With tears and hugs, retired Cabrillo College board trustee Rebecca Garcia was honored Tuesday evening for her dedication to the community college.
During the board's meeting Tuesday in the Watsonville City Council Chambers, Garcia collected a pile of gifts and accolades from colleagues. Cabrillo President Brian King gave her a Cabrillo hooded sweatshirt so she can sport the school colors and there were proclamations from the state Assembly and the Watsonville City Council recognizing her efforts.
People praised her long-standing committment to education and 20 years of service to Cabrillo.
Antonio Rivas, a former colleague at Rolling Hills Middle School where Garcia was a teacher and administrator, praised the support she gave her students then and in her years of work at Cabrillo.
"I know you're going to continue to get involved in the community," said Rivas, a former Watsonville mayor who is running for the county Board of Supervisors. "I appreciate and I admire you very much as a woman, as a colleague and for the leadership you have provided to our city of Watsonville."
"You've shown the light to a lot Latinas in the community," said Watsonville Mayor Eduardo Montesino, who was accompanied by his young daughter.
Garcia, who has been a school teacher and school administrator for decades, was brought to tears by compliments. Her voice cracked as she addressed the crowd.
"When I was 6 years old, I decided I wanted to be a teacher but it wasn't until i was 30 years old that I had the opportunity to go to Cabrillo to begin that journey and fulfil a dream," Garcia said.
She was elected to the governing board when she was 45 "to ensure that all students who have dreams and goals like mine" could accomplish what they set out to do.
She thanked her children and grandchildren, friends and colleagues who were a part of her journey.
"Thank you for all of the wonderful leadership you brought to this board," said Hal Hyde, a founding Cabrillo College board member.
"We wish you the best," Watsonville City Council Member Daniel Dodge said. "We thank you."
Two Watsonville leaders have applied for Garcia's vacant seat representing Area V, UC Santa Cruz professor Pedro Castillo and Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes food pantry executive director Margarita Cortez.
Rebecca Garcia blogs about higher education on Watsonville Patch. Read her work here.