Tell us about your journey to UCLA.
I was cleaning up my room the other day, and I came across a project I had done in 8th grade. It was one of those time capsule things, and I filled in, “I plan to go to UCLA.”
But it was a long journey. For the last two years of my high school experience, I was homeless. My father and I lost our home right as the recession was starting. We motel-hopped, and stayed in a shelter for the greater part of my junior and senior years of high school. I knew this wasn’t going to stop me from going to college.
I was the last person to find out that I got into UCLA. We didn’t have internet at the shelter. My friend at school looked it up on her phone, and passed around the phone around the whole class before the teacher said, “Congratulations, Ms. Sanchez. You got in.” Choosing to be a Bruin was a no-brainer. UCLA was my dream school.
UCLA is a first-class research university that is heavily committed to serving its community and creating opportunity. I wanted to attend a campus that would keep me civically engaged. At UCLA, we have students who come from all walks of life and economic diversity, and professors who will challenge your perspectives. And there is really no limit to what organizations you can join or what you can do. I got to study magic history after all! I also had the opportunity to give back to my community when I founded two student groups, School on Wheels at UCLA and the UCLA Magic and Illusionists Student Team. The capacity to do anything at UCLA is only limited by your imagination.
When you look back on your college experience, what stands out?
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at UCLA as an undergrad. I studied abroad in England for a summer and graduated debt-free. As a history major, with minors in English and education studies, my thesis, “Conjuring the Modern Woman: Women and their Representation in Magic History,” was recognized with several awards and earned Highest Departmental Honors in History. Building on research from the thesis, I taught a class called “Minority Magicians” as part of the Undergraduate Student Initiated Education program. My experiences as a homeless teenager spurred me to establish and manage the first student chapter of the Los Angeles non-profit School on Wheels, Inc. at UCLA. Consistent with the mission of our community partner, School on Wheels at UCLA also provided academic support (tutoring, college tutors, financial aid workshops) for K-12 students experiencing homelessness. The project continued to be sustainable after I graduated.
But it was becoming a part of Alumni Scholars at UCLA that I found a family for the first time – found my place. UCLA, such a big campus, got so much smaller.
What has being an Ehrlich Alumni Scholar meant to you?
It is very special type of social network. It is a sisterhood; I feel a kinship with other scholars across several generations of Bruins. We are there to support one another.
Being an Ehrlich Alumni Scholar means having the great privilege to know our donor and to know the other recipients of our scholarship. Craig creates opportunities for us to get to know each other, and to know him, often hosting quarterly dinners at his home. What Craig does especially well is making all of the scholars aware of the power of the alumni network right when we enter UCLA.
Craig is a mentor. When Craig sits down with a new scholar for the first time, he immediately starts talking about our personal brand – at least to make us aware. From there, he lets each of us define our level of engagement with him as a mentor.
Tell me about a significant moment or experience with Craig.
There are quite a few. Craig gives us so many opportunities to meet people and network. He imprints upon us: Be a people person, get out there, articulate your brand. That has definitely stuck with me. How do I build my social capital? How do I want to represent myself?
As an alumni donor, Craig offers an incredible amount of his time and energy to help us succeed. The best example is my current job where I work for a Bruin. Initially, I was seeking an informational interview with Peter Taylor, the President of the ECMC Foundation, whom I knew attended UCLA with Craig. Craig introduced us and it happened that ECMC Foundation was also hiring. Philanthropy as a catalyst for change in education is not an option I would have considered had I not met Peter. It’s thanks to Craig that I met my boss and discovered a new facet of educational impact.
Beyond Craig, what have been the benefits of the Ehrlich Alumni Scholars community?
The Ehrlich Alumni Scholars are a support system for each other. After completing the intensive introductory business program’s pilot session, I was able to give Cassie Lam a recommendation to the UCLA Anderson EDGE program when she expressed an interest in exploring business. In early 2015, one of the other scholars, Taneen Jafarkhani, wanted to display her paintings in an art show with an important social message, but didn’t know how to fill up the space. Since I worked at UCLA Alumni Affairs at the time, I was able to reach out to our community and Diversity Programs office to gather support and engage interest. We also partnered with Downtown LA’s Art Walk. Taneen’s show was a success! Supporting each other in our goals and endeavors is at the heart of the Ehrlich Alumni Scholars network.
What drives you?
I was given a lot of opportunity. I view education as one of the strongest points for social mobility. I want to help create more opportunity for underrepresented students with backgrounds similar to my own – first-generation and low-income – to enter college and complete a four-year degree. Completing a bachelor’s degree is the greatest factor in whether or not an individual breaks the cycle of poverty.
What do you do for fun?
I like to read, write, and draw. My passion is storytelling. I like to draw cartoons, I like to write short stories. Eventually, I’d like to publish a series of children’s books about homelessness and single-fatherhood. My other hobby is close-up magic, and more than anything I am a magic history nerd. I am a member of the Academy of Magical Arts at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.
What are you reading right now?
Fairy tales and Southwestern coyote stories.
What’s next for you?
Right now I am very happy to be in a position where I can influence and make a difference in education. Just as the Ehrlichs, and so many others, have for me.
* * *
In November 2015, Angela started a blog to chronicle her journey from poverty to a successful professional, and capture the wisdom she gained along the way.
To read more about Angela, click here.