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“And knowing that the support would be there was like a weight being lifted off my shoulders.”


College of Nursing senior Sarai Garcia’s MSU story was one that almost didn’t happen.

But Garcia—a southern Texas native and first-generation college student—has learned what it means to persevere. It was something she learned early on, as her parents began migrating seasonally to work in a canning factory in Wisconsin when she was in fifth grade.

“Both my parents came from large families, neither had the opportunity to finish their education,” Garcia admitted. “So growing up, they were very adamant about my siblings and I getting an education.”

Garcia quickly learned that the education she received in Wisconsin was vastly different from that in Texas, but was what ultimately helped prepare her for college. Growing up close to a community of people who didn’t have access to clean water or electricity, Garcia’s parents were eager and willing to regularly help out those who needed it.

“During the winter we would take coats and blankets, and when school started, we would take backpacks and notebooks to the kids,” Garcia said. “Giving back has always been something we do—it’s just second nature.”

The disparities she saw in her own community have ultimately set her on the path to becoming a nurse.

“I want to return home, to partner and focus on the farmworker community, the Latino community who may not have the knowledge to care for themselves,” Garcia said. “I feel it’s important to do health promotion, health education and risk management.”

Garcia attended Michigan State through MSU CAMP, a unique program that brings students with migrant or seasonal farm work backgrounds to MSU for undergraduate education.

Shortly after Garcia arrived in East Lansing, she began to wonder how her expenses like books would be paid. She learned about the college’s ACCESS Program—which offers social connectivity, academic resources via mentors, and financial support to eligible students—and Garcia chose to apply.

“The ACCESS Program came along at just the right time,” Garcia said. “And knowing that the support would be there was like a weight being lifted off my shoulders.”

In the past four years, Garcia has had opportunities to perform undergraduate research. One study in particular compared nutritional knowledge of migrant seasonal farmworkers to those of teachers at a migrant seasonal farmworker daycare.

While Garcia doesn’t see her family nearly as much as she’d like, she considers MSU home; and after graduation this May she will walk out of MSU fully prepared to step into her career. Garcia also has hopes to return to MSU for a master’s degree, with the ultimate goal of becoming a nurse practitioner.

The most wonderful part?

“To be able to give my parents the gift of becoming a college grad?,” Garcia asked. “Well, it will be the best gift of my life.”

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Author: Sarah Wardell