Yelitza Garcia ’17 spent many early mornings working outside in the cold and dark in her senior year at Earlham. She loved it.
The work was part of a conservation project that gathered data on small mammalian wildlife in the county that surrounds the College. “I had to wake up before sunrise several days out of the week, in the rain or snow, while carrying heavy equipment and looking for mice, shrews, and other furry friends. This was not just one of my favorite Earlham memories, but one of my favorite life memories.
“I got hands-on research experience on a project I was truly passionate about, and learned new skills every day. Even when my hands were freezing, I remember thinking I was so lucky to be there. I knew I loved field research, but this really solidified that I was in the right place.”
It also helped sharpen her career plans. She knew she wanted to keep studying the world around her and sharing that knowledge with others.
For the year after graduation, Garcia taught 8th grade with AmeriCorps City Year in Columbus, where she completed more than 500 hours helping students improve their attendance and grades.
She then began classes at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, working toward a master’s in biology. She also works nearby at the International Museum of Art and Science as an educator, designing and leading guided tours and educational programs for events, workshops and daily activities.
Additional responsibilities include the care of the museum’s animals, interacting with visitors and developing guides for the museum’s exhibits.
“I love teaching,” she says. “Inspiring kids to gain an appreciation for art, culture and the natural world is an important part of building their communities. I find museum education to be especially compelling because I have objects and animals to teach with instead of textbooks. This hands-on experience is something that many kids, especially those in low-income communities don’t get from their formal education, which is why I’m so proud to work at a non-profit museum that strives to bring this education to everyone.”
Earlham, which encourages cross-disciplinary and hands-on learning, helped her to find her way there.
“Earlham offered me the unique ability to complete a science program while exploring other fields, such as art and education,” she says. She credits her time at Earlham for getting her ready to teach science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics courses at the museum. She’s especially thankful for working as a Biology teaching assistant and at the College’s Joseph Moore Museum — hands-on jobs that showed her how to be a better teacher.
Garcia says she fell in love with the community at Earlham when she visited as a prospective student while in high school. The more she learned about Earlham, particularly its values, the more she felt comfortable.
“I felt like I would be safe and happy at Earlham, especially because I would be traveling so far from home — I came all the way from Texas,” she says. “Choosing Earlham was a great decision for me. I learned so much and grew a lot as a person.”
She’s been able to reconnect with Earlham in Texas.
“Earlham is truly everywhere,” she says. “My current graduate advisor is an Earlham alum of the class of ’77, just 40 short years before me. We have bonded many times over similar memories, professors we both knew, and our similar values.”