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University of California, Merced

Sandra Landa-Sanchez

BAGSF 2020 Essay

I am a hardworking student that has been through a lot and has learned how to overcome them. I come from a low income family of four which includes my father, my mother, my sister and me. My father is the sole income earner in our family and he works in the landscaping industry. Neither of my parents speaks English, which makes living in the United States very challenging. Because of the language barrier and for health reasons, my mother has been unable to work. Together we live in a small, overpriced apartment in North Fair Oaks, RWC.  Rent just keeps going up, making it harder for us to make ends meet. It’s been important for my sister and me to do well in school and give back to our community, which is where our focus has been. Throughout the years we have suffered several financial setbacks. Most recently when both of my grandfathers passed away, my parents had to send money to Mexico to cover the funeral expenses while we were in California barely making ends meet.  

I want to attend college to pursue my interest in child development and social justice for adolescents. Through programs such as The Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula, I have been influenced on the importance of getting a good education and going to college.  My parents also influenced me as they immigrated to the United States to give me the chance to take advantage of all that this country offers, including obtaining a good education so I can get a good job. In high school, I enrolled in the IB program, which has been a way for me to take challenging courses so I am best prepared for college. Also, I have been involved in both AVID and Future Grads, both programs oriented toward being college ready.   

One of my most significant challenges occurred when I lost both of my beloved grandfathers within a very short time period. My maternal grandfather passed away on December 31, 2017, and my paternal grandfather passed away the same day a year later. I was really close to both of them since I was raised in a culture that values strong family relationships. Dealing with not one but both of my grandfather’s passing within 12 months of each other was extremely difficult for my family. I was in a position, as the oldest daughter of undocumented parents and a younger sister who struggled with the loss, where I carried the responsibility of holding my family together. Sadly, neither of my parents could return to Mexico to attend their own father’s funeral. It was challenging to be strong for my family while continuing to apply myself at school. In the first semester of my sophomore year, my grades were good, with A’s and B’s; however, after my first grandfather passed some of my second-semester grades suffered. As I was grieving it became difficult to balance my academic life with my personal life. I had a demanding schedule. While I tried to keep up with everything, I ultimately had to prioritize my classes. In particular, my geometry grade was affected, but when I saw that C I realized I had to get myself together and put my grief aside. Just as I was getting back on track academically in my junior year, I lost my second grandfather, which was a huge emotional trauma for my family. Again some of my grades suffered and I found myself in another situation where I had to put my grief aside to be academically successful in this important school year.