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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

COE Grads 2019: Pain and Perseverance

Class of 2019 grad Marina Sanchez

Many people would have been broken by the past few years Marina Sanchez just endured. The unimaginable heartbreak, the hardship, the misfortune. But Sanchez wasn’t.

Instead, she will don a cap and gown on Sunday and receive her bachelor’s degree in child and family development from San Diego State.

“I was so unsure I was even going to complete it,” Sanchez said of her degree. “I was so lost during some of the times in my journey here. This is going to be a reward for the difficult times and not giving up. There are so many times I wanted to quit."

The more you learn about her story, the more astonishing her perseverance becomes.

Sanchez first arrived at SDSU in 2011 as a psychology major, but her world was soon turned upside down when her father was incarcerated. Almost overnight, she became her family’s breadwinner and her responsibilities compounded. She worked two jobs, and making ends meet was a struggle — basic necessities like food and shelter weren’t always a given.

"My dad got sent to prison and after that everything fell apart," Sanchez said. "Everything was piling up and I was kind of drowning in things. There was no way I could go to school anymore."

Sanchez decided to take a one-year leave of absence while things stabilized. One year turned into three.
I finally feel like I'm living life. I'm 26 and I'm so ready to enjoy life with my fiancé and do the things I wasn't able to do in college. I'm super excited for that. These are happy tears.
During her hiatus, Sanchez took a position as a volunteer volleyball coach and realized a passion for working with children. She decided to return to SDSU to pursue a new major — child and family development. While taking a lab class at the SDSU Children’s Center, Sanchez had the opportunity to observe kids and create a lesson plan based on their interests. It felt like a calling.

"It wasn't until that class that I discovered I wanted to work in a classroom setting and be a teacher,” she said. “It was rewarding just knowing that the children were so interested in something you created for them. Just having this positive experience was really inspiring for me and it made me want to go into this field with a goal."

But there were more obstacles to come. Her father, who had been released from prison and was making strides to mend his life and family relationships, died unexpectedly last May.

Then in August — right as she prepared to start her senior year — Sanchez was trampled while attending a concert, finding herself pinned beneath a crowd for several minutes. She suffered injuries, including six ankle fractures, a broken talus bone and nerve damage. She found herself in a wheelchair during fall semester and using heavy doses of pain medication — she recalls delaying doses and fighting through excruciating pain so she could complete assignments with a clear head.

"My professors were willing to work with me and were super understanding,” Sanchez said. “I even had a professor — (Francesca) Gallozzi — and (advisor) Pam Gardner advocate for me for all my classes and get me a schedule that would work for me. The CFD department and the professors in it were so amazing."

Sanchez, who still walks with a cane and completes two hours of physical therapy every other day, is slowly but surely on the road to recovery. And her graduation — as well as her recent engagement to her boyfriend — offer her optimism for the future.

"I finally feel like I'm living life,” she said, fighting back tears. “I'm 26 and I'm so ready to enjoy life with my fiancé and do the things I wasn't able to do in college. I'm super excited for that. These are happy tears."