#NobleIntegrity: Monique Garcia ’22
In her ninth-grade mindfulness course, Monique Garcia ’22 was asked to bite into a jalapeño. This spicy approach to stress reduction, according to her teacher Brett Potash, encourages students to sit with difficult emotions rather than reacting to them. Although some of her classmates did not enjoy the experience, Garcia—whose parents are from Mexico—thought it was nothing out of the ordinary. “I personally didn’t mind it,” Garcia smiles. “My mom does this at home all the time.”
Born and raised in Passaic, New Jersey, Garcia not only passed the jalapeño test with flying colors, but she also was inspired to continue mindfulness training after the course ended. She and her classmate Emma Shuford ’22 started the first-ever Mindfulness Club at Mercersburg Academy with the goal of helping others press pause.
Meditation invites people to slow down, which is something Garcia acknowledges she needs to practice. Around the Harkness table, she is quick to ask questions of both her teachers and her classmates. “The questions just flow to my mind because I’m really interested in what we are discussing,” Garcia says. “It feels natural.”
Outside of classes, Garcia runs cross country, plays softball, and is on the indoor track & field team. Her willingness to take risks inside and outside of the classroom has led to early success. At Convocation in September, Head of School Katie Titus presented Garcia with the John H. Culbertson ’24 Prize. This prize recognizes a ninth-grade student who shows exceptional promise and who has already demonstrated outstanding accomplishment.
Becoming visibly embarrassed when the award is mentioned, Garcia admits she was surprised to be the recipient. “For me, my goal here is to do my work, experience as many things as I can, and make my mom proud,” she says. “I didn’t feel like I deserved an award.”
Garcia owes a lot to her mother and knows it. Actually, if it weren’t for her mom, she would not have completed her Mercersburg application. “Originally, I hated the idea of boarding school,” Garcia confesses. “My mom threatened to take away my quinceañera if I didn’t sit at the kitchen table and finish applying.”
The moment she stepped foot on campus, however, Garcia’s mind changed. “Everything about Mercersburg was my favorite,” she says as she reflects on how it compared to other schools on her list. “Everyone I saw was smiling.”
As a lower-middler, Garcia feels more comfortable in her own skin, and she isn’t the only one noticing. “When I went home for the summer, my friends said that I walked differently. They said I walked taller,” Garcia laughs. “I took it as a compliment because I knew it was about confidence. Mercersburg has taught me to venture out of my comfort zone.”
Another difference Garcia notices relates to her wind-down routine. “To take a break at home, I sit by myself and watch Netflix,” Garcia explains. “But, here we relax together.” For Garcia and her friends, this typically means Sunday movie nights with Egg Roll King in Fowle Hall. “We work really hard to finish our homework so that we can hang out.”
This isn’t always possible, though, and Garcia admits that she often has to continue studying after the movie ends. “I sometimes even fall asleep during the movie, but it’s no big deal,” she laughs.
After all, whether she is conscious or not, Sunday nights at Mercersburg are about relaxing together.
Editor’s Note: Monique Garcia ’22 is one of several Mercersburg community members featured in the Winter 2020 issue of Mercersburg Academy magazine. To meet other members of the Mercersburg community and enjoy all the content of this issue, visit mercersburg.edu/magazine.