Cristian Garcia Alcaraz: From Picking Berries to Psychology Degrees


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Donning a baseball cap, a holey shirt, and speaking mostly Spanish, Cristian Garcia Alcaraz spent his youth picking berries on California farms.

At 8 years old, Garcia Alcaraz immigrated to Oxnard, California from Michoacán, Mexico. Garcia Alcaraz was not a very good student in middle and high school, because he had trouble with the English language.

But none of that stopped him from pursuing his passion to fight for better health and more resources for farm workers like himself and his parents.

Garcia Alcaraz is making strong progress in the English-language and he is excelling in higher education. In 2014, he transferred to Californian State University Channel Islands, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Now, he is working on his master’s in psychology at San Diego State University.

To further her experience and education, Garcia Alcaraz applied for the Éxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training program.

The Éxito! program, led by Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez at UT Health San Antonio with support from the National Cancer Institute, recruits 25 master’s-level students and professionals each year for a five-day summer institute, optional internships, and ongoing networking and support to promote doctoral degrees and careers in Latino cancer. A recent study found significant increases in summer institute participants’ confidence to apply to a doctoral program and academic self-efficacy.

“I think [the Éxito! summer institute] has made me more confident about competing with other doctoral candidates,” Garcia Alcaraz said.

His ongoing education gives him a good foundation for his goal of utilizing iPhones and other technology to collect health data and understand behavior in real time.

Since his time in the Éxito! program, Garcia Alcaraz has applied for and been accepted into the Clinical Psychology Joint Doctoral Program at San Diego State University / UC San Diego.

He had some advice for future Éxito! participants:

“You will enjoy it, and the program is definitely worth it!”

Editor’s Note: This is the story of a graduate of the 2019 Èxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training program at UT Health San Antonio, the headquarters of the Salud America! program. Apply now for Èxito! 2020.

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