Every Student Succeeding: Chris Garcia

Chris entered the Merced County Office of Education Sierra Program, a place for students with behavioral issues and conduct disorders, at the end of his fifth-grade year. After his father left the family when he was 10, Chris struggled to control anger, throwing chairs, desks and books at his teacher. It took years of patience, but Chris eventually learned to harness his aggression with the help of dedicated Special Education Coordinator Cindy Heaton, Sierra Program vocational trainer Katherine Gutierrez, and Sierra Program teacher Caleb Hampton. As Chris has learned to adapt thanks to the Sierra Program, he’s also more involved with his younger siblings, becoming the father figure he never had to his little brother and sister. Chris’ transformation is almost impossible to fathom. The kid who once punched a teacher out of sheer anger is now a mature young man who is confident about his future and eager to achieve his dreams.


Sept. 21, 2017

Student overcomes anger issues with help from school

It started when he was 10 or 11 years old. Chris Garcia’s father left the family and Chris did not know what to do. The pressure of becoming the new man of the house while still trying to be a kid was too much to process.

“At first you want to think, ‘Oh my gosh,’” said Cindy Heaton, coordinator of the Merced County Office of Education. “’This young man has so much on his shoulders. He has way too much responsibility for a young man who’s really never been able to experience what it’s like to be a teenager.’”

Chris was hesitant to lash out at home. So he decided to unleash his anger at school.

“He would throw tantrums,” Sierra Program vocational trainer Katherine Gutierrez said. “He’s thrown a trash can at me. He’s thrown books at me. He’s thrown chairs, tables, desks across the classroom.”

Chris entered the Sierra Program, a place for students with behavioral issues and conduct disorders, at the end of his fifth grade year. It took years of patience, but Chris eventually learned to control and harness his aggression.

“I’m just thankful that I came here to the Sierra Program,” Chris said. “They helped me a lot. They put me where I want to be. I would have never made it this far without them.”

Educators with the Sierra Program are quick to admit it took a team effort to help Chris achieve success.

“I think Chris’ story in the program has really been a story of the idea that it takes a village to raise people because there have been so many people that have been instrumental to Chris at different parts of his journey,” Sierra Program teacher Caleb Hampton said.

As Chris has adapted to his new life thanks to the Sierra Program, he’s also more involved with his younger siblings. One could make the argument Chris has become the father he never had to his little brother and sister.

“As Chris has grown, he has had to take up more and more responsibility for his siblings and really step into a father role,” Hampton said. “And that has been especially difficult for him because he hasn’t had a father of his own to sort of model those kinds of examples and to deal with the sort of stuff that he went through.”

When asked to describe the relationship with his brother and sister, Chris was moved to tears.

“They make me happy,” Chris said. “That’s the only reason that makes me feel better. Seeing them makes me happy.”

Chris’ transformation is almost impossible to fathom. The kid who once punched a teacher out of sheer anger is now a mature young man who is confident about his future.

“If you have a student who is engaged and willing to try, then there’s just so many possibilities,” Hampton said. “Just seeing a positive story inspires me to be a better teacher and to try to replicate that success with other students and give them the same opportunities that Chris has had.”

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