My name is Sandra but my family and friends call me Sand. Yes, like the sand you find at the beach. I am the mother of three wonderful, beautiful witty girls. I come from a very humble family and I am a first generation Mexican- American. Since graduating from college last May at age 35 with my first Bachelor’s degree, my life has taken a 180 degree turn for the best. I left a job I had been at for the past 13 years of my life, and where I was miserable. Ironically, my role at this job was helping people like myself who were trying to finish their education despite financial hardship. After about 8 years in my role, I came to the realization that if I wanted to be happy and be successful, I needed to help myself and complete school, just like I had been helping so many students and their families.
Today, I work for a company that not only is generous with their employees, but a company that is promising to build a career.
My college experience was as challenging as it was rewarding. I was not able to go to college right after high school for the many reasons I describe in my story below. For those reasons, I had to postpone school and it was not until my early thirties that I decided to grab the bull by the horns and focused on finishing school. In 2013, as I enrolled in my first class at North Park University as a non-traditional student I recall thinking it was now or never. I went to school in the evening because I simply could not afford quitting my day job. I put myself through 3 years of sleepless nights and a life with minimal social life, not being able to enjoy those three summers because I went to school all year round.
The truth is my childhood was a very difficult part of my life. I was born in Chicago to a family of immigrants. Coming from a dysfunctional family and of scarce resources, I grew up seeing domestic violence in the household. At around age 5 my family decided to move back to Mexico. Unfortunately, my parents were unable to reconcile their differences and separated when I was still very young. My mother decided to move back to the U.S. and that was the last time I saw my father, I was 9. My father died tragically victim of a crime. As a result, I grew up without having a male figure in my life. My mother took on both roles and while I will be forever grateful for her efforts, she simply could not keep up with me and my siblings.
At age 17 I became a mother myself. I was a Junior in high school and sadly the idea of going to college was something I couldn’t even imagine. I recall thinking I had two choices, drop out of school to take care of my baby or find a way to finish High School. Dropping out of school seemed to be the easiest thing to do at that time. I chose the difficult way. I found an organization in the city that provided alternative school while on maternity. I had one more year to go and I didn’t want to quit. One of my first successes came a year later when I graduated from High school along with the rest of my class.
The years that followed although I had a great support system, achieving success and personal development was put on the back burner for me. It was a matter of working to raise my family or go to college. College once again was out of the question. Ironically, I started working for a school helping students finish college. Every year, during the Commencement Ceremony I could not help but wonder if one day I would ever be in their shoes. At first I started taking classes here and there at the school I worked for. I used to have very long days away from home and spent very little time with my kids. I knew that taking one class at a time would take me too many years to finish my college degree. I simply could not afford the financial obligations that came with attaining a college degree. At the same time, my personal life was going through a turmoil. It was too much to handle.
In 2013 my first born started high school and I made a promise to myself. I would complete my college degree regardless of the challenges I was facing. I wanted to be a college graduate myself by the time my daughter finished high school. I wanted to be a role model. I wanted my daughters to see my struggles and inspire them to make better decision in their lives. I recall wishing so many times for scholarships for the adult student. Unfortunately, there wasn’t many assistance programs available to non-traditional students. Despite the limitations, I decided to go around the roadblocks. Three years later, and many sleepless nights glued to my computer, many times I had to say no to having a social life, many times I had to skip buying coffee in the mornings because every single dollar counted, I was finally receiving my Bachelor’s degree.
Completing my college degree at age 35 has been a challenging process, yet very rewarding. My entire life has been full of Blessons. At a very young age I had to learn to stand on my feet while in adversity. If it hadn’t been for the many challenges I have faced, from the tragic loss of my father to the limitations in my upbringings to being a teen mother at 17 and lacking resources, I wouldn’t be the strong, motivated woman I am today. I hope that one day my story serves as inspiration to those who have paused momentarily their education due to life challenges. I hope my story inspires others to have a paradigm shift to recognize that even when it feels like the entire world is against you, the Blessons are there.
The mission of Blessons Scholarships for Women hits right at home. I was a disadvantaged individual who had to pause my education for many years. It makes me extremely happy to know that Blessons organization provides educational assistance to those in similar walks of life.