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Last summer, HOLA alumna Heidy Garcia was awarded an HOLA “Pay It Forward” scholarship. She was awarded the scholarship for developing a volunteer project that demonstrated a clear way to give back to HOLA’s community. Because Heidy attends Barnard College in New York City, she needed to come up with a project that would be quick and effective. She decided to organize a canned food drive because of the huge need in the community and because she could promote it through email and social media. Because of her commitment to the community and HOLA’s long-standing relationship with Immanuel Presbyterian Church (HOLA’s first home), she decided to donate the proceeds of the drive to the Church. One afternoon before returning to school after Christmas break, Heidy set up shop outside of the College Success office and collected a large number of cans.

For Heidy, who started attending HOLA in 7th grade, HOLA was a safe haven for expression and growth, a space to study and make friends after school. Expressing that many kids didn’t want to go home after school, HOLA was a place to go that kept them away from drugs and gangs. HOLA provided a positive and creative space for Heidy to grow as a scholar and a person. One day when stopping by HOLA to print something, Heidy ran into someone from the Tisch School of Arts and learned about a Paris study abroad program, which she was later accepted to and attended! Heidy wonders what would have happened if she didn’t come in that day and is thankful for all of the opportunities HOLA has provided.

Heidy is currently a senior at Barnard, double majoring in American Studies and Psychology. While she now loves it there, she struggled to adjust at first. On top of dealing with culture shock, she was struggling academically. But she didn’t give up, she knew she had a community to turn to at HOLA. Former Alumni Director Andrea Cova encouraged her and motivated Heidy to face her obstacles and continue with her education. “There is always someone at HOLA who I can approach with either good or bad news—knowing that I will be heard and validated.” As Heidy finishes her degree, she is looking forward to taking a year off before heading to graduate school for her PhD in History.


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