Outstanding Forestry Student Tapped for National Honor

Antonio Garcia

Las Vegas, N.M. — An outstanding New Mexico Highlands University forestry major is one of 10 college students in the country to be tapped for the honor of Federal Service Student Ambassador for the U.S. Forest Service.

The Partnership for Public Service named Antonio Garcia as an on-campus resource to promote forest service job and internship opportunities to students at Highlands. He is collaborating with the university’s Office of Career Services.

Garcia completed two paid summer internships with the U.S. Forest Service and landed a full-time career position with the agency that he’ll begin when he graduates in May.  

“For my service, I’m giving presentations and doing other outreach to increase students’ knowledge and interest in forest service job opportunities, and how to apply for positions,” Garcia said. “The forest service doesn’t just hire forestry graduates. They’re interested in a number of majors, like wildlife biology and business.”

The 23-year-old from Wagon Mound, N.M. will also share what it was like to intern with the U.S. Forest Service.

“My internships were incredible learning experiences that made me sure that I wanted to pursue a career with the Forest Service. Having a passion for the outdoors, forestry is a good career choice for me because there’s nothing better than being paid for doing what I love,” Garcia said.

Bob Heiar is the recreation staff officer for the Sandia Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest east of Albuquerque. He supervised Garcia for his 2011 forest service internship, and later hired him for the permanent position.

“I see Antonio as having a bright future with the U.S. Forest Service,” Heiar said. “He’s very intelligent and is highly motivated to provide good public service. He demonstrated a solid foundation in natural resources management and is good at taking on new challenges.”

Heiar added that Garcia exemplifies other attributes that he looks for when hiring a new employee — like excellent interpersonal skills, the ability to be a good team player, and determination.

“Another thing that stands out about Antonio is his positive attitude — it’s infectious. We’re all looking forward to him joining our team,” Heiar said.

Garcia said the U.S. Forest Service is accommodating to people with disabilities. At 18, he contracted hantavirus that damaged his spinal cord. He is a paraplegic and uses a wheelchair.

“I keep doing what I do and don’t let anything stop me,” Garcia said.

During his time at Highlands, Garcia has distinguished himself academically.

“Antonio is a well respected, natural leader in every circumstance — whether it’s in the classroom or field studies,” said forestry professor Sara Brown. “He’s a very enthusiastic, engaged learner who wants to apply the science in the real world. Antonio is an exceptional student.”

Garcia said: “The forestry professors at Highlands prepared and inspired me to work with the forest service. It’s great to have professors who have experience with different federal agencies, and are so willing to share their knowledge and insight.”

At Highlands, Garcia gained expertise in geographic information systems, or GIS. He is a GIS aide in the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute at Highlands.

Garcia is also an award-winning researcher, taking first place in the ecology division in the 2011 Emerging Researchers National Conference in Science Technology Engineering and Math. Garcia employed GIS to study the correlation between soil type and vegetation at the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge.

Students interested in U.S. Forest Service careers may contact Garcia at adapt_and_overcome@hotmail.com