Mario Garcia

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Passaic County Community College
38th Commencement – May 20, 2010

Mario Garcia – Class of 2010



Mario Garcia

The third time was the charm for Mario Garcia, a Paterson resident who will receive his degree on May 20 in the 38th Commencement at Passaic County Community College. Though Mario had completed his coursework toward the degree a few years ago, he was unsuccessful in his first two attempts to pass the College Writing Exam required by PCCC for graduation.

“It was a struggle because of the language,” he explained. English was not Mario’s first language when he came to the United States at age 14 from the Dominican Republic. A 2003 graduate of East Side High School in Paterson, Mario took English-as-a-Second Language classes when he started PCCC and improved steadily. However, he said he felt shaky both times he took the writing exam and was disappointed he did not pass. As a result, he left and never completed his degree.

A short time later, Mario received a call from Joan Meeh, the coordinator of the DARC program at PCCC, a federally funded initiative to help students like Mario complete their education. PCCC was one of only four New Jersey colleges to receive a DARC (Disengaged Adults Returning to College) grant last year, and Meeh set out to notify potentially qualifying students of the opportunity to come back. “Mario had such a short way to go,” said Meeh. “We wanted to help him reach his goal.”

Mario was interested and met with Meeh to discuss his circumstances. He was set up with a member of the PCCC faculty for intensive tutoring and, on his third try, passed the writing exam.  “It feels good to get my degree. I always liked school and wanted to come back,” said the prospective graduate. Mario will receive his Associate in Arts degree in Liberal Arts/with a concentration in Criminal Justice and will enter Kean University in the Fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. In addition, his writing skills have been refreshed for his new challenges at a four-year university. 

Mario hopes eventually to become a New Jersey state trooper. “I passed the test last year,” he explained. He now works in the dietary department at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood and previously worked in quality control for Capezio Ballet Makers in Totowa. “I worked full-time and went to PCCC full-time, so I was pretty busy,” said Mario.  Though he is a hard worker who often went the extra mile at Capezio by helping his Spanish-speaking colleagues and translating for some of the supervisors, Mario wanted more from his career.

“That’s not the type of job I want,” he explained. “It’s a factory job. I want a job with a better future where I can grow.” His sister, Arlenny Garcia, graduated from PCCC in 2001, continued her education at Rutgers University in Newark, and is now a teacher in the Paterson public elementary schools.

“I would recommend that anyone who left school without finishing the degree should come back, especially now when the economy is not good,” said Mario.  “A college degree opens more doors to opportunities for a better job.”