Following the hope of the American Dream, Carolina Garcia, a Take Stock in Children Clay County alumna, remembers when her family moved from Columbia to Florida, settling in Jacksonville. Starting over, her father, a civil engineer in his home country, worked construction jobs to pay the bills and feed his family. Carolina and her brother struggled to adapt to the new country, new language, new school, and new friends.
Soon, Carolina’s father was promoted to an office job and the family was able to buy their first home. Then the recession hit. Just as the future was looking bright for Carolina, her father lost his job.
Carolina says her dad’s unemployment had a domino effect on her family. The house was foreclosed. The cars were almost repossessed. Groceries were bought with food stamps and unemployment checks. Carolina’s parents were forced to work at night cleaning car dealerships to make ends meet.
The one domino that didn’t fall was Carolina’s aspirations for college. When she was in middle school, Carolina had been accepted into the Take Stock in Children Duval County program. She had signed a contract that she would work hard and stay in school. In return, she would receive a scholarship, mentor, and hope.
Her scholarship kept her motivated to get good grades and work hard. Her mentor was there to help her keep on track to graduation and manage the hard times, even making sure Carolina and her brother received gifts for Christmas.
Hope came into Carolina’s life through the kind act of an orthodontist who worked with her father. Carolina said the orthodontist literally and figuratively put a smile on her face. He gave Carolina free dental care and also gave her family an opportunity to get back on their feet financially by providing her dad with a steady job.
Inspired by the orthodontist’s selfless acts, Carolina decided to pursue a career in dentistry. With the support and encouragement of her mentor, Carolina attended Florida State University and graduated Magna Cum Laude in May 2015. She is now a first year dental student at the University of Florida College of Dentistry.
Her goal is to one day serve the underserved population and to become a mentor through Take Stock in Children. Carolina says she believes the obstacles in her life helped define her as an individual. Her favorite quote from Walt Disney sums up her determination to succeed against the odds, “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me…You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”