Learning to speak her mind

Posted on: September 10, 2012

Overcoming loss, family resistance and her own shyness, Candy Sanchez graduated with an associate degree with honors from College of the Mainland.  
  
When Sanchez was in junior high, her mother passed away from cancer. “It was really hard. I feel like I isolated myself completely from everybody,” she said. “For a year I did that and then I just had to move forward.”
 
While in tenth grade at Dickinson High School, she enrolled in Upward Bound, a federally funded program designed to help low-income, first-generation students succeed in higher education. Upward Bound advisors at COM gave her help with classes, advice on schools and guided college tours. “They were there to support us, and they pushed us,” she said. “It’s become a family.”

When she came to COM as a college student, the once-shy student said, “I didn’t want to talk about myself or what I’d been through.” Her speech teacher Regina Julian changed her mind. She suggested that she turn her nervousness into something positive--excitement. “Before that I would hate to speak. After that, I loved it. I used to be shy. Now I just want to speak my mind. It helps when you’re speaking about something you truly believe in.”
 
One of the things she believes in is encouraging others to pursue education. She recommends the Upward Bound to her family and friends and has spoken to groups of high school students about it. “She’s a really good speaker,” said Ciro Reyes, director of Upward Bound.
 
While working on her degree, she has also worked as an assistant and tutor for Upward Bound, helping high school students who are in the same place she was just a few years ago.
 
Besides shyness, she has also had to overcome resistance from her family to complete her degree. “My dad didn’t make it easy for me. He didn’t want me to be independent at all. I’ve had moments when I just wanted to give up.” Without family support, Sanchez arranged rides to school and work and saved money for a car. When she bought a truck, her dad realized she was determined to pursue an education. “My dad finally saw that I did it on my own. After that he’s been helping me,” she said.
 
Her desire to motivate her younger siblings spurs her on. “My little brother and sister… say they see me like a mom. They’re the reason why I … keep going because I want to be a good influence for them,” she said.
 
Sanchez’s advisor also recognized her determination. “She’s very focused. She’s an excellent student,” said Sharon Dornelly, Upward Bound advisor.
 
Sanchez plans to attend University of Texas at Austin in spring 2013. Next her goal is a career focused on others.  Her mother’s cancer interested her in the medical field, particularly oncology. “I have always wanted [to work in] the pediatrician field,” Sanchez said. “I know I’m good with kids. Because my mom passed away with cancer, I want to work with kids with cancer.”
 


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