This is part of a weekly series introducing readers to individuals who are passionate about our Mid-Valley community.
Working at Safeway isn’t just a job for Simeon Garcia. It’s a source of independence and a chance for him to serve the community.
Garcia works a few days a week as a service courtesy clerk at Safeway’s Center Street store, organizing shelves, bagging groceries and collecting carts, among other responsibilities. He previously trained at other organizations such as Walgreens and United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley.
“Everyone really impacts me,” he said. “The employees … the customers. They know I can work with them well and they know that I am a nice person.”
Garcia, 20, is a student in Salem-Keizer Public Schools’ Community Transition Program, known as CTP.
Community transition programs are designed to meet the needs of adult students with disabilities who have completed high school. For three years, Garcia has participated in the district’s Centennial program, housed at the Career Technical Education Center in Salem.
Centennial helps young adults ages 18-21 build life and vocational skills, as well as gain work experience, so they can find and maintain employment. CTP serves about 200 students, school officials said. About 20, including Garcia, are part of the Centennial program.
Garcia grew up in Salem-Keizer schools and will be in the program until he ages out next year.
“This program is really, really nice,” he said. “I love the job. The students share with everybody here, and it’s really improved my communication skills. I’m really sad to leave.”
Before then, Garcia has goals to learn how to budget, work with the community and plan his next steps after finishing at Centennial. He is most passionate about helping people.
“The customer comes first,” Garcia said, adding that his second priority is helping others around him, like his coworkers.
In his free time, Garcia, a Blazers fan, likes to play basketball and explore the Salem area with friends. He said it’s a blessing to work with the community.
“I will try to do whatever I can do to just be a part of helping customers out and trying to be able to meet new people, new faces, new ideas and new people,” he said.
Overwhelming anxiety is one of Garcia’s biggest challenges, but he said the Centennial program has taught him tools to stay calm, such as thinking about what he’s doing and how to do it before he starts.
Yes, he wants to make his own money, but Garcia’s job is more about establishing his place in the world. Even the electric scooter he drives to work every day represents an independence he’s worked hard to achieve.
“Simeon is a great representative of how much growth our students have when we really support them and give them the tools they need to be successful,” teacher Jennifer Colachico said.
Colachico taught Garcia in a self-contained classroom in middle school. Working with him now as an adult, she said he’s come far.
In a group interview with the Statesman Journal, Colachico turned to Garcia and smiled, saying, “I’m especially proud of this one.”
If you have an idea for someone we should profile for this series, email Statesman Journal senior news editor Alia Beard Rau at firstname.lastname@example.org.