Joshua Garcia holds his degree from Harvard University. (Messenger photo/Matt Ledger)
While the graduates of 2013 begin to prepare for the culture shock of college, one Ridgeland High School alumnus returns to Rossville after receiving his prestigious degree.
On May 30 Joshua Garcia, 22, graduated cum laude in English from Harvard.
Garcia, who was Ridgeland High’s 2009 valedictorian, has since visited with classmates and his former teachers upon returning this summer. He also attended Ridgeland’s commencement as his younger brother, Jason received his diploma.
“It has been a combination of relaxing and getting ready for the next step,” Garcia said.
He decided upon a bachelor’s degree in English during his sophomore year of college to harness his interests in creative writing that began while taking English and history courses at Ridgeland.
As a sophomore, he wrote a musical score for a web series, “Ivory Tower,” which tapped into his musical abilities that developed as a child.
He took up acting, along with writing a few scripts, the following year.
Garcia wrote a 92-page feature-length screenplay for his senior thesis, titled “Sweet Tea,” while serving as executive producer for Ivory Tower productions.
He incorporated a bit of his childhood background into the hitman’s character, specifically moving from Chicago to Chattanooga, which Garcia did at age six.
His crime-genre creation explores a friendship of support between a suicidal retired hitman and a drug addict who has a perplexing plot twist.
“I wanted to continue acting, so this last semester, I auditioned for a few stage plays and actually got a few of them,” Garcia said.
In April, he landed a small role, as Steve in Harvard’s performance of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
In the weeks that followed and prior to the graduation, Garcia experienced a real-life drama in the weeklong tension that followed the Boston Marathon bombings.
Like many others, he learned of the incident through texts and the internet. But as the week progressed, the reality of the tragedy gripped the metropolitan area, along with the world.
“In a way, this affected me more than the (911) attacks …. I was in fifth grade and was young, and it happened so many miles away,” Garcia said. “This happened right down the street.”
As a way to regain some normalcy in the days that followed, Garcia and cast continued with an evening performance on April 19, despite the dramatic events that unfolded nearby.
“Even though the city was shut down and nobody was out, we decided to continue with the play for anybody who was on campus that needed a distraction or something to do and to not focus on this terrible, terrible thing,” he said.
Students emerged from their dorms, providing a capacity audience for the performance, despite the law enforcement suggestions to shelter in place.
In another play, “True West,” he played one of two brother struggling to write a screenplay.
“It was a lot of fun for me as I was actually in the process of writing my own screenplay at the time,” he said. “It helped my character, I suppose, as well as it drove me a little insane and kept me very busy. Even though it was my last year at school, I wasn’t afraid to try new things.”
As a high school student, one of Garcia’s longest pursuits was music.
He played keyboard in several high school rock bands locally.
Garcia also made the most of Advanced Placement coursework, taking as many courses as were offered, prior to the actual start of the Ridgeland Honors Academy.
“Ridgeland more than prepare me for Harvard,” Garcia said. “The classes and teachers were great. A lot of it comes down to personal drive and motivation, but it is always great to have that support group of teachers, guidance counselors, parents, family and friends.”
He has tried his hand at several entertaining pursuits, including music, acting, directing, producing and writing.
“Right now my focus is on screen writing and music production,” Garcia said.
He is uncertain if he will stay local or return to the Boston area.
In the months ahead, he plans to work on another screenplay that depicts a broken man with recurring dreams that hold more hope than his mediocre reality.
Garcia hopes that one of his screenplays will be purchased in the next few years, which would launch his aspirations of writing for the entertainment industry.
“Right now my focus is getting a job for the here and now, making some money and working on my material,” Garcia said. “No matter what I end up doing in life, I want there to be some sort of creative aspect, whether it is in my career, or if it is something I do on the side.”