Sal Garcia, Making Connections Through Friday Night Live Program
When Sal Garcia was attending Montgomery Middle School he remembers “looking for something; a way to feel more connected to something.” Some kids turn to risky behavior, gangs or drugs to fulfill this longing, but Sal found the SDCOE’s Friday Night Live Program (FNL). “My first attraction was the free food they offered,” Sal says laughing, “but then I became involved with the community service, such as feeding the homeless at Father Joe Carroll’s.” Sal enjoyed the program so much he continued with it at Montgomery High School and quickly became a leader there. After graduation he attended Southwestern Community College and ultimately graduated from UCSD with a degree in Sociology. All the while, Sal never lost touch with FNL, working in an intern-type role. After Sal graduated, one of the FNL assistants went on maternity leave and he was asked to fill in. When that employee did not return, Sal had his first full-time job! That was in 2008.
FNL has approximately 70 sites at schools across the county. With the oversight of FNL assistants, the sites are primarily student-run and therefore unique to each site’s needs and culture. “At some sites combating drugs like marijuana is a focus,” in other areas alcohol is a bigger problem,” Sal explains. The students meet weekly and select and design projects to help create change in their community. Currently Sal is working to bring FNL into the 21st Century with a new website, Google Voice and social media. “Students don’t use email to communicate like adults do,” Sal points out. “They text and tweet.”
On a personal note, Sal met his wife at UCSD and they love to travel. The day after this interview, Sal was on his way to Cancun. “I have seen almost all the Aztec and Mayan pyramid temples,” he boasted. It seems consistent that now that Sal has solidified his connection to students and communities, he is looking to connect to his past.