It’s increasingly hard to imagine a Union College without Ruben Garcia. For the last four years, the psychology major from North Carolina has been one of the most involved students on campus — in Campus Ministries, Student Life, Gymnaires, and every campus job imaginable. But college wasn’t in his plans until God stepped in. “University was expensive, and my life just wasn’t able to accommodate expensive things,” he said.
While in academy, Garcia heard about Union’s spiritual life and acrobatic gymnastics team and was intrigued. Taking a leap of faith, he applied to Union only a week before classes began — and was accepted.
With the help of the Enrollment and Student Financial Services offices, Garcia quickly registered for college and started sketching out a plan to get to graduation, assisted by scholarships and on-campus jobs. “I thought, ‘You know, if this doesn’t work out, I’ll just go back home,’” he said. “Four years later, now I’m graduating, thank the Lord.”
After briefly trying out nursing, Garcia decided psychology was more his style. “Psychology is a passion of mine and comes very naturally to me. I’ve always loved helping people,” he said.
As a natural people person, one of Garcia’s many campus jobs stands out to him: Student Center manager. He treasures the opportunity this gives him to build connections. “I like talking to people, even to strangers,” he said. “I’m very much into having deep conversations with people and building relationships with them. I love seeing how people have changed since I first met them and how they develop as a person. I guess it’s the psychology major in me.”
Garcia has been involved in Union’s spiritual life from his first day on campus. He began by volunteering for vespers services then joined Campus Ministries and began organizing them himself. Eventually, he became a Campus Ministries group leader in charge of community service and student missions. “I really do enjoy being a group leader because I get to see people with different skills using them in their ministries,” he said. “Since I need to listen to what they have to say, I get a lot of opportunities for self-evaluation and seeing how I can do better as a leader and a person.”
Gymnastics is a huge part of Garcia’s life. He was a gymnast in highschool, then joined the Gymnaires team when he came to Union. Over those combined eight years, he has improved his skills to the point that he can now teach others. He said, “I really enjoy teaching it and demonstrating the different things people can do. I love encouraging people to do things that they don’t think they can do. Gymnaires just brings people closer together. It’s a very encouraging atmosphere, where it’s not just, ‘Oh, you can’t do that? Get out.’ We work together and we try again, and it’s really cool seeing everyone improve. If I stay in the area, I’m definitely planning to stay involved with Gymnaires.”
Garcia’s favorite college memory is participating in Acrofest 2022. Union hosted Acrofest last November, after the previous two years had been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “So many people were excited to get back to Acrofest,” said Garcia. “It was great to see the people who had never participated in Acrofest before have their first experience. You could just see their excitement. And when we got onto the mats and everyone was cheering, it was just a surreal moment. It was amazing to be able to host. There’s a lot of respect at Acrofest; no matter the skill level that a team has, everyone’s cheering them on. It’s just a good place to be.”
After graduation, Garcia will focus on building his application for a master’s program. “I’m planning to take a break from school for a year or two to get a job in my field that will help me on my graduate school application,” he said. Eventually, he’d like to get his doctorate.
“My goal is to go into forensic psychology, working with the victims of crimes or with criminals,” said Garcia. “It’s really important to not only be there for the victim, but also to rehabilitate criminals. They need support to help them become better and minimize problems in the future. I want to be an expert in the field someday, and I feel like I’ve started my education to do that at Union.”
by Annika Cambigue, senior communication and English major