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.
Learn more about FNL.