Islander Alumna, Westside Native Tapped to Run Garcia Center

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The Antonio E. Garcia Arts & Education Center, a Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi affiliate, has launched a new era with a new director who has spent much of her career as an Island University employee and alumna serving the needs of the facility and, by extension, the community it serves.

Garcia Director Esmeralda Herrera-Teran ‘11, '16 began her duties on Dec. 14; she previously served as Business Manager for the College of Education and Human Development (COEHD). Herrera-Teran succeeds Juan Sebastian Garzon ’12, ’13, who served as Garcia Center Director for three years.

Dr. Richard Ricard, Associate Dean of COEHD Graduate Programs, Research, and Community Engagement, and Professor of Counseling and Educational Psychology, said Herrera-Teran’s time as a student and her professional roles supporting the Garcia Center made her the ideal candidate for the position.

“Ms. Herrera-Teran brings great enthusiasm and passion for the center’s outreach mission and has expressed a vision for the center focused on increasing and strengthening community partnerships, fundraising, and encouraging more A&M-Corpus Christi faculty participation in ways that expand the center’s impact through programming and research endeavors,” Ricard said.

Herrera-Teran’s connection to the Westside community the facility serves is a lifelong one. Early on, she attended Lamar Elementary School before moving on to Fannin Elementary School. She also attended several Westside churches, including St. Joseph Catholic Church and Emmanuel Baptist Church.

Herrera-Teran said she spent a good deal of time in her formative years with her grandparents who lived on the Westside while her parents – Rudy and Emma Herrera – worked. She recalls that she learned to wash clothes on a roller washer early in life.  

“I learned how to cook, and I can whip out homemade tortillas for a crowd pretty quick. I fed the chickens every morning, and we slept with fans in our windows,” Herrera-Teran recalled. “I used to walk over to the corner store with my grandfather where a nickel could buy a small brown bag of candy. We would go buy buttery biscuits at the City Bakery where everyone knew each other.

“I guess you can say the Westside is home to me. I love the people and the history. I know so much has changed, however, I believe it is important to preserve memories and keep tradition and culture alive,” she said.

First launched in 1993, The Garcia Center provides evidence-based academic intervention in reading and math for at-risk students, imparts school readiness strategies, delivers health education classes to alleviate chronic disease among underserved populations, offers counseling services to vulnerable groups, and cultivates the arts through community awareness projects and cultural events that enhance creative thinking, problem solving and stewardship for all community members. In 2004, the Garcia Center became part of COEHD at A&M-Corpus Christi. 

At the Island University, Herrera-Teran advocated for the Garcia Center in her role as Business Manager by identifying funding options to promote and improve programming for the community. She also served as a volunteer.

“I assisted the counseling interns when the center began Family Night Out about 15 years ago. I Initiated the Sugar Skulls event at the Garcia Center and completed direct hours working with the Family Night Out for my counseling degree in 2015-16,” Herrera-Teran said. “I also participated in Navidad de Los Niños – dressing up as an elf for the children. And I worked closely with the staff in creating the programming for the summer math camp, which we hope to bring back this summer.”  

A first-generation college student, Herrera-Teran is planning to complete a Master of Business Administration at the Island University this semester. She has also earned Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Science degree in counseling. Herrera-Teran said her education at the Island University has prepared her to take the Garcia Center into the post-COVID era.

“I believe with my business and counseling degrees I can serve the Center through two areas,” Herrera-Teran said. “First, I will continue to seek funding by establishing and building on current partnerships with the Corpus Christi community and continue to build on the programming that benefits our campus and Westside community. Secondly, my counseling degree has taught me to develop a servant leadership style that I believe is of value to our community and goes along with the Garcia Center’s mission statement to enhance creative thinking, problem-solving and stewardship for all community members.”

The new Garcia Center director also has several new projects in the works.

“The Garcia Center is working on several projects to bring faculty to the Center that would involve class projects, community engagement and research. The Center is focused on promoting change and redevelopment due to pandemic that will continue to build on our partnerships and programming,” she said. “We are also collaborating with the Antonio E. Garcia family to enrich the history and legacy of the Center and the importance to the community by developing the current website to include more history and artwork of Mr. Garcia. Knowing the history of the Center, the programming and vision I believe I can continue the success of the Center.”