Texas Border Business
PHARR – A Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (PSJA) ISD Alumnus has recently co-authored a children’s book series to help young children develop public speaking skills. Thomas Ray Garcia, a PSJA North Class of 2012 graduate and Princeton University Class of 2016 Alumnus co-authored “Speechless,” the first book of the children’s series, “Speak with Style.”
“Speechless” is centered around eight-year-old Amelia Martinez, who is terrified to deliver a speech at the Grand Oratory. When the intolerant Mr. Rhetorick steals the village’s voices, Amelia must use her public speaking skills to save the town, Voz, from eternal silence. On her quest, Amelia gains confidence at every turn, from speaking to forest animals to finding her own voice.
The idea for the book series came about during Garcia’s time at Princeton, when he joined a club called “Speak with Style,” and met one of his mentors, Matt Eventoff an advisor for the student organization. Before graduating, the two had the idea to work on “Speechless”, merging Garcia’s passion for writing with the practical need to help children improve their public speaking skills.
“When I was a student, I never had a chance to stand up and speak consistently in a way that I felt empowered after I did it,” Garcia said.
Through this work, Garcia hopes to inspire young readers to find their voice early in their academic journey.
Over 1,200 copies of “Speechless” have been distributed via digital/paperback since the book’s publication in September 2020. Garcia donated 50 copies to “ARISE Adelante,” a local community-based program that works with colonia families to strengthen their communities, according to the program’s website.
He is also in the process of donating 75 books to PSJA ISD as a gift to the student body. Parents can visit https://www.speakwithstylebooks.com/ to download a 100% free digital copy in English, Spanish, or Portuguese.
Currently a PhD candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Garcia is also the founder of the College, Scholarship, Leadership Access Program (CSLAP), a local nonprofit he founded in 2013 and was incorporated in 2019.
CSLAP hosts college access events and provides near-peer mentorship for high school students attending schools in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV). The program cultivates the development of college readiness culture throughout the RGV, social and cultural capital in high schools, and leadership & professional skills in students. It also connects students with local mentors and aims to increase college enrollment and completion rates.
Most recently, Garcia was also featured by Princeton in their January Alumni Newsletter highlighting his pioneering work throughout the RGV. Read the complete feature by clicking here.
“We are so proud of PSJA Alumni such as Thomas Garcia, who continues to give back to his community,” said PSJA ISD Superintendent Dr. Jorge L. Arredondo. “He is a shining example of our district’s efforts to ensure every student is prepared to excel in a global society to foster multi-generational prosperity through the empowerment of someone who walked in their shoes, achieved high levels of success.”