Alfonso Garcia at the ballpark.

Give What You Get

When an organ donor saved his life, Alfonso Garcia '16 resolved to pay the gift forward

Alfonso Garcia was 15 years old when his liver suddenly stopped working. Doctors gave him days to live, unless he received a transplant.

Then, a 22-year-old man, an organ donor, died unexpectedly. Alfonso, who had been placed at the top of the donor-recipient list because of the threat to his health, received the young man’s liver — and a second chance at life.

“I think about him every day, how he saved my life, and how I can continue his legacy of giving,” says Alfonso ’16, a communication studies graduate. “If I can accomplish anything in this life, it’s because of him. I live in gratitude to him and his family every day."

At USF, we learned to be men and women for others. To be selfless in helping others in times of need."

Legacy of giving

That legacy of giving back is why Alfonso spends his free time volunteering with the nonprofit Donor Network West, where he speaks to the public and the media to convince more people to register as organ donors. Every day, an average of 22 people die waiting for a donation, Alfonso says.

Alfonso chose USF because the university offered him the chance to contribute to something bigger.

“At USF, we learned to be men and women for others. To be selfless in helping others in times of need,” says Alfonso, who received the USF James F. Kenney Memorial Award, for his inspiring grace, courage, and strength in overcoming difficult circumstances.

Helping donors and organ recipients, graduating from USF — those things wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of that young man and without the generosity of donors to USF’s scholarship programs, which funded much of his education, Alfonso says.

Ripple effect

“The [award] was one of the big reasons I was able to stay at USF,” says the first-generation college student, who grew up the youngest of three boys born to parents who immigrated to the U.S. during Nicaragua’s civil unrest in the 1980s.

“It’s difficult for a lot of families to afford college, especially families of first-generation students like me. Helping someone attend has a bigger effect than helping just that student. One student will go out and help others. There’s a ripple effect,” Alfonso says.

After graduating, Alfonso landed a job as a social media marketing intern with the USF California Prize-Winning San Francisco Giants, a foot in the door to an industry he hopes to build a career in.

“Education at USF isn’t just coursework, your major, your degree,” Alfonso says. “You learn about the whole person. You have the opportunity to learn about social justice, to learn from a community that’s so involved in these issues. It goes beyond the typical college experience.”