Senior Spotlight: Alvaro and Joshua Chang-Garcia
Alvaro and Joshua Chang-Garcia are brothers. Alvaro is 17 months younger than Joshua, and they do much together.
Play “Call of Duty.”
Go to Four Seasons or Hanes Mall.
Play soccer with their friends at one of the YMCA fields in High Point.
Teach the other how to drive. That’s what Joshua did for Alvaro.
If you see one, you’ll see the other. That includes school.
They started at Triangle Lake Montessori Elementary, went on to Welborn Middle and finished at the Middle College at GTCC-High Point.
Today, the brothers have reached an academic pinnacle their parents didn’t reach.
They now have two high school diplomas and two associate degrees. Joshua even stayed a fifth year at the Middle College to obtain a GTCC diploma in construction management.
This month, Joshua and Alvaro graduated. This fall, they’re headed to UNC-Charlotte.
Together. And yes, they’ll be roommates.
They’ve been raised to believe in family. They’ve also been raised to be persistent. It’s because of their parents.
Their parents didn’t go very far in school. But they’re hard workers, and they’ve instilled that work ethic with their sons.
Their father, Alvaro Sr., grew up in Mexico. His father died young, and Alvaro Sr. had to leave school to help his mom.
Today, Alvaro Sr. works construction. He pours concrete and levels it out, using all sorts of different tools to make it glisten like still water.
Joshua sees his dad’s occupation as art.
Two summers ago, Joshua worked with his dad. He liked it. That’s what convinced him to stay an extra year at GTCC-High Point so he could get a construction management degree and become skilled at carpentry.
During his last year, he and his other classmates built three porches on three houses in High Point’s Washington Terrace Park. He spent the entire semester on the job site in boots, jeans, safety helmet and a tool belt.
Today, he’ll drive by those three houses just to look. He sees that as the genesis of his budding construction career.
“The Middle College gave me a sense of preparedness, and I have an idea of what to do and what’s going on,” says Joshua, who will turn 20 Nov. 7. “I didn’t have that before. I sure don’t see myself in an office all day in front of a computer. I want to get my hands dirty now and then.”
Their mom, Celestina, grew up in Guatemala. She never got a chance to go to school. She was the oldest of 10 siblings, and she had to help her mom take care of the family.
Like Alvaro Sr., Celestina came to High Point more than 20 years ago. And like many immigrants in Guilford County, she came to find a better life. When she did, she met Alvaro Sr. at a Mexican store in High Point.
They got married and started a family.
As her sons grew older, she encouraged Joshua and Alvaro to make education a priority. She knew how important it would be in their lives. Alvaro found out why firsthand during a study session at home.
He was complaining about reading when his mom urged him to continue.
“That’s a really good skill that I wish I knew,” she told Alvaro.
Their mom can’t read.
“I was like, ‘Wow,’ I never thought about it that way,” says Alvaro, who will turn 18 July 24. “I realized not everyone has that opportunity, and I knew then that I had to try my best to get better at it.”
Alvaro looks up to his parents. He also looks up to his older brother. Matter of fact, he applied to the Middle College at GTCC-High Point because his brother went there.
But Joshua didn’t apply because his friends went there. He says his friends went to the Middle College at UNCG, and he missed the deadline. Joshua applied to the Middle College at GTCC-High Point because he realized he could sleep later.
Joshua chose the Middle College at GTCC-High Point because some of their classes started at noon. He also chose the Middle College because he knew he could get credit for taking college classes.
Once he got there, though, he found something that really sealed his decision.
He calls it “the vibe.”
He liked the smaller classes, the close relationships with the teachers and the chance to get tutored if he fell behind. Then there was the laid-back, low-key atmosphere of the place. He felt like he could do well, fit in and grow.
“It opened a bunch of doors,” Joshua says. “I’ve got great friends, and I’m prepared for college.”
Alvaro went to the Middle College to join his brother. And like his brother, he found direction.
“I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to study at the Middle College,” he says. “I took some college courses, and I took some engineering classes. At the beginning, I was kinda scared. But after I finished my first engineering class, I realized I enjoyed most of the class. That helped convince me to go into engineering.”
“My favorite subject is math, and building something is all about math,” he says. “You’re using math to make something yourself, and it gives you the satisfaction of building something that’ll be useful.”
So, at UNC-Charlotte, Alvaro will major in engineering; Joshua will major in construction management.
But their dreams are the same. They both want to own their own company one day. And like his brother, when Alvaro thinks about his future, he thinks about his parents.
“They’re rooting for us,” Alvaro says. “Just to walk across the stage with a bachelor’s degree and start a good career. Honestly, this gives me motivation. They’ve always told me and my brother, ‘Always look for the good in everything.”
At UNC-Charlotte, they will. This fall, they’ll become first-generation college students.
“It’s something to be a proud of,” Joshua says. “I want to be an example to my younger cousins. When my parents came to this country, they didn’t have the chance to go to college. Now, I have a chance to go and graduate. I want to make our parents proud.”