Equity in Action


Cathie Lawrence

Drama Department Chair Nick Garcia points off stage as he delivers his keynote speech inside the Little Theater during the Equity in Action event Thursday, Aug. 13.

“Yeah, I’ll take that with me,” said Drama Department Chair Nick Garcia after placing symbolically shrouded items into his tool belt — bandages, a rolled up sock and a bag of M&M’S. He used his talents as an actor to reminisce about the events of yesteryear that aided his journey to becoming a teacher during the introduction of a new Los Medanos College project, “Equity in Action,” at a college-wide event Thursday, Aug. 13.

The project is aimed toward strengthening the bond between staff, faculty and students.

Garcia laid the foundation of his keynote by sharing experiences from his childhood, some relating to his divorced parents, which helped shape his view of the world.

When he was four years old, Kool-Aid Popsicles had just come out. He made sure to get some when he went to the store with his mother. When they returned home, his father pulled up.

Garcia got in the truck, forgot about the popsicles and proceeded to run back into the house, followed by his father. His mother slammed the door on his father, which led to a fight that landed his mother on the floor bloodied up.

The young Garcia thought it was his fault, even though all he wanted were his popsicles. He said that his mom and dad fighting made him an angry person for years.

A few years later he was on a playground with other children from divorced families. He overheard conversations of the exchange of child support checks between parents of those kids.

After his mother remarried, he took his pent-up anger out on his stepfather.

“You’re not even my real dad, and the only reason you look out for me is because you need that money that my dad sends,” he said. In response, his stepdad said, “You tell your dad, he can keep his money, I don’t need it. I’m still going to look out for you because you are my son and I love you.”

Garcia said that it was the first moment that anyone other than a biological parent had seen something in him.

After his anecdotal introduction, he went on to discuss how underprepared he felt when he was researching on how to address the topic of equity with an end goal of getting students to have equal outcomes in the four underserved groups of the LMC community: African American males, foster youth, DSPS and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

He said that those four groups have the largest equity gaps when it comes to course, transfer and degree completion, as well as basic skills.

“I felt like I was asked to build this giant house and all I had was an empty tool belt. How am I going to find the tools to fit into this tool belt because nothing that I am reading is helping,” he said.

​Eventually, Garcia found an article entitled “Hearing Footsteps in the Dark” by Tyrone C. Howard that helped. It was a two-year study in Chicago that inquired what African American students thought the qualities of a good teacher were. The students overwhelmingly said that they enjoyed having teachers that care about them.

He went on to use examples from that article, as well as other research and experiences from his life.

As his tool belt continued to fill up with gardening gloves, a butterfly ornament and other trinkets, to sum up that the greatest resource a teacher has is themselves and what they have gone through personally.

Garcia realized that using his already attained knowledge from his past, such as the aforementioned stories he told, were his best sources when it comes to funneling that into taking an interest in the student to build a trust and a sense of community and ultimately get the best he can out of them.           ​

After the keynote, five sessions were held; each focused on a particular aspect of equity. Some of the workshops included “Learning By Doing: Engaging All STEM Students Through Research Experiences,” facilitated by Danielle Liubicich, science department co-chair, and Briana McCarthy, biological sciences instructor, as well as “Strengthening Faculty/Student Athlete Relations,” led by Athletic Counselor Michelle Mack.

​In the latter, Mack discussed what a typical student athlete goes through on a daily basis in their time crunch of a schedule. She said that aside from regular classes, work and homework, conditioning and practice often take upwards of six hours a day.

Mack added that due, in part, to that schedule the athletes use their efforts for their respective sport more than they do in any of their classes because that is what they feel more successful in.

​“We would like for them to prioritize school because in essence, they are a student, which allows them to be an athlete, but they don’t see themselves as that. They see themselves as an athlete [first], that’s their identity,” said Mack.

For Mack, the ultimate goal of this workshop was to raise awareness of the day-to-day rigors of the student athlete and how the faculty and staff in attendance could help said athletes put as much effort into what they do on the court or field into their academia.

Child Development Chair Janice Townsend, who also spearheaded the planning for this event, said more “Equity in Action” sessions will be held on the second Friday of every month, September through November, and added that the gathering was an overall triumph.

​“The day was a huge success with about 100 various people engaged across the campus. I think as a college we are all committed to helping each student achieve their goals and be successful at LMC,” said Townsend.