Hispanic Heritage Month with Yadhira Garcia

At the UC Irvine School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, we are proud to recognize the achievements and contributions of our Hispanic American community to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Originally started as a heritage celebration week in 1968, the observation expanded to a whole month in 1988. The celebration begins mid-month because Sept. 15 marks the independence anniversary of five countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. It is followed by Mexico’s Independence Day on Sept. 16 and Chile’s on Sept. 18. 

Yadhira Garcia, a fourth-year, first-generation student in the bachelor of science in pharmaceutical sciences program, kicks off our student highlights by sharing her family’s Mexican background and offering advice to other first-generation Latinos in academia.

“When I was accepted at UCI, I was excited to spend the next four years accomplishing everything I have always wanted for myself and my family,” Garcia said.

College was not an option for Garcia’s mom, who immigrated from Mexico with dreams of providing for her family. She recalls her mother’s dedication and sacrifices to support her higher education pursuits. She also credits her high school staff for encouraging her interests and pushing her to research the pharmaceutical science major. Along the way, she learned to branch out and not fear failure.

How do you celebrate your heritage?

Tototlan is a small town in Jalisco, Mexico with a tight-knit community. I enjoy walking through its bumpy roads, passing the taco stand on the corner of the plaza, and greeting family members at the market. My parents were born and raised in this small town and left it behind to be able to give me more opportunities. When I visit, everyone in town asks me what I study and whether or not I will achieve all my goals. As I say yes, I see the light in their eyes as they begin to believe that dreams do come true, and it is possible to be a Latina that can overcome obstacles to accomplish our goals. I am inspired by people who learn a new language, work hard, and accomplish so much in a new country. I will always carry the spirit, traditions and food of Tototlan with me while accomplishing my dreams in the United States.

“No one in my family had ever graduated from a university, let alone have a career in the sciences. My high school teachers inspired me to continue my curiosity in the sciences, mainly my chemistry teachers and a few advisors at my high school.”

Proud of her culture and roots, Garcia wants to see more Latinas in her field. She hopes that with her academic pursuits, she can study diseases, infections, and illnesses in a way to give back to her Latinx communities.

“Being a first-generation Latina attaining higher education, I have always wanted to tell everyone, ‘Si se puede!’ meaning, ‘Yes you can!’ Studying diseases, infections, and illnesses would give me a way to be able to give back to my Latinx community.”

This year’s annual celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month marks an important milestone for UCI: five years have passed since the university received its federal Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) designation from the U.S. Department of Education in May 2017. This designation recognized that fully one-quarter of all undergraduates identified as Latino, and half of all students received financial aid. Chicano/Latino students currently comprise 25 percent of all undergraduates and 12 percent of all graduate students enrolled at UCI.             

“My education means I would be able to help people like my grandparents have hope that their heart disease or diabetes can be treated,” Garcia said. “I feel proud when I go to a family member and understand what medicine the doctor gave them and how it will treat their illness.”

Her advice for other students like herself is to follow your passion and not be afraid to fail so you can learn from your mistakes.

“No matter how many people say you cannot do something, it only takes one to say ‘yes’ for you to live your dream.”

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