Seth Garcia ’78: The First Camden Scholar

Seth Garcia ’78 was the first ABC Scholar to graduate from Moorestown Friends School. Beginning in the 1970s, MFS partnered with A Better Chance, Inc. (ABC), a national non-profit student search and referral organization. When scholarship funding from the ABC organization ended in 1983, the MFS Board of Trustees made the commitment to establish the school’s Camden Scholars Program for highly promising students from Camden.

Seth was raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia before his family moved to the Cramer Hill section of Camden. A diligent student (“I never wanted to do anything to upset my mother”), in eighth grade he was recommended to apply for the ABC program and quickly he was one of three students being considered for a scholarship to Moorestown Friends.

Struck by the friendliness of staff, he tells the story of the day that Headmaster Alex MacColl drove him to his eighth grade graduation – and stayed for the ceremony – and then drove him back to MFS to complete the placement test.

“I thought it was a great thing for a Headmaster to do something like that. From that point on, I knew I would like the school,” said Garcia.

Garcia enjoyed a fine career at MFS and particularly mentioned English Teacher Mary Williams (pictured with Seth), Basketball and Soccer Coach and Physical Education Teacher Drew Nolan, and Music Teacher Vanesse Thomas as positive influences in his life.

“I was definitely very prepared for college when I graduated,” he said.

He went on to earn a B.B.A. from Ohio University. After settling in Atlanta, he initially aspired to start a business, but soon became intrigued by firefighting as an occupation. Little did he realize that he was embarking on a career in which he would make a difference in the lives of fellow firefighters and in the lives of many Atlanta-area youth.

After completing some courses and certifications, he was hired by the DeKalb County Fire Department, which serves the Metro Atlanta area. On top of the obvious courage required for the job, Seth was a key figure in campaigns and class action legal proceedings to improve hiring practices in the department.

“At the time, 1 of 127 people in leadership positions in the department were African-American,” said Garcia. “They did eventually make many changes and today the diversity in the department is great.” Seth himself earned promotions to captain and chief during his career, retiring as a Battalion Chief.

Perhaps his most enduring legacy, however, may be his leadership of the DeKalb County Fire Rescue Explorers Program. Children ages 14-18 apply to the program to learn skills that prepare them to become a Firefighter/Firemedic and to assist them in their career search process. The DeKalb program is the largest explorers program in Georgia. The Explorers compete in state and regional tournaments and have traveled to Tennessee and Florida, where they have earned many competition awards and championships. Seth resurrected the program in 2007 and helped infused new energy into it. He co-authored a new summer curriculum with friend and colleague Bennie Joe Page. Although he retired as an active firefighter in 2010, Seth served as Director of the Explorers program from 2007-14 and still volunteers.

In addition, Seth is involved with a Haitian mission program through his college fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. A burn victim himself at a young age, he has also volunteered for years at an Atlanta-area camp for young burn victims.

Seth Garcia is clearly an MFS graduate doing well…and doing good.