Corporate executives and administration officials have a high turnover rate, but secretaries tend to stick around, and some have interesting stories.
Ms. Garcia, the office technician for Robert E. Burton Adult School at San Quentin, almost became a parole officer.
She studied criminal justice in college because something in society caught her attention.
“I wanted to work with parolees because most of them have more motivation in bettering themselves after being incarcerated for so long,” Garcia said.
However, while in college, Garcia worked part-time as an after school program manager, coordinating tutoring sessions for at-risk middle school and high school students.
Garcia also organized interactive activities to help students learn practical lessons and life skills.
“Kids are curious about the world, but you have to find something that they can connect with in order to keep them engaged,” Garcia said. “I wanted to use innovative ways to help them make sense of the academic material in a real way.”
She graduated from college in 2013 with a B.S. degree in criminal justice, but her career path shifted from a criminal justice perspective to a social justice approach after she applied for employment.
“I started applying for different types of jobs after college since I didn’t have experience in the field I majored in,” Garcia said. “San Quentin’s education department was the first to respond, so I jumped on the opportunity while I had the chance.”
Therefore, instead of working with parolees, Garcia found herself headed to prison.
“When I first told my family I was going to work at a prison, they were concerned because all they knew of prisons came from what they saw in the movies,” Garcia said. “Now, they don’t have that stigma as their only source of information.”
Garcia started working for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation three years ago.
“I remember when she first started. She was shy and timid,” said inmate Alvin Timbol, a community partnership clerk. “We just wanted to make her feel safe and welcome.”
“She’s an amazing person and a large part of why our education department runs so smoothly”
Today, Garcia manages work orders, supply orders and deliveries for 25 teachers, vocational instructors, and the principal in five different locations within the facility.
Garcia also orchestrates the education department’s annual graduation ceremonies.
“She’s an amazing person and a large part of why our education department runs so smoothly,” said Sufi, an Adult Basic Education II teacher.
Mr. Wheeless, the principal, played a role in Garcia’s decision to enroll in a teachers’ accreditation program later this year, so that she can gain more career opportunities.
“I’m looking forward to incorporating class exercises that utilize the technology available in the classroom to keep students engaged,” Garcia said. “There are a lot of educational videos and interactive games that present academic material in innovative ways so that students can retain it better.”
Apart from her career preparations, Garcia is also the caregiver to two Chihuahuas and two pit bulls with a plan of one day having an acre of land for an animal sanctuary for unwanted animals.
Garcia wants to have at least one cow, a pig, and a horse at her rescue farm.
“Some people in society stigmatize pit bulls as violent, unpredictable animals, but mine are friendly,” Garcia said. “I’ve learned that it is all a matter of training and conditioning regardless of whom or what you are working with.”
Garcia works full time, studies part time, and takes care of her four dogs all the time.
“Sometimes it’s a little irritating because I’m tired and have to take care of them at the end of the day. But, I feel good knowing that I’m giving them a home,” Garcia said. “I hope that one day I can look back on life and see the impact of giving everyone a second chance at life.”