- 2016 Elections
- 2016 Lunch Debates
- Special Reports
- Maps & Data
- Dear Abby
- Games & Puzzles
- Events & Exhibits
- Food & Drink
- Arts & Music
- Movies & TV
On Saturday morning, when many teenagers his age were sleeping in, Ian Garcia was at St. James Episcopal Church in New London, slicing broccoli florets, peppers and mushrooms to go into a salad for the church's monthly free lunch.
"Hearing their stories and struggles puts your issues into perspective," Garcia said of the people who come by for the meal. "It gives me the thought that I can deal with whatever is going on right now."
People who know Garcia say his volunteer work is just one side of a well-rounded and dynamic 17-year-old. At The Williams School in New London, where Garcia is a graduating senior, he's known as a true Renaissance man- an accomplished academic, member of student government, guitar player, musical composer and lacrosse goalie.
"We joke around in the faculty and say someday, we could have a Senator Garcia," said Peter Emanuel, a history teacher and director of music at the school.
But despite Garcia's accomplishments, Emanuel said he is struck by his student's unassuming and friendly nature.
"He's extremely humble," he said. "You would never know this kid was one of our all-stars by talking to him."
Once, in a music composition class, Emanuel asked his students to write a song dealing with an emotion and perform it in front of the class. When Garcia performed a guitar piece, his emotion was joy.
"Everyone started smiling, and they just started snapping their fingers," Emanuel said. "He just has the ability to connect with people and create good feelings."
The son of immigrants from the Philippines, Garcia says he identifies with the country where his parents were born. His family typically visits the Philippines every three or four years, and Garcia said these trips have influenced his humanitarian side.
"We see a lot of poverty," he said. "I think just seeing that brings out the natural tendency to help out people."
Garcia began volunteering at St. James three years ago as part of a requirement for his confirmation class. But he kept going back because he enjoyed the work and came to look forward to seeing the people who came by on the first Saturday of each month.
Early on, he connected with one man in particular.
"I think I was washing dishes one day, and there was this person I see every month, and he recognized me, and we started to talk," Garcia said. "He was a very quirky, funny guy. He brought his guitar one day and started playing. ... It was a cool parallel between both of us."
Garcia, who lives in New London, will graduate Wednesday. His next academic step is the University of Connecticut, where he plans to study biomedical engineering.
He points out that the field of study combines his parents' skills; his mother is a pharmaceutical technician, and his father works at Electric Boat.
It's hard to look too far into the future, he said, but he knows he wants music to remain a part of his life. He'll also keep volunteering, maybe even abroad someday.
But whatever he does, Garcia said he wants to "have an impact on the world."
In The Williams School yearbook, Garcia included a quote that resonated with him from Freddie Mercury, the late frontman for the band Queen.
"He said, 'I don't want to just be anybody. I want to be a rock star,'" Garcia said. "I think the way that I read it is, I want to create a name for myself. ... I want to have fun while creating my own lasting impression on people."