Alesha Garcia ’22 learned early how to navigate unexpected life events. The double major in Education Studies and English and Media Studies leans on her sound judgment, strong work ethic, and passion to help others to move beyond anything life throws her way.
“What’s so great about Guilford College is that if you’re passionate about something, there is most likely an avenue where you can explore that passion and really put all your energy into hands-on experiences."
Alesha originally had her sights set on attending a private liberal arts college in the Northeast, but unforeseen circumstances led her to the conclusion that it was best to remain close to her family in Greensboro. Guilford was a natural fit.
“I liked the privacy of Guilford College, the serene atmosphere, and the academic feel of a New England campus while still remaining in my hometown,” she says. “Other than the aesthetics, Guilford seemed to take their academics seriously, so I knew it was the place for me.”
During her time at Guilford, Alesha, an Honors Program student, was involved in a variety of extracurricular activities, including as a staff writer and web editor of the Guilfordian, which dovetailed well from her English and Media Studies courses. She enjoyed being “in the know” about campus and community news. This led her to follow other interests as well within Soy un Lider as a volunteer at first and later as a coordinator.
“My position as coordinator enabled me to help organize large conferences for Latinx and undocumented/DACAmented students across North Carolina, with the mission to offer guidance on their journey toward higher education,” she says.
As an English major, Alesha also received a $9,000 Dorothy Lloyd Gilbert Award, one of the few such awards in the U.S. dedicated to providing recent graduates with transitional funding to help them follow their career paths with English or Creative Writing degrees. The award was founded by Jeanne Campbell, a 1950s English graduate who found too few career opportunities for women and wanted something better for other generations of Guilfordians. Read more about the award on the English and Creative Writing Department webpage.
Alesha went on to take leadership roles with Crop Caravan — a weekly distribution of Guilford College Farm produce to the refugee community at Glen Haven apartments — and the Food Justice Club.
“What’s so great about Guilford College is that if you’re passionate about something, there is most likely an avenue where you can explore that passion and really put all your energy into hands-on experiences,” Alesha says.
Through her internships, Alesha began discovering where she wanted to take her academic and professional careers. After a stint tutoring elementary and middle-grade students, she realized she preferred the secondary level.
Then she worked with an experienced language arts teacher during the pandemic. Alesha says it was difficult for her to fully grasp what teaching was like and would be like under those circumstances. Finally, during her senior year, she embarked on full-time student teaching, which proved transformative.
“It was one of the most difficult yet rewarding experiences,” Alesha recalls. “The entire experience made me reframe my life philosophy, made me see the American public school in a new light, and sparked new passions about what I wish to see in the world. It really made me wonder what education means in the U.S., who it is for, who benefits and who is left out, and what direction the educational system can move toward.”
Following Her Dreams
Ultimately, this led Alesha to pursue a graduate degree in education. She was accepted into the Education, Culture, and Society M.S.Ed program at the University of Pennsylvania, the No. 1 education school in the nation and an Ivy League school. She used the Dorothy Lloyd Gilbert Award to help fund her studies.
“I actually feel a good sense of belonging. And it feels great to satisfy my intellectual curiosities by learning from accomplished professors and other passionate professionals,” she explains.
After completing her master’s degree, Alesha aspires to work in public policy, generating research to inform policies and practices that will make a positive difference in educational systems in the United States.
Now up north studying at a fine institution of higher learning, Alesha is realizing her dreams while recognizing how providence led her to Guilford to achieve them.
“Guilford prepared me well to engage in intellectual conversations with students and professors and to produce thoughtful and thorough work. It also equipped me with great experiences to draw knowledge from which I often bring to the academic discourse in my classes,” she says.
Alesha adds that Guilford also taught her bigger life lessons, including how to grow more sensible and aware of the complexity of the world.
“I have learned that you should lead everything you do with a sense of purpose, a purpose greater than yourself,” she says. “And if the purpose ever feels too big, well, sit in silence. The Quaker tradition of centering silence helped bring me peace during the daily bustle of life. In those moments, I was reminded of the possibilities and opportunities for growth that exist in the world. This is a practice I will keep well beyond Guilford.”