Senior Samantha Garcia grew up in a family that values academics. This priority is what led her to Eastern Christian School.
“At my public school, I didn’t see open opportunities to expand my intellectual ability. They weren’t providing me with necessary resources to succeed. A lot of times, I would get shut down by teachers,” she shares.
After much research, her family was led to Eastern Christian. “I loved that Eastern Christian was Christian, but I also saw a variety of opportunities for athletics and academics. I was excited about the small-size classes, because that was a great opportunity to have one-on-one relationships with my teachers.”
Officially committed to Cornell University and planning on entering the school of industrial and labor relationships, Garcia reflects on the road she took to the Ivy League. The EC distinctive that she says helped the most? A relational approach that saw her as an individual.
“Eastern Christian saw me as a person, with likes and dislikes. They gave me the opportunity to have great relationships with teachers and students. They gave me opportunities to succeed…You can see the passion of these teachers and the care they have for their students. You just can’t find that elsewhere,” she shares.
As can be expected, Garcia’s class roster at ECHS was rigorous. She started taking Seton Hall Dual Enrollment classes in her sophomore year, completing honors-level coursework in history, English and the sciences. While the Seton Hall-approved curriculum was valuable, what stood out most was the mentorship offered by her teachers. “For extended research projects, for example, I asked a lot of questions,” she shares. “I was able to have that one-on-one mentorship experience with my teachers. I was able to schedule meetings with teachers who would work with my schedule. This [culture] helped with everything, from writing presentations, to constructing thesis statements, to supporting my thesis statements,” she says. Garcia also met with Eastern Christian’s human resources specialist, Jessica Lagerveld, who helped her learn more about the field she was most interested in.
Garcia also became engaged in a variety of extracurricular opportunities inside and outside of school. Her leadership experiences ranged from founding and presiding over the Voces Hispanic Club, a club that met during SOAR, to serving in Project Lead and Timothy Groups, to becoming elected as National Honors Society President. She also enrolled in the WINGS internship program, and later secured an opportunity with her dad to participate with the Rockaway East Merchants Association 4 United Synergy, REMA4US.
“Being part of a smaller community allowed me to get these opportunities a lot more easily. You have a lot more opportunities at EC to outshine, get out there and get the leadership opportunities,” she says.
Although she didn’t specifically enter high school with an intent to try for a tier one school, by the end of sophomore year, the possibility was on her radar. “As a Hispanic-American, I wanted to make my parents proud and show that their sacrifices were worth it. I wanted to represent my culture at the Ivy League level and demonstrate that I can succeed at the highest level of academic rigor,” she says. As her focus became more clear, she looked to the support of the Academic and College Counseling office.
“I love the ACC,” she declares. “They were like my North Star, guiding me through this whole college process. It’s nerve-wracking, especially for students striving to get into these tier one schools, because you are competing with students not only from the US, but also internationally. They were very flexible with hours, they took me in with open arms when I walked in their office, and such a key factor in all of this was honesty.”
Support from the ACC came in a variety of forms, from essay brainstorms, to advice on how to tailor her college resume toward her future career interest in human resources, to hard discussions on best-fit colleges.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” Garcia says. “They were there with me, emotionally. That’s something else that’s unique about EC, is having this office that can meet with students one on one throughout high school and just offer that mentorship.”
Although Garcia came to EC as a seventh grader because she prioritized academics, she leaves as a 2023 graduate with an understanding that excellent education is much more. “We are an institution that enriches student minds and helps students develop their talents and strengths, becoming who God has called them to be to live a life with purpose,” she says. “I have made such close relationships being part of this community. It’s an amazing school. I love EC and I want to send my kids here one day.”