What Franco Garcia Can Teach Us

Yesterday the body of Franco Garcia was pulled from the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, ending a nearly two-month search and hope against hope that the Boston College student, who went missing in February after a night out with friends, was still alive.

In past weeks, it’s been easy to shake our heads over news from area schools. At Boston University, fraternity pledges were brutally hazed earlier this week. This on the heels of sexual assault allegations against two of the university’s hockey players and the resignation of the editor of the Daily Free Press over an April Fools’ Day edition that made light of rape. Meanwhile, Rolling Stone published an exposé on fraternity culture at Dartmouth, and when readers voiced skepticism, one woman came forward to tell her story of hazing at Dartmouth that left her in a near-coma with cuts and bruises all over her body, two broken teeth, and no memory of the night. As a parent of young children, such stories leave me wondering what I can do to keep them from becoming the kind of people who think it’s fun to pour fish sauce on their friends, duct tape their wrists together, and beat them.

But the story of Franco Garcia provides a potent contrast to such ugly portraits of today’s college students. Garcia was by all accounts an exemplary young man. He worked full-time at CVS as a pharmacy technician and took chemistry classes at night at Boston College. He hoped to become a doctor one day, but was also a talented clarinetist in the school’s symphony and marching band. In photographs, he has an easygoing smile, plain Dutch-boy haircut, and warm brown eyes behind glasses. In his mother’s heartbroken words yesterday: “He was a wonderful kid.”

Since he went missing in February, his extended family and friends had tried every avenue to find him, even enlisting Bruce Springsteen’s help. (Springsteen has a son at Boston College.) Sadly, the family got the news yesterday that their boy wasn’t coming home.

We don’t see enough kids like Franco Garcia in the news these days, and when we do, it’s often because of a tragedy like this one. But lest we start to think that all college students are hazing each other, blacking out, and living lives devoid of decency, we should remember that there are many more like Garcia, often putting themselves through school to achieve their goals. As his parents grieve, one hopes they know this: The public was introduced to their son after a terrible turn of events. But while his death was tragic, his life was not. Amid the swirl of news about college students gone wrong, Franco Garcia reminded us how good a kid can be.