(HARLINGEN) – Olga Garcia is director of data systems at the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District — a career she never dreamed of while growing up because of her family’s circumstances.
The Harlingen native was raised in a migrant family, traveling annually to Washington state and Oregon to pick strawberries, pears and apples and not returning until September or October.
“I usually had to play catch-up in school,” said Garcia. “But it was important to my parents that I get an education. They wanted my siblings and me to have more than a life as a migrant.”
And although taking the big step of enrolling in college was exciting and scary for Garcia, she knew that as a first-generation college student this was her chance to help her family and break a cycle.
“College was the goal for me from the beginning,” she said. “Migrant work is hard work, and I knew an education would change the lives of many.”
Garcia’s decision to enroll in college came in the 1980s when computers were just starting to come into play. Her sister purchased one for her house and Garcia helped her set it up, sparking an interest in Garcia that has led to a successful career.
“I wanted to go to a college where I could graduate within a couple of years and immediately start working,” said Garcia. “TSTI, now TSTC, had a reputation for this so I decided to give it a try.”
In 1985 Garcia graduated with her associate degree in Data Processing from TSTC and immediately found a job with Weslaco Independent School District as a programmer. She was there for 14 years.
“The training and coursework at TSTC helped me be competitive and find a job quickly,” she said. “TSTC helped me fulfill my goal.”
Garcia credits her instructors and peers for her success.
“I had the opportunity at TSTC to work with the most experienced instructors, and the hands-on training was invaluable,” said Garcia. “And to this day I am still friends with people I met while in college.”
After her time at TSTC, Garcia went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from the University of Texas-Pan American in 1998 and a master’s degree in Education Technology from the University of Texas at Brownsville in 2011. Both colleges have since merged to become the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
After Garcia’s 14 years in Weslaco, she worked for nearly a year at TSTC’s Information Technology Help Desk before joining the Harlingen school district, where she has been for nearly 15 years and has served as assistant computer programmer, coordinator of student applications and, most recently, director.
“Never did I expect I would ever have such a successful career,” she said. “From the beginning to now, I am so blessed and grateful to be where I am today. It’s more than I could ever imagine.”
Garcia said she does not know what the future holds for her, but she is very happy and looking forward to more years with HCISD and spending time with her husband of 31 years, who she met as a student at TSTC, as well as with her children and three-year-old grandson.
“I’ve come a long way, and I hope my story can be an inspiration for others,” she said.
Garcia shared some advice. “Never give up. There are a lot of opportunities, so seek them, ask questions and ask for help,” she said. “And remember that when one door closes, another door always opens.”
For more information on programs offered at TSTC, visit tstc.edu.