When Christian Sanchez started as a student for the third time at Southwestern College in the summer of 2018, he was unsure of his academic future and had no interest in being involved on campus.
Sanchez had enrolled in Southwestern College twice before, but both times ended in him dropping out. Negative past high school experiences led Sanchez to believe he had no academic support system and was only interested in taking classes.
Through strong mentorship and a call to help his fellow students, today, Sanchez is proud to serve as the 2019-2020 Associated Student Organization (ASO) president. His former aspirations of studying business have changed and now Sanchez, an English major, wants to become a college English professor.
“I’m most excited about being able to use my position as ASO president to help students and bring more avenues to let them reach their fullest potential,” Sanchez said. “That is what’s most important about being in this position.”
The 34-year-old father of five largely credits his ability to be a successful student and a leader at Southwestern College to his involvement in the Puente Project, a learning community for students of Latinx backgrounds that offers specialized academic and community opportunities.
Sanchez says he was introduced to his interest in writing through the specialized Puente English class, and this interest later convinced him to switch from a business major to an English major. Puente Counselor David Ramirez and Puente English Professor Francisco Bustos have been mentors for him since he started in the program.
Although he says he already had an interest in running for ASO president, he recalls being encouraged by his mentors and other students. Hearing their motivational words is what finally encouraged him to run, specifically the encouragement from Ramirez.
“Christians’ responsibility, character and integrity in my class and in the Puente Project is what led me to believe he was a leader in the making,” Ramirez said. “It comes as no surprise to me that he now serves as ASO President. He carries more on his plate than most students, and to know where he comes from and where he is going reminds me why I do what I do.”
Although Sanchez has only been in office for just more than a month, he already has his mindset on what he plans on bringing to Southwestern College.
“I have a specific focus on helping students who have food insecurities, homelessness and the disability community,” Sanchez said proudly. “My daughter has autism, so I want to be able to create more awareness for those with disabilities. I want to be able to give them a voice.”
Food insecurity is another issue personal for Sanchez. When Sanchez was 17, he and his brother spent some time living out of their car. While other students his age were concerned about which suit to buy for senior prom or meeting university application deadlines, Sanchez was worrying about where his next meal would come from.
Speak with Sanchez for only a few minutes and you will quickly notice his immense caring nature, strong sense of teamwork and genuine wish to be an advocate for other students.
Whether it’s helping frustrated students in the Welcome Center or sitting down with students and listening to their concerns between his classes, Sanchez is always quick to help his peers in any way he can. The drive behind his passion for helping students succeed stems from his past negative experiences with school, which he now uses as motivation for his current aspirations.
“I always had negative school experiences, so I didn’t really want to get involved on campus when I came here,” Sanchez said. “When I was younger in elementary school, I went to a school in a wealthier area. Other students would make fun of me, call me poor and make fun of how I looked. When I got to high school I was kind of a class clown. People told me I would never do anything or be anyone, and now, thanks to the support I’ve received at Southwestern College, I want to be a college professor.”
Sanchez has been making tremendous contributions to Southwestern College even before he was elected ASO president. Besides being an active member of Puente, he has served as an ASO senator at-large and ASO Inter-Club Council representative. In July, Sanchez was one of only 50 students to win the prestigious and competitive California Latino Caucus Foundation Scholarship, which he was awarded for his leadership and extracurricular involvement at Southwestern College.
Over the summer, Sanchez demonstrated his strong sense of teamwork when he collaborated with fellow Southwestern College student Ayona Hudson to form a coalition government while the results of last year’s ASO elections were under investigation. The co-leadership ASO team, which included members from both running slates, operated until the investigation concluded in November and the results of the election were upheld. Sanchez was elected president.
“In terms of the ASO election, everything is good, and we are ready to continue forward as a group instead of divided,” Sanchez said. “I consider everyone in the ASO my extended children. We want to change the culture within the students and staff, and show them that it’s okay to be wrong sometimes, put your pride to the side and say you were wrong.”
After his time at Southwestern College, Sanchez wants to transfer to a top university such as U.C. Davis, U.C. Los Angeles or U.C. Berkeley. But, he doesn’t see transferring as a goodbye to Southwestern College.
“I would love to come back to Southwestern College as a professor, specifically the Puente English course,” Sanchez said. “I never had help when I was younger, I always had to find my own way, but I want to help others find their way. If I can help one student and make a difference in their life, then I’ve done what I’m supposed to do.”