One day, Anna Sanchez was walking through Southwestern College to drop something off to her fellow-student/husband when she was having a tough time with her youngest child. They had a public outburst and caused a scene on campus, and Sanchez was feeling a little overwhelmed.
That’s when a stranger came up to her and told her, “Hey, it’s going to be OK. I understand what you’re going through.” That person was Tin Cagayat, who is also a mother, also works and was also trying to make her life better through education at Southwestern College.
That moment helped Sanchez realize that there were other student mothers at school facing similar challenges, frustrations and issues who could offer each other support and guidance.
Student mothers and mother-scholars were this unseen group at Southwestern College for Sanchez. She had seen incredible student services at the college for many groups and many types of students, but she wondered, where was the support for mothers who are raising kids at home? Sanchez knew student mothers were all around her so she set out to find them, make a support group for them and dedicate herself to helping them.
That’s why Sanchez created Southwestern College Mothers and Mother-Scholars (M.A.M.S.), a student-led club and support group that focuses on womxn, parent issues and uniting student-mothers at Southwestern College. The club also wants to spread awareness about domestic violence.
“There are so many women out there that are single mothers,” Sanchez said. “There are so many women out there that don’t have any kind of support from their parents. Yet they make it. They go to school. They get their education, and I don’t see them out there so much.”
Sanchez is a sociology major and mother of five, including an 18-year-old who is also a student at Southwestern College. Her husband is former Associated Student Organization President Christian Sanchez and both of them have to learn to parent during distance education while they themselves are distance learning and going to school full-time. Some nights, Sanchez says, there isn’t a quiet moment in the house until after midnight, and it’s not uncommon for her to barely get started on her homework at 3 or 4 a.m.
For Sanchez, extending an arm of support to mother-scholars is personal. She’s gone through many challenging times, including being formerly incarcerated, and felt that at one point, life just kept closing doors on her.
“A lot of my healing I owe to Puente and Southwestern College,” she said. “I want to encourage that through M.A.M.S. Throughout my life, what’s pushed me through a lot of it is education.”
Sanchez herself is a survivor of domestic violence and has always wanted to create a support group for women who have suffered from it. That’s why M.A.M.S. focuses on tough issues like domestic violence, depression, parenting challenges and mental wellness. It is a safe space for women-identified students.
“Mothers are resilient,” she said. “They are strong, capable, and we get it done, somehow. I want to build a community of women who stand for each other and support each other.”
One of the many factors that helped Sanchez find confidence as a thinker and a student at Southwestern College was the Puente Project, specifically Counselor David Ramirez.
“I don’t think people believed in me,” she said. “I don’t think people thought I was capable of doing great things until I met David and had one meeting with him and that started my journey at Southwestern College.”
Sanchez thanks many people who have given her support at Southwestern College to become a student leader, but specifically she credits Sarah Castillo, club adviser and sociology professor, and Superintendent/President Kindred Murillo who believed in the M.A.M.S. mission before the club even started.
The M.A.M.S. club will meet once or twice a week through Zoom over the fall semester. It’ll focus on student-led support groups, but also plans to bring in guest speakers throughout the semester. Interested students can follow the club on social media or email Sanchez at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I believe education is the key to success,” Sanchez said. “Through education you heal, grow, and you build great things not just for yourself but for your community. Women are powerful beings, combining them both is empowering and a hope for change for generations to come.”