Meet the Chargers: Gabriela Garcia-Perez

Ethan Cardona, Contributing Writer

‘Meet the Chargers’ kicks off with Gabriela Garcia-Perez, a first-year business analytics major from Guilford, Conn. and a member of the women’s soccer team, donning the number 27 shirt for the “Blue and Gold.”

Making the transition from high school to college in the midst of a pandemic is no easy task, as the class of 2024 experienced this year. For Garcia-Perez, she juggled all this along with pursuing multiple extracurriculars in her senior year at Guilford High School, in particular, a
group she founded: Community Integration Mentoring Program (CIMP)

CIMP is a group at Fair Haven Pre K-8 School in New Haven where local high school students promote a sense of community between students of various ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds.

The idea started after talks with Daniel Díaz, Parent Engagement Project Coordinator for the New Haven Public School’s system and an invitation to an event focused on people from Puerto Rico who had moved to the Contiguous U.S. following Hurricane Maria.

“In attending that event, I realized a major social issue,” said Garcia-Perez. “With these kids coming to the nation, they were new to the school system and some even new to the language.”

It was a problem that Garcia-Perez was made more aware of through the event with Díaz and struck a nerve, as Spanish was her first language and with two Latino parents, her mom and dad from Ecuador and Colombia, respectively, she has seen this story before, which made creating a diverse community even more of a goal.

That feeling of community starts at home for Garcia-Perez and her family. Living with her mom, dad, brother and grandmother, she was raised with her family by her side through everything, in her extracurriculars and especially in athletics.

“I remember going to practice with [my dad],” she said, “staying after to go over the different techniques I needed to work on, my shooting, the strength of my shot, so he had a big influence on my development in middle school and in high school.”

In her youth soccer days, her day was either an assistant or head coach on each of her teams. A former University of New Haven men’s soccer player, himself, his influence was always there on and off the field.

As she made the transition herself onto campus, Garcia-Perez made the decision to start her collegiate endeavors as a commuter student rather than living on campus. With COVID-19 still very far from subsiding, it was the best decision at the time for the safety of her and her family.

The pandemic, along with living at home, makes it harder for her to make friends, with everyone wearing masks and a lack of events on campus due to social distancing and other concerns. This is where being a member of the women’s soccer team became extra-special for Garcia-Perez, as she had her own group to immerse herself into right when she got on campus.

“Over the summer we had played some pickup games and mini practices,” said Garcia-Perez. “It was a good way for people to meet up and for me to meet the people on the team. All of them were super nice and were telling me about all the things to look forward to at the university.”

That team comradery became ever more important for every team on campus on Jul. 16, when the Northeast-10 (NE10) Council of Presidents made the decision to postpone conference-sponsored competition and championships through Dec. 31 of this year. It was a tough situation but one that Garcia-Perez thinks was essential to ensure the safety of everyone on campus and around the NE10.

“Obviously I was sad,” she said, “But if that’s what it takes to really slow the progress of this pandemic, then that’s what’s needed. Not having a season, again, is sad, but so many people have been affected by COVID in much worse ways, that we can’t be complaining about [not playing].”

Garcia-Perez had much more to discuss about her family, soccer, and life as a first-year student at the university. For the full interview with Gabriela Garcia-Perez, go to NewHavenChargers.com, and later this week on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.