Developing gifts you didn’t know you had

Photo of Alicia GarciaWhen Alicia Garcia came to FPU, she had no idea she would become both an advocate and an athlete. In just two years she became a javelin thrower, having never been on a track team before, and started a campus youth coalition to fight human trafficking.

After playing softball at Selma High School, Garcia had no college sports aspirations. That changed last year when she met head throws coach Raymond Hansen at her campus job. He told her she looked like a javelin thrower and invited her to practice. Her time as an outfielder had developed her throwing arm, so she picked up a javelin for the Sunbirds in January 2021, just three weeks before the first meet.

While finding her feet on the track team, Garcia was also involved in founding SEE (Students Ending Exploitation) FPU. She discovered a passion for fighting human trafficking after her older sister Marissa Garcia (BA ’18) went to work for the Central Valley Justice Coalition in 2018. This faith- based community-benefit organization fights human trafficking in the region through partnership, education and outreach.

Photo of Alicia GarciaGarcia says she didn’t know anything about human trafficking until she attended a CVJC fundraiser in 2019, when her eyes were opened to an issue too many people know little about. According to Central Valley Against Human Trafficking, more than 700 trafficking survivors were identified and rescued in the Valley from 2010 to 2018. Worldwide, the number of trafficking victims is 27 million.

After hearing firsthand stories of local survivors, Garcia volunteered for the CVJC. She now shares the message that the commonly accepted idea that human trafficking doesn’t happen in our community couldn’t be further from the truth. “It can happen anytime and anywhere, and making yourself more knowledgeable could one day come in handy,” she says.

Fresno’s central location between Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as its large numbers of migrant workers and foster care youth, makes it a human trafficking hub. “It’s heartbreaking what survivors have been through, but their stories are so inspiring,” says Garcia.

Photo of AliciaA big part of what SEE FPU does is make people aware of their vulnerability. For example, middle and high school students are particularly susceptible, as the average age of victims entering sex trafficking is just 12 to 14.

As SEE FPU’s president, Garcia recruits new members, spreads awareness on campus and gets students involved with the CVJC. She will graduate this May, but has successors in place to maintain the club after she’s gone.

Garcia plans to continue volunteering with the Central Valley Justice Coalition and SEE FPU, but is looking forward to living away from home for the first time this summer. She has been accepted to Columbia College Chicago’s Semester in Los Angeles, where she’ll bolster her communication major with media and entertainment industry experience. Her dream is to work in sports media.

Having grown up in Selma and attending Reedley College for two years before transferring to FPU, Garcia was drawn to the sense of community she recognized on campus. FPU has prepared her both academically and spiritually for this summer’s opportunity and whatever follows.

“I’ve grown professionally and learned so much about myself,” she says. “FPU has helped build my confidence and taught me to face the real world.”