Higher Achievement President’s Council Member
“Higher Achievement scholars come from all walks of life and share critical unmet needs. They are typically from low-income households and are craving the time, attention, love, dedication, and support every child should receive…and they do indeed receive from the community of Higher Achievement adults who are ready, willing, and able to be there consistently, systematically and genuinely…with great spirit. That’s what we’ve got at Higher Achievement,” explains long-time Higher Achievement supporter Carlos Garcia.
Over the years, Carlos’s role with Higher Achievement has changed, but his support and enthusiasm has never wavered. It all began when then-Board Member Karen Mayers asked him to be a mentor. From that first year of direct service, he saw that Higher Achievement could make a deep impact on the lives of middle school youth. As he explains, “Middle school is a tough time. Your body is changing and the world is changing before you. It’s starting to look to you for more. You’re being asked to start to act like an adult, make decisions for yourself, and start charting your course and determining your future.”
Carlos sees Higher Achievement as a powerful program that combines both rigorous academic support and the caring support of community. As he explains, “I think what the mentor can do is help fill a gap for many low income or struggling households. It’s not easy to do that when you’re just fighting to keep your head above water. If you should be from a single parent household, that only lowers your odds of success. These needs have to be fulfilled systematically and consistently.”
In 1998, Carlos decided that he could give more and joined the Board of Directors. By the time he ended his Board service, he had been Board President for over 10 years.
Through his different roles, Carlos has seen first-hand that impact of Higher Achievement on scholars in DC. “I’ve seen mothers who are trembling with fear about making it all work out. Years later, they are trembling with excitement at graduation of the scholar from 8th grade with a decision about where the kid is going to high school. They feel a sense of relief and accomplishment that they never imagined in their wildest dreams when they first enrolled in the program,” he explains.
“I’ve seen scholars who come into the program, meek and insecure or maybe with a roughness about them that’s really hiding a lack of confidence. They emerge quietly confident with the ability to tell you what they’ve accomplished, why that was important and where they’re headed, with the body language, the head held up high, and ability to communicate to small groups, to a larger group, having learned leadership skills,” he continues. Over the years, Carlos has witnessed countless transformations not only in scholars, but in staff and supporters as they internalize Higher Achievement’s culture of excellence, collaboration, respect, and spirit.
Carlos went on to join the DC Metro President’s Council, which was developed and launched when he was Board President, and where he has been a champion fundraiser since 2010. In his life outside of Higher Achievement, Carlos live in Washington, DC, owns and manages Eng Garcia Properties, LLC with his wife, Lucinda Eng Garcia. Together, they are raising three kids, who have grown up witnessing the impact of Higher Achievement, supporting the organization, and witnessing Higher Achievement peers succeed in and beyond middle school.
FUTURE OF HIGHER ACHIEVEMENT
In another 40 years, I see Higher Achievement having won more hearts and minds among people of means so that it can do more of its work, and other like-minded organizations can, too. How can it be the case that, with all the information we have out there informing us of the challenges our middle schoolers face, it’s so hard to convince people that it takes a ton of time and sustained support to strengthen a child and put him or her on a good path, really radically diminishing the risk that they’ll end up on a bad path? What do we have to do to convince the powers-that-be that it takes time, it takes money, it takes repetition, it takes dedication, and there’s no magic pill?
If Higher Achievement can continue to prove that, through time on task, engaging academic programs, and deep, thorough, and consistent academic and social interventions, at risk middle schoolers can find and stay on productive paths to college …. thatwould be the greatest impact that Higher Achievement could possibly have. I think it’s well on its way to doing that.
If Higher Achievement were a person celebrating their 40thbirthday, what kind of party would they throw? A Higher Achievement birthday party would be fun-loving, inclusive and would provide opportunities to celebrate where we each come from and where we are headed. There would be an opportunity to express gratitude, to laugh at ourselves, acknowledge individual and collective improvement and achievements and talk about the wonderful things we’d like to go on to accomplish.
Imagine a world where every child has a chance to be part of a program like Higher Achievement. In a world where everyone had Higher Achievement, we would create legions of young people with great perspective on their potential. They would be skillful, purposeful and would make positive differences within their communities. Remember, Higher Achievement scholars are taught the four social justice pillars: freedom, voice, solidarity and justice. Ultimately, they’re asked to go out in the world and uphold those principles. If every kid in the country had exposure to Higher Achievement, then we could be a great force for good throughout our country and the world.