As CSUB students cross the stage into their futures, many soon-to-be high school grads are just getting ready to embark on their college careers.
South High School senior Noe Garcia is doing so with a big boost and major accomplishment already under his belt.
Garcia received the a Gates Scholarship, a highly-coveted award that goes to only 300 students in the country and provides a full-ride scholarship anywhere he wants to go.
Garcia is the youngest of five. His mom, Carmela Garcia, will tell you he started out a little rough around the edges.
“He was a very impatient child we thought we were going to have many problems with him at school because he was so active,” she said.
As he grew, Noe funneled that energy into his studies and by 6th grade, his teachers started to see that something special in him.
Back then, his teacher told him about the Gates scholarship, saying he should look into it.
Keeping that in mind, Garcia poured himself into extra-curricular and community service: the debate team, National Honor Society, football, ASB and Ford Dream Builders, to name a few.
Then life was interrupted. His mother Carmela was diagnosed with cancer.
“I took it to another level and started motivating myself and said I have to make my mom proud for the moments she has left,” Noe said. “When I was younger I didn’t know how long I had her.”
When the time rolled around to apply for the scholarship–
“I was scared because I knew the further I get, if I get rejected, the bigger the fall. I was nervous every phase and wanted to get rejected early so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.”
But there was no rejection letter. Noe Garcia would receive a full ride anywhere he wanted to go– that meant UCLA.
“My parents weren’t able to go to college,” Garcia said. “They came from Mexico, so for me to be able to go to a really good college and become a gates scholar, I just want to make them proud, that they did something right.”
Carmela’s cancer is in remission although doctors say it will never go away.
Noe is going in with an undeclared major. He is interested in studying political science or STEM but says his mom’s cancer fight has inspired him to consider studying medicine.