August 29, 2023

Mesa College Alum Journey of Resilience: Sandra Perez's Story of Resilience and Advocacy

By Saisha Banks, Jennifer Kearns (Adapted)

Sandra Perez

At San Diego Mesa College, alumni stories are as extraordinary as the students themselves. Amongst these testimonies, Sandra Perez's journey stands out as evidence to resilience and commitment to creating a brighter future.


From an early age, Sandra was faced with emotional distress due to the loss of her mother during her first year in high school. Unfortunately, life took another difficult turn as her stepfather discouraged her from attending college and kicked her out of her home at the age of 17. Despite the emotional turmoil, she remained faithful to her mother's dream for her to graduate college.


Sandra's journey exemplifies her strong spirit. She enrolled at San Diego Mesa College beginning a new chapter in her life. Sharing a small bedroom in a friend's home, she embraced the challenge with a determination to succeed.


As a work-study student, she managed the Honors Program office with exceptional prioritization skills. Her curious nature & work ethic led her to qualitative and quantitative research, eventually leading to a position at the Mesa College Office of Institutional Effectiveness.


After graduating Mesa College in 2019, Sandra’s transfer to UC Davis posed new challenges, magnified by the pandemic. Moving countries to her grandmother's home in Tijuana, she converted to online learning in internet cafés, embodying her commitment to education.


After earning a bachelor's degree in Mathematics, her accomplishments extended beyond academics. Accepting a position at The Education Trust in Washington D.C., a respected nonprofit organization advocating for equitable education, Sandra contributed to co-creating a dashboard for the study Segregation Forever: Private Universities Haven’t Leveraged Race-Conscious Admissions to Increase Diversity. What Now? Her work forms part of an ongoing EdTrust series on affirmative action, highlighting her dedication to social justice.


Sandra's story not only exceeds her mother's dream of pursuing college education but also drives her towards a future of advocacy that will impact students facing challenges similar to hers.


The portrayal of Sandra’s story was shared by Wendy Smith, who has authorized us to recount Sandra Perez’s journey.

Tags: Mesa Alumni, San Diego MEsa College