May 14, 2018 Celebrations

Ivy League dreams come true for Sioux City West graduate


Jose Ayala Garcia, 18, would like to, some day, work alongside Elon Musk.

Garcia, a West High School senior, has long admired Musk, the entrepreneur in charge of aerospace manufacturer SpaceX and energy storage corporation Tesla, Inc.

“I’d love to work at either one of (Musk’s) companies,” he said, inside a conference room at his high school’s counseling office. “But going to work for Google and NASA would also be nice.”

There’s a good reason for Garcia to sound confident. Once he sets a goal for himself, he generally achieves it.

When he was still in middle school, Garcia decided his post-high school career would include attending a top university, preferably an Ivy League school.

Sure enough, he recently won acceptance into Princeton University. This fall, he plans to study mechanical and aerospace engineering in the the Ivy League school in New Jersey.

“Admission to any top university is such a weird game,” Garcia remembered. “But when I heard Princeton wanted me, I cried because I was so happy.”

His parents also shed a few tears.

“My mom and dad were very excited for me,” Garcia said. “That was until my mom asked, ‘Remind me, which college was Princeton, again?'”

“This was when I had to tell her Princeton was the school that was a five-hour plane trip or a 22-hour road trip from Sioux City,” he noted. “That’s when it dawned on us what a big adjustment this will be.”

You see, Garcia will be the first person in his family to go to college.

His roofer dad, Ambrocio Ayala and his housekeeper mom, Maria Garcia de Ayala, moved to America from Mexico to ensure a better life for Garcia and his three younger sisters.

“Our parents sacrificed so much and have been so encouraging of me and my sisters,” he said.

Indeed, they encouraged Garcia’s pursuit of music. As a tenor saxophonist, he’s been selected to perform with the Northwest Iowa Bandmasters Association High School Band and at the Iowa All-State Music Festival multiple times.

He was also one of the high school students chosen to participate in a space settlement design competition head at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, earlier this year.

“There’s a strong connection between music and science,” Garcia said. “Both rely on formulas and theory and frequencies.”

As Garcia walked into a science classroom, his teacher Shelly Nash can’t help but smile.

“Every teacher wishes she has a student like Jose,” Nash said. “Jose is both a good student and a good person. His classmates look up to him and he’s become a role model to them.”

This is something Garcia has always wanted to be.

“My advice has always been to discover what your passion is and go for it,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to aim high. It may take a lot of time and a lot of hard work to achieve your goal. but once you achieve it you realize it was all worthwhile.”

View the full story from the Sioux City Journal
by Earl Horlyk