The cumulative age gap between the Garcia siblings spans over 10 years, but their love for Waubonsee Community College and the game of soccer is the same. Danni Garcia-Havens, Hayley Garcia, and Chaz Garcia, of Maple Park, consider Waubonsee a gateway to education, where they each found a supportive place to navigate college and explore direct career paths. And Waubonsee continues to unite the Garcia family over a game they once played as student-athletes.
In celebration of the transformative learning the Garcia siblings experienced at Waubonsee and for embodying the college's mission by discovering passions, Waubonsee is proud to recognize the Garcia siblings as its November 2022 Featured Alumni.
During their youth, Hayley and Chaz were inspired by their oldest sister, Danni, who became the first person in their family to attend Waubonsee and join the women's soccer team. On and off the field, Danni showed her younger siblings the value of higher education as she navigated her college career independently.
"I didn't realize it back then, but there are so many more obstacles that you don't realize you have to overcome just by being a first-generation student," said Danni. "I had no idea about college back then, but it feels great that despite that, I became a solid example to my siblings; as a result, they came to Waubonsee and created their own opportunities and experiences."
Since graduating from Waubonsee in 2011, Danni has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Spanish from Clarke University and a Master of Arts in Education, Administration, and Policy from Dakota Wesleyan University. She is currently pursuing a second degree in physical education from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
Danni recalls that being a part of the women's soccer team helped her form good study habits and time management skills. "Waubonsee is a place that gave me hope again, especially playing collegiate soccer, and gave me an educational foundation to keep going, so I could keep aspiring to be in a profession that I want to be in," said Danni.
After seeing Danni's success at Waubonsee, their middle sister Hayley started taking dual credit courses at her high school through Waubonsee. Uncertain of what to study, Hayley came to Waubonsee knowing she wanted to play soccer just like her older sister. She later competed at Nationals. "Going to Nationals with the 2011 soccer team made me a new person, tested my limitations, and allowed me to grow in areas I never knew I could grow physically and in a healthy way," said Hayley.
While balancing school and her sport as a student-athlete, Hayley experienced a significant life transition and became a young mom. Hayley worked with her advisors to readjust her schedule. She switched in-person day classes to evening, online, and summer courses. "Waubonsee gave me hope that there was still an opportunity through that life transition," said Hayley, "Waubonsee allowed me to gain my credits quickly and transfer to a four-year institution." Since her time at Waubonsee, Hayley has completed a Bachelor’s in Social Work and a Master’s in Social Work from Aurora University. She is currently a mental health clinician at a private practice.
Ten years later, the youngest Garcia sibling, Chaz, found a new support system at Waubonsee and grew his self-confidence. "Having that hands-on learning in the Automotive Technology Program helped me flourish beyond what I thought I could achieve," said Chaz.
In high school, Chaz struggled in the traditional education system. Waubonsee proved that Chaz had the knowledge, skill, and ability to succeed in his educational career. Since graduating from Waubonsee in 2021, Chaz decided to explore becoming an electrician. He plans to attend an area trade school as part of his three-year plan. "Waubonsee opened my eyes to what’s available in the automotive field," says Chaz.
According to the Garcia siblings, if families or siblings are thinking about college but unsure of what path to take, Waubonsee is the best place because it provides a unique and customizable learning experience and a place to discover one’s passions. Equally as important, the Garcia siblings believe that the value of staying connected to Waubonsee as alumni allows individuals to come back, reflect on their self-growth, see the changes at the college's four campuses, and be a part of a larger community. "It's important to stay connected and build those networking systems," said Hayley.
The sibling trio comes back regularly to campus to participate in the Waubonsee Alumni Soccer Games. "Our whole family looks forward to these events," said Danni. "It's like one big family reunion.”
Pictured above (from left to right): Waubonsee Board of Trustees Chair Rebecca Oliver, Danni Garcia-Havens, Chaz Garcia, and Waubonsee President Dr. Christine Sobek.