Eagle Leaders: Eli Garza Jr. keeps busy with work, music and academics as a first-generation college student

As another wave of graduates comes and goes, non-traditional students become more prominent in the student population of Chadron State College. However, these non-traditional students make just as much of an impact on campus as their traditional peers, and Eli Garza Jr. is no exception.
Eli Garza Jr., 23, senior of Mission, Texas, is a graduate of Scottsbluff High School. Prior to his high school career at SHS, Garza attended school in Texas.
After credits didn’t transfer for his freshman year from his high school in Texas, Garza had to repeat ninth grade. He graduated from SHS in 2014 at the age of 19.
Immediately following high school graduation, Garza worked two jobs instead of enrolling in college.
“As soon as I graduated it was, like, alright, I need to start working, because that’s who I was,” Garza said.
One of his jobs, tutoring Japanese students in conversational English, helped Garza realize his passion for teaching English.
“The only way it seemed possible [to further this career in education] was through college,” Garza said.
However, Garza wasn’t sure of his likelihood of getting into college after a poor academic career. Between expulsion from two schools in Texas, being a first-generation college student and maintaining a low GPA, “College was never really in the books for me,” Garza said.
But, Garza applied to CSC and enrolled in classes the spring semester of 2015, despite being “very scared” coming to college.
Now, Garza is nearing the end of his college career, with only this semester and a few summer classes remaining.
Garza will be graduating with a degree in English and a minor in creative writing. As Garza put it, “it’s ironic” to be studying English when Spanish is his first language.
Garza did not begin to learn English until he was 7-years-old, which created somewhat of a learning curve for the remainder of his academic career.
Along with attending classes, Garza is active in both the International Club and Ping Pong Club, attends church and is the manager of The Pit.
Although Garza himself is not an international student, his parents are both from Mexico and he frequently visits Mexico to visit family and friends.
At the International Club’s most recent event, the International Food Tasting Party, Garza prepared traditional Mexican dishes and shared Mexican culture with the attendees of the event.
Garza’s involvement with The Pit, located in the Student Center, has grown significantly in the past year, as he is now the manager of The Pit. His responsibilities include scheduling, budgeting for Pit activities and prizes, creating events and hiring.
In his free time, Garza loves to record music. His latest project has been an EP he plans to release this summer.
This collection of four songs produced and performed by Garza is not his first venture into the music world.
Currently, he has three singles on both iTunes and Spotify.
However, Garza says his true love is sound rather than music.
“There’s, like, these little sounds every now and then that just give me these goosebumps,” Garza said.
When he was a child, Garza said he would often sneak into his parent’s closet and put his mother’s heels and father’s shoes on his hands, hitting them against the floor to hear the sound they made.
“Sound gave me this satisfaction,” he said.
Despite his poor past academic career, Garza found a way to thrive in college through his involvement both on and off campus.
“Getting involved and keeping myself busy is what completely changed my life academically, and outside of school as well,” Garza said. “I developed a lot of leadership qualities here, in things that I never actually saw for myself.”
After graduation this summer, Garza plans to move back to Texas.
He has several options, including real estate, education and music.
Garza, between producing his freshman EP and finishing up his degree, will have a busy summer ahead of him.
But, Garza has managed to write college into the books for him and work his way to graduation.

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