Angela is now a Program Analyst, College Readiness & Retention for the ECMC Foundation in Los Angeles.
Angela wasn’t even sure she was going to finish high school. Today, she is an undergrad and grad degree holder from her dream school (UCLA), a successful higher education professional, and is an inspiring example of focusing on college dreams early on.
Sanchez says that, without scholarship support, her life today would have been very different. The first scholarship she ever received was a GEAR UP Education Trust Award as a student at Toll Middle School in Glendale, CA, a California GEAR UP school.
Back in 2005, when she received the award, she already knew she was going to college but wasn’t sure how she was going to afford it. This award opened her eyes to the world of scholarships and financial aid, a pathway she followed successfully and is a debt free graduate degree holder as a result.
“An investment in a student is something that pays tenfold,” said Sanchez, a UCLA Alumni Scholar who has earned numerous other scholarships and awards for research, academic excellence and community service, including the Chancellor’s Service Award, the UCLA Distinguished Senior Award, the Carey McWilliams Award for Scholarly Distinction and a Strauss Foundation Scholarship, to name a few. Angela says “There is no greater gift than education.”
We asked Angela for some advice for our GEAR UP schools and teachers regarding best practices for supporting and inspiring students like her. Of course her perspective was perfect:
Middle school students are at a tipping point age because high school is too late to start thinking about college. The key is to establish a college-going culture in middle school, and saturate every aspect of the student experience with future goals and college information. Saturation is key: college pennants, college fairs, anything that leads to conversations with students about college‘. You have to incubate early, make that connection early.
When Angela was in middle school she was vaguely aware her school was a GEAR UP school, but it was not until her social studies teacher Dr. Vandermey encouraged her to apply did she realize the opportunity GEAR UP affords. Upon receiving the notification that she was a recipient of the $2000 California GEAR UP Education Trust Award, she couldn’t believe it. The path to college had begun.
Angela talks about how her teachers had an impact on her future.
My geometry classroom had A-G requirements displayed prominently. That daily reminder contributed to the immersive college going environment that became normal for me. This should be normal for all students in middle school, especially for first generation students like me.
Angela strongly believes in building the relationship between student and teachers and breaking down walls that can remain throughout a students academic experience.
Teachers and students have to relate, teachers should give students the ability to build meaningful relationships so they can talk about things other than the lesson plan. Students don’t always have people at home that can support them in the same way as teachers are a tremendous college resource. If students don’t have a positive experience with their middle school its teachers early on, they are less likely to break down those walls later in their academic career, such as going to professors office hours, and potentially missing out on a successful college experience.
In November of 2007, Angela was coping with the reality that she and her father were homeless after being evicted from their Glendale home on her 17th birthday. Angela never wavered in her desire to do her very best in and out of school and to remain optimistic. That life lesson is one that Angela now shares with students who are experiencing homelessness.
“Education has always been important to me because it represented a springboard out of my current situation,” said Sanchez, who eventually completed high school with a 4.23 GPA despite not having stable housing between 2007-2009, she was accepted to eight colleges and universities in 2009. Her first choice was UCLA.
Angela graduated debt-free, and attributes that to her focus on finding scholarships and financial aid wherever she could. Being an outstanding student certainly helped her achieve competitive scholarships and grants, she attributes her awareness of how to find the awards to her early successes an ETA recipient. According to Angela “it opened an entire world to me”.
She used the ETA money for tuition, but says that one of the great benefits to this GEAR UP award was the flexibility of what the funds could be used for. Most grants and scholarships have a very narrow use, but the Education Trust Award funds helped her create a strategy to fully fund her education without gaps.
“Youths, no matter what their financial situation or living condition, need to see that they are entitled to quality postsecondary education as much as anyone.” said Angela.
“I really enjoy advocating for education and being a voice for students who are normally overlooked,” said Angela. She now shares a home with her father in Highland Park in northeast Los Angeles and plans to pursue an advanced degree in the future.
Angela was my delightful luncheon companion at a major event in Los Angeles for Latino students and their families. The subject of GEAR UP arose and Angela indicated that it had supported her financially in receiving her baccalaureate from UCLA. When I inquired I learned that, in fact, Angela had been the recipient of an Education Trust Award from the California GEAR UP Program back in 2005. She, along with over 5,000 of her counterparts, have, or are, achieving their higher educational goals through their participation as middle school students in the California GEAR UP Program. Congratulations to Angela and all the other Education Trust Award members.
-Penny Edgert, Executive Director, California GEAR UP/ICC
“For students who come from backgrounds such as my own, who are often disadvantaged, underprivileged and overlooked, I’d like to see not only their acceptance, but their retention at universities,” she said.
She hopes this journey starts in middle school just like it did for her.
Angela was featured in the “Let There Be” UCLA centennial campaign.
Angela established the first university faction of the nonprofit ‘School on Wheels’ at UCLA, assisting K-12 homeless students with tutors and in navigating postsecondary education. Ms. Sanchez has created college admissions and financial aid workshops tailored to the students’ needs. In addition, she’s a recruitment, student training, donor and community relations, and development volunteer. She continues her work for student advocacy at ECMC Foundation, college access and student retention.
For more information on the California GEAR UP Education Trust Awards, please visit our website.