West Virginia University Mountaineer Mike Garcia visits with students at Marlinton Elementary School Monday during lunch. Garcia made a surprise visit to county schools on the first day back from vacation. S. Stewart photo
West Virginia University Mountaineer Mike Garcia visits with students at Marlinton Elementary School Monday during lunch. Garcia made a surprise visit to county schools on the first day back from vacation. S. Stewart photo

“Let’s Go… Mountaineers!”

As students returned to school after their Christmas/New Year break, they were greeted by a special guest – West Virginia University Mountaineer Mike Garcia.

Garcia traveled to all the schools except Marlinton Middle School which was closed due to heating issues.

During his time at the schools, Garcia visited with students and explained what he does as the WVU mascot.

“I was looking at going around to more schools in the state to let people know a little bit about what it means to be a mountaineer,” he said. “I travel around and share what it means to have goals and to go after them, and then just hang out with the younger kids. It’s going to be fun today just to see them and let them see the Mountaineer up close in person. They might not ever get to go to a game themselves.”

While most guests hold assemblies at schools, Garcia was looking forward to a more relaxed visit where he could just hang out with the kids during lunch.

At Marlinton Elementary School, he surprised kindergarten and first grade students during lunch. He sat at the tables with them and talked about his uniform and muzzleloader.

One of Garcia’s goals as the Mountaineer is to teach students to embrace their roots and be proud of being West Virginians and “mountaineers.”

“[Being a mountaineer] – a lot of times, I try to explain that it’s the feeling you get when you’re around other West Virginians,” he said. “You learn a lot from other people and me, being the Mountaineer, doing what I’m doing today throughout the year is to let people learn a little bit about the state through me. Everyday you learn something about who you are and where you come from. That’s important and it’s good.”

Garcia, a Fairmont native, will finish his time as Mountaineer in April. He plans to try out again in hopes of having a second year as the mascot.

Garcia’s visit was organized by the LINKS program, Family Resource Network and Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition.

Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at sastewart@pocahontastimes.com