(Photo above: Kirsten Larican Garcia, '18 Healthcare Leadership, left, marching at Seattle's May Day 2018 with her mentor, former Rep. Velma Veloria, first Asian American to be elected to the Washington State legislature and first Filipina to be elected to a statehouse in the U.S.)
Within each of us live a thousand alternate realities. We don’t possess the ability to go back and make a different decision, but if we did, simply changing one moment could significantly impact how our lives turn out. This idea isn’t lost on UW Tacoma senior Kirsten Larican Garcia. “My family made sacrifices to get me where I am,” she said. “If they didn’t move to the United States then I wouldn’t be here.”
Larican Garcia’s comment refers as much to her success as geographical location. Her grandparents immigrated to the US from the Philippines in the 1970s. Her grandfather worked long, 16-hour days in an Alaskan cannery to support his family. Larican Garcia’s family settled in South Seattle. Neither her mother nor father had college degrees. “I saw the importance of going to college after my dad lost his job because he was deemed less qualified because he had a GED,” said Larcian Garcia. “That was really hard for us, we lost our home and there were times when we went hungry.”
Perhaps it’s this sense of powerlessness that led Larican Garcia to pursue leadership roles. She served as class president for four years at Franklin High School. Larcian Garcia is also actively involved with different community organizations including Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees & Communities of Color and Eight Rays. “I found a love of serving the community and in having a leadership role within it,” she said.
Larican Garcia came to UW Tacoma in the fall of 2014. Her passion for helping others steered her toward healthcare leadership. “I’m interested in improving the quality of life and health outcomes for our most vulnerable populations,” she said.
Larican Garcia has kept busy during her four years on campus. She is a member of the Filipino American Student Association and used to work at the Center for Equity and Inclusion. “That was a really great experience because it opened the doors to what I do now,” she said. For the past two years, Larican Garcia has worked as an intern at the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks. “I help analyze and evaluate our capital projects that incorporate equity and social justice practices,” she said. “We’ve developed a set of measurements to gauge how we’re doing with embedding these ideas.”
Her time at UW Tacoma has almost come to an end but Larican Garcia is still very much involved with higher education. She works with Making Connections through the University of Washington’s Women’s Center. The program’s mission is to increase “college enrollment and career interests in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.” Larican Garcia participated in Making Connections while in high school. “I wanted to give back in any way I could,” she said. Larican Garcia is paired up with a first-generation student from Roosevelt. The two meet regularly. “I helped her with her college applications and talked to her about how to fill out a FAFSA,” said Larican Garcia, referring to the federal form for student financial aid. “I’ve been able to see her grow out of her shell and gain the confidence she needs to graduate from high school and be prepared to enter college.”
In some ways Larican Garcia’s path was chosen for her. Her grandparent’s decision to leave the Philippines set in motion a series of events that will play out at the UW Tacoma Commencement on June 11. This isn’t the end of that journey, simply one stop along the way. Larican Garcia’s sister is also currently in college and her nine-year-old brother is already making plans. “We are talking to him about going to school,” she said. “And so, we’re making a statement to him that, when he sees me at graduation, he knows that this could be him too.”
Sometimes, in order to choose a path, you first need to know it exists.
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org