A Voice for Others

Laying the seeds for the next generation of first-generation college students at Cal Lutheran

Anthony Garay (center) and friends Danna Santiago (left) and Maria Teresa (right) celebrate the start of the 2023 fall semester at Homecoming put on by the hardworking ASCLUG. Photo: Anthony Garay

Biochemistry major Anthony Garay plans to embark on his medical degree after graduating from California Lutheran University in the spring of 2024. A first-generation student minoring in public health and the university honors program, Garay wants to remain in the region and eventually become a pediatrician.

“Ideally, I see myself practicing medicine in Southern California as I would like to use my Spanish language skills to serve the diverse populations where I call home,” Garay said.

Forming bonds and providing bilingual care

Garay's academic passions emanate from his own experiences. As a child in nearby Moorpark, California, he battled severe food allergies and was unable to eat foods containing dairy, tree nuts, tomatoes, eggs, and many fruits such as bananas.

“Growing up, I recall the gentle care and effort taken by my pediatrician to ensure I felt seen during my recovery. Her care confirmed in me my desire to become a language proficient physician capable of forming bonds and providing bilingual care to a culturally diverse community,” Garay said.

Studying biochemistry has provided Garay with pedagogic and personal insights, saying the subject “has enriched me in a molecular universe.

“To understand matter at its most fundamental level is to understand the molecular makeup of the individual,” Garay explained adding that, “Molecules are a lot like people –they build bonds, and they communicate to make greater molecules. In this sense, I look forward to learning from my peers and working with a team of driven and diverse professionals to create something larger than ourselves.” 

This “something” that benefits the greater good involves a more just and egalitarian healthcare system. Garay's classes in public health have alerted him to this often inequitable, yet ever-evolving and improving, industry. He hopes to see advancements once he joins the ranks of healthcare.

“Today, healthcare is often not accessible to all. For many, access to healthcare is not guaranteed. But it should be. With Spanish as my first language, I hope to take part in the movement to make healthcare accessible to all individuals, especially those communities often lost in translation,” Garay said.

Through his coursework, Garay has gained an interest in pediatric immunology treating children with challenges to their immune system. He has also considered pursuing a dual doctoral degree after participating in an eight-week research project that an ALLIES in STEM Fellowship funded on Increasing the Penetrance of a Developmental Mutation in Drosophila melanogaster” through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship with David Marcey, PhD

“Dr. Marcey guided me through the research process and encouraged me to pursue an MD– PhD,” he says. 

Guiding light for Cal Lutheran and other first-generation students

This future healthcare provider currently serves another population, his fellow students, working as a junior senator in the Associated Students California Lutheran University Government (ASCLUG). In this role, he has served as leader of the group’s Multicultural Committee and Academics & Honors Clubs Committee. 

“With a tight-knit community of about 2,500 undergraduate students, I have learned that I value building genuine and long-lasting bonds. At CLU, I found I could fulfill this value as a senator in our wonderful ASCLUG,” Garay said. “I greatly enjoy being a liaison for club presidents and speaking to faculty as a voice for the student body. Most recently, my fellow senators and I advocated for more parking and increased campus safety to President Varlotta at a council meeting discussing the updated university plan of action.”

Garay considers his work on the campus’s annual “Lighting Walk” as his most impactful. For the past three years, he has collaborated with Facilities and Infrastructure Project Manager, Nick Boudreaux, and Cal Lutheran’s Facility Operations and Planning team to illuminate the dark areas and fountain behind the student store. 

“In bringing light to our campus, it is my sincere goal to create a safe environment that is both welcoming and aesthetically pleasing,” Garay said.

In addition to serving as an ASCLUG senator, Garay participates in the Latin American Student Organization (LASO).

“Being in the club has reinforced my value of community,” Garay said.

Activities he has partook in include crafting and handing out cempasúchil flowers to the campus community for LASO’s Día de los Muertos celebration and acting as Joseph for its Las Posadas event.

“I enjoy the events where club members can come together on campus to bring a smile to the community,” Garay said.

He credits his scholastic successes, including what he calls a “culminating point,” his presenting research in the 2021 Festival of Scholars to the Cal Lutheran community. Groups to which he gives thanks include ALLIES in STEM, Student Support Services, Project CHESS Men’s Initiative, and the McNair Scholars Program. 

“As a first-generation college student who had to navigate matriculating into college during the height of the pandemic in 2020, I am incredibly grateful for our university’s TRIO programs,” Garay said.

Individuals he acknowledges for his scholarly achievements are Dr. Marcey and academic counselors including Katie Garza, Monica Madrigal, Nazareth Bautista, Ashley Ayala, and Elena Jaloma, M.P.P.A., M.S., who directs Cal Lutheran’s Student Support Services.

“Their ongoing kindness and guidance have allowed me to both be a part of an academic family and plan a path of success here at CLU,” Garay said.

Community lies at the heart of Anthony’s being as evinced through his participation in campus-based clubs and organizations and long-term plans. Along with his contributions to ASCLUG and LASO, he serves as a Presidential Host Tour Guide where he welcomes potential and new undergraduate students to Cal Lutheran and answers questions about his experiences on campus.   

“This is where I stay true to my roots and lay the seeds for the next generation of first-generation college students like myself,” Garay said. 

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