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Serving South Africa

Alumni Renata Garcia '18, University of St. Thomas-Houston

“Duc in Altum! These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence,” (St. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, 1). Alumna Renata Garcia ’18 lives this statement to its fullest. Witnessing the motivational drive of her immigrant parents from Mexico City, teaching business skills to women in South Africa and now embarking on a new job opportunity, Garcia’s past, present and future create her tapestry of a life focused on serving others.

Earning a finance degree from Cameron, inheriting a powerful drive from immigrant parents

With a degree in finance, Garcia was all in when it came to involvement with the Cameron School of Business. Competing in case competitions, establishing neurological research, and participating in Chartered Financial Analyst challenges were all a part of her experience. 

“A lot of the characteristics that make me very driven are from my parents,” she said. “They came here when I was five and since then my mom has been the most motivating person for me. She was in door-to-door sales and spoke no English. I remember her coming home with blood on her feet from walking all day just trying to give me the best life and education.”

Seeing her mom’s dedication and resilience lit a fire in Garcia that made her want to serve others in the biggest ways possible. 

A lasting impact from serving South Africa

After visiting South Africa on vacation, she knew she wanted to go back and serve. She traveled with The African Impact Foundation on her first solo mission trip in March 2021. She had several barriers before getting there, including someone having a heart attack on the plane and having to put her EMT skills to work. Finally though, she arrived.  

“Those rewarding experiences made me realize that giving back in that way is what I want to do,” Garcia said. “No monetary gain, the happiness you see on their faces when they see you is the reward.

In the midst of poverty, they are the happiest people and in one of the most beautiful places in the world,” she said. 

She taught women business-related tasks like Microsoft Excel, resume and interviewing tips, social media marketing and branding. Garcia said she saw her mom in the faces of the women she served. 

Putting others first

“All of these women strive for a better future, just like my mom did, just like my parents did,” she said. “At St. Thomas, we learn to put others first. Even in a corporate world or anywhere, that means we want to empower people and prepare them for the workforce environment. 

“Daily I would remind them of their worthiness, and to trust our faith. I am grateful for the teachings instilled by the Cameron School of Business that allowed me to pass on our knowledge to these remarkable women.”

After only a week and a half of work, the whole country shut down for COVID and Garcia had a horrendous experience with the South Africa variant of the virus. Even though her life was significantly impacted, she cannot wait to go back. In the meantime, she is grateful for her latest job experience as a rating analyst at S&P Global and continues to mentor students at UST. 

Lasting teachings from the Cameron School of Business

“The teachings instilled in me by Cameron School of Business gave me the veracity of wanting to explore another continent and mentor young women who strive to grow in their professionalism,” Garcia said. “The University of St. Thomas strives to promote immersion in a new world, culture and challenges. The teachings enrich the human person.”   

About the Author — Bridget Richardson

AvatarA producer with MAX Studios, Bridget Richardson loves to engage in conversations with just about anyone. A sports fan and homebody, Bridget enjoys spending time with her family, watching baking shows, and traveling to understand different cultures and eat delicious food.

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