Norberto Garcia

Merrill '21, sociology

Norberto Garcia (Merrill '21, sociology) (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)
Norberto Garcia (Merrill '21, sociology) (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

Norberto (Norbit) Garcia titled his senior thesis, "Statusblindness: A Critical Analysis of K–5 Students, Their Immigrant Parents, and Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic." As he interviewed 18 families about their experiences for his research project, he was reminded of why he chose sociology as a major.

"I found myself taking a sociology class at Cabrillo College after failing my first year at UC Santa Cruz," he said. "I quickly discovered my passion for sociology and realized I wanted to help communities that are underrepresented and motivate students like me to go to college."

Garcia is the son of undocumented immigrants from Tepic, Nayarit, in Mexico. His family crossed the border when he was 4 years old, and he still remembers what it was like to get to the other side. The family was forced to kill his pet pig so they could have food during their journey to the U.S. 

Garcia nearly dropped out of high school, until he had an unexpected turnaround. He told his parents he identified as bisexual and wanted to join the cheer team. His parents accepted his decision to "come out" but also insisted he get a job, which he did, at a fast-food restaurant. Now he's proud to say he's the first in his family to finish high school, attend college, and graduate.

"Having all that going on forced me to learn time management, and it all just fell into place," he said. "Then I was lucky to have a school counselor, who motivated me to apply for college."

Garcia got into UCSC and moved here, describing Santa Cruz as an adventure, both in terms of  academic and nonacademic activities. He continued to work in the food industry and did some tutoring. He said he found his role model in Rebecca London, UCSC associate professor of sociology, and was accepted into the American Sociological Association Honors Program, where he'll present his senior thesis. 

Garcia will take part in this month's Slug Crossing, accompanied by just his mom and sister. Sadly, his father was recently deported to Mexico, due to extenuating circumstances.

His next dream is to move to Los Angeles and prepare for law school.

"I plan to work and study for the LSAT, so I can eventually get into a top school and become a lawyer," he said. "I have a lot to do, but I'm not in a hurry. Maybe I'll also have a chance to teach along the way."