As Irma Garcia’s husband’s life hung in the balance, her 17-year-old son took the reins in keeping the family together.
Mission native Samuel Garcia will graduate from Harvard Law School on Thursday after overcoming family loss and set an example for students in the Rio Grande Valley.
Garcia was elected by his peers as Class Marshal and will speak on Class Day, Wednesday, at Harvard Law School.
Garcia also became involved in social issues through his writing, some of which may seem unconventional.
In 2015, he wrote “How Goats Can Fight Poverty: Complex problems do not always need complex solutions,” which details potential solutions to solving poverty in rural areas of the Rio Grande Valley with goats. He also contributed to articles about immigration in various news outlets, such as Forbes, New York Times and Washington Post.
For Class Day, he plans to speak about taking action on things that a person values, rather than what others tell them. “Striving for significance as opposed to outward success” is the gist of what he wants to get across, he said.
As the salutatorian and graduate of Sharyland High School, this is another achievement he is cementing, his mother, Irma Garcia, said. She called him a “supernova” for being a voice for people in the Valley, she said. Young people in the region need to understand that they can also “supersede” difficult situations like her son did, she said.
“This whole journey has been so bittersweet,” the proud mother said.
His father was an attorney, and the now 24-year-old followed in his footsteps.
“I had a plan from the beginning when I entered college. It was always that I was gonna go to law school, and I was always planning for it… I was always gearing up towards it,” Garcia said.
Looking back, he says he saw himself as a “high risk investment at best,” yet other people looked out for him.
“The people who wanted to help out, just giving me a little bit of their time, talking with me, actually made a huge difference,” Garcia said.
He said he wants to do the same for others in similar positions, offering mentorship and editing college application essays for local residents who may need help.
Garcia said a lawyer’s work encompasses a variety of topics in addition to having a large amount of responsibility and trust from those he represents.
He also wants to help them get adjusted to the workload, often with hundreds of pages a day, and help them determine which parts are important to focus on.
Although the Valley has a different culture, he eventually fit in at Harvard, he said. People respected his ambition and involvement beyond his school work.
Before going to Harvard, he also took classes as a dual enrollment student at South Texas College, which helped him adjust for the coursework in higher education, he said.
“If you’re competing with those kids every single day, it doesn’t matter if you are (from) the Valley or Dallas, or anywhere really, you’re prepared to go anywhere in the country,” Garcia said.
Some people may not see the Valley as having a strong reputation in academics, but he and many others are proving that notion wrong, he said.
After graduating he is set to work at Debevoise and Plimpton LLP, an international law firm in New York, in capital markets. And although other classmates may feel apprehensive about graduating, he is looking forward to taking the next step.
“This is what I have been waiting for this whole time,” Garcia said.