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Adventurous education brings Vancouver native to the north

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau


Northwest Community College 2017 Valedictorian (Terrace campus), Gabriel Garcia, began his educational journey with NWCC in 2012 when he moved from Vancouver to Smithers.

Prior to that, he, his wife and two sons spent a number of years living in Mexico. Gabriel left his wife and children behind for four months while he tried to get a job in Vancouver. Unfortunately he found that without a post-secondary education, he was unable to gain employment.

“I reached out to my mom to ask if she knew of anything up in the north [where she was living],” said Gabriel. “Once [my mom] told me about the Workforce Exploration Skills Training (WEST) program, I discussed it with my wife and applied. When I was accepted, I flew my family up and they stayed with my mom in Smithers while I completed my schooling.”

After graduating from WEST, Gabriel moved to Terrace and found a job working in forestry, which inspired him to further pursue his dream of having a meaningful environmental career. That’s when he found NWCC’s Environmental Geosciences program. It was the perfect fit.

“I grew up on Burnaby Mountain surrounded by forest,” said Gabriel. “I grew up playing in the woods, the mountains, lakes and oceans. It’s part of who I am; I'm connected to it. I'm miserable when I'm away from it.”

Gabriel enrolled in many of NWCC’s Field Schools including the Kitsumkalum and Stewart Telegraph Creek Field Schools in 2016. He most recently took part in the Skeena Watershed Ecosystems. This two-week outdoor intensive course examined environmental factors that determined the distribution and function of local ecosystems. It took Gabriel to places like Dasque Creek, the Kalum Valley, Forceman Ridge and the Kitimat Estuary.

“You can’t get an experience like this [in the lower mainland],” said Gabriel. “You get hammered over the head in nothing but theory and walk out into the world with minimal field experience. Here, you have a chance to see what its really like out there.”

He went on to say, “This program has cemented the understanding of how nature functions and has opened up a lot of opportunities for me. I actually have a job waiting for me as soon as I’m finished this course.”

That ‘job’ is a great career opportunity with a local environmental consulting agency. Coincidentally, one of his first assignments will take him back to Dasque Creek to work on environmental assessments of their fisheries and vegetation.

As previously mentioned, Gabriel was also nominated this year’s Valedictorian. NWCC Instructor, Gordon Weary mentored Gabriel through much of his studies and was one of the faculty members who nominated him for this distinction.

“I can say without hesitation that Gabriel is one of the most remarkable individuals I have met in my 17 years at the college,” said Gordon. “When I was asked about a recommendation for a Valedictorian, Gabriel was the obvious choice. His words were strong and meaningful and had something for everyone in the audience. It is students like Gabriel who motivate instructors, teachers and professors, to keep doing what they do.”

Gabriel received his Associate of Science Degree specializing in Environmental Geosciences on June 1, 2017, after attending NWCC part-time over the past three years.

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