enrolled in San Marco University in Lima but dropped out after only one semester when his son was born. “I needed to get a job to support my family,” he explained. Passionate about music, Garcia found work in a local music store, “I used to play guitar in a musical group, too,” he said. “But once I became a father, I didn’t do that anymore. Being a parent comes first.”

Thirteen years ago, Garcia decided to come to the United States where his mother and some of his siblings had relocated.  He and Luis, who was five years old at the time, settled in Paterson where they continue to share a home with Garcia’s mother and one of his sisters.

Coming to PCCC
“When I arrived here, I knew some English from my love of American music,” said Garcia, “but I knew I would need to improve in order to find a job here.” Friends advised him to come to PCCC to get started.  “It was the best decision I ever made,” he declared.

Garcia diligently attended classes, sometimes bringing young Luis with him when he needed to study in the library. He also worked in the College library as a computer assistant and tutored other students in Spanish. For the past two years, he has worked as a substitute teacher in the Paterson public school district and especially enjoys working with the special education elementary students at the Norman S. Weir School. 
“I am sensitive to their needs,” he said.

Garcia hopes to continue his studies at William Paterson University toward a bachelor’s degree, with the goal of becoming an education advisor.  “I like working with young people,” he said.  “I remember when I first came to college, I felt a little disoriented, but I always found really nice people at PCCC to help me, so now I want to reciprocate.”  He expressed special appreciation for Ruth Hamman, PCCC’s reference librarian and Ed Casey, an academic advisor.  “Ruth was so understanding and patient, and Mr. Casey was also very helpful. Thanks to them, I have more confidence and know better how I can help others.”

Pragmatic as well as idealistic, Garcia said, “It’s important to work in a field where you can grow financially, because it’s necessary to meet your responsibilities, but nothing is better than to work at something you like.” He added, “I discovered I really like working with students, so that’s what I hope to do.”

Like many who have attended PCCC, Garcia thinks of the College as “my second home” and though he completed the course work toward his degree last December, he is often seen on the Paterson campus where he comes after work to visit friends. “I have a strong attachment to PCCC,” he explains. I’m thankful to the College for allowing me to grow academically and for being an example of how a place should be accessible for people who are physically challenged."