The story of E’leyna Garcia ’14 is one of competitiveness, determination and the will to win. But there’s another side to her story, one of compassion and love for the lives of young people in her community.
Entering her final season at Guilford, the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., resident has shattered school records and compiled a long list of “firsts” as an attacker on the women’s lacrosse team.
She was recognized as the College’s first All-American in women’s lacrosse in May 2013 after leading the Quakers to a 15-2 overall record and scoring more goals than any other player in NCAA Division III.
The psychology major also was the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Women’s Lacrosse Player of the Year and won numerous awards for her academics including Second Team Academic All-America.
With a full season still ahead of her, she has established new school records in career points (258), goals (201), points in a single season (114) and goals in a single season (99).
“E’leyna is one of the most dominant, hardworking student-athletes I’ve ever worked with,” said women’s lacrosse coach Sarah Lamphier, who is entering her second season with the team.
“You automatically notice her both on the field and off because of her presence. Though E’leyna might invoke fear in those who play against her, her teammates feel nothing but support and kindness.”
Her volunteerism is no less impressive than her athletic and academic accomplishments.
“Not only does she lead on the field with all of the goals she scores, but her dedication to every aspect of her life is second to none,” Sarah said. “She is someone who I trust immensely. I know I can go to her and ask her to take care of something and it will be done and done right.”
Garcia’s dedication to volunteerism stretches well beyond campus and into the lives of local school children.
“I’ve been a lunch buddy for fourth- and fifth-graders at a local elementary school,” E’leyna said. “I just sit with kids and talk with them about college and their schoolwork; anything that they want to talk about is what we talk about.”
The lunch buddy program is for students that have difficulty making friends in the classroom or trouble with their schoolwork, she added.
During the summer months, E’leyna has shared her time, knowledge and skills with high school students at lacrosse camps in Guilford County. Last summer she assisted with a camp at Southwest Guilford High School.
Her work with the teen moms program at YWCA Greensboro has been especially meaningful for E’leyna.
“It’s for mothers who are going through high school who have either already had a child or who are going through the process of having a child,” she said. “We provide an extra support system for them as they work on their academics and learn about colleges. We support them with resources and tools they need to be as successful as possible."
“E’leyna is setting an example for other students,” Chris Henry, an assistant professor of psychology, said. “It’s clear she is always striving to do her best work and learn all that she can from the task before her. Her focus and drive, as well as her commitment to learning and self-improvement are going to serve her well in anything she sets out to accomplish with her life.”
Her volunteer work has helped E’leyna decide what to do after Guilford. She plans to attend graduate school to become a child clinical psychologist so she can continue to help struggling teens and young adults.
“Her hard work in school and on the field is an inspiration and motivation to the teen moms,” saidAudrey Afanda ’14, a Bonner Scholar and YWCA Project Coordinator. “E’leyna, like all the volunteers, is very special, but what makes her stand out is her dedication to the program and her teen. She goes out of her way to make time and get to know her teen.”
E’leyna said her sense of community has grown since she began attending the College. Guilford was the last college she visited and, ultimately, it was the only one she needed to visit.
“Guilford had everything I was looking for in a school,” E’leyna said. “When I first visited, I had already visited all my other schools and Guilford was the last place that I saw. As soon as I got here I was like, ‘This is where I’m going to play. This is where I want to be for the next four years.’”
That sense of community stretches beyond the academic quadrangle, beyond the College’s buildings and into the lives of each student, staff and faculty member on campus.
“All of my professors have known what’s going on with me outside the classroom with lacrosse,” Garcia said. “I’ve had a professor write on the end of my test, ‘Congratulations on leading the nation in scoring. I’m so proud of you.’ That stood out to me because I feel like at other schools, you might not be able to get those individualized relationships with your professors."
“Coming here, you can learn so much about yourself and about life. That’s what’s great about a liberal arts college. It gives you all of those different perspectives that will help you figure out what you want to major in, what you want to have as a career.”