Interview by Elyse Joseph
Guillermo Sanchez is a first-year Business Information Management student and one of the latest recipients of the Stars of the Future Scholarship. Staff writer Elyse talked to him about winning the scholarship; family in Tequila, Mexico; starting a band; and making it as an undocumented student at UCI.
E: How would you say the Stars Gala Scholarship impacted your life?
G: This year my parents were a bit worried about being able to pay the rest of my tuition of because even though I got financial aid, they were a little bit scared, so that got me worried too because my parents live by the paycheck, so when I got the scholarship, it made me feel very relieved… As soon as I got it I called my parents and said, “Dad, you won’t have to worry about these two quarters that are upcoming because I was awarded a scholarship, and you can feel relaxed until summer. And then you’re going to have to work hard again, so save up.” Ever since that, I’ve been more able to focus on school, been able to be outgoing and also work on opportunities that are coming up at school. For example, my internship that I applied to. Also, playing guitar with some of my hallmates, and starting to form a band; little things like that. But in general I’d say it’s helped me just feel calm in my academics and also my extracurricular activities, and that’s how it really helped me.
E: You’re in a band? That’s cool. Can you talk a little bit about that?
G: We’re forming one. We’re trying to make one. We just need to find a drummer and a bassist and a singer because we’ve got two guitars, and we’ve been practicing the songs, and I think we’re able to now include people, but still thinking about it and finding people.
E: When did you learn to play the guitar?
G: I started during my sophomore year. It was during winter break. I saved up some money from the little that I had from my birthdays and from Christmas gifts. At first I borrowed one from one of my friends, and that’s where I played around with it for the whole winter break. I would stay up until four in the morning just playing and learning it and I decided to buy one because I really liked it, so I used up all my money that I saved, and then [bought] one, and afterward I just kept growing through church–they let me play–and then I got really good, and I decided to join a jazz band in high school, and then I was in jazz band for junior year and senior year, and now I’m here…I’m also trying to join a jazz band. The UCI Big Band or maybe the small groups that they have for jazz.
E: You mentioned extracurriculars. What kind of other extracurriculars are you doing?
G: I’ve been doing intramural sports, a lot of working out with friends. I did volleyball and basketball. Volleyball was in fall quarter, and basketball was this last quarter, and it was with my hallmates. We pretty much came up with our own team for our hall, and went out to play for co rec, so that we could play for other halls. I’m also doing Wing Chun which is a style of martial arts, and that’s also taught at the ARC, and I go with some friends. I’ve been doing martial arts since freshman year of highschool, but I wanted to learn something new, you know? Something out of what I used to do.
E: What does a day in your life look like?
G: Well, my typical day would look like: Go to class–Well, it depends. Last quarter, on Mondays I would wake up early and go to work for my internship, and then I’d have class and I would just take a nap and have dinner. Then at night, I would have one of my recreational activities, like going to the ARC to do Wing Chun or play for a basketball game that we had. It was different, though, for fall quarter. Fall quarter, I was getting to know the place and getting to meet new people, and so every day as I met new people, we’d hang out or study. So it was mostly getting to know people. But my typical day, I’d say, is mostly being active all the time either studying or playing the guitar and also doing exercise–all of those three things, at least once a day.
E: How would your friends describe you?
G: A lot of my friends describe me as like — Some people call me Guitarmo because I play the guitar. Other people call me the manager of Isla because I pretty much … manage the hall, in terms of what we want in the hall. When we first came here in fall, we didn’t have any sort of ping-pong table or foosball table. We didn’t have any of those things, so I took the opportunity to ask everyone what they want, and so we made a poll on Facebook, and we all decided to get a ping-pong [table]. So I would go to the Mesa Court Community Center (MCC) meetings and ask for funds, and we got the ping-pong table. Sometimes now, I just go to MCC meetings and ask for funds for other stuff and also make a lot of the order requests when something goes wrong with the order machines and stuff like that. When someone is feeling uncomfortable with someone else–last time, there were these girls who left their food in the fridge, and it’s been there since last quarter. And some of my friends would come up to me and say, “Hey, can you tell those girls that they should clean that up?” And I was like, “What? Why me, though?” And they said, “Because you know everyone.” And I said, “Well, yeah, that’s kind of true, but– Ok, I’ll do it.” Stuff like that. I’m like the middle man between everyone. That’s how people describe me. They describe me as the connector. When someone wants to meet someone new, or when someone asks me, “Do you know this person?” I’m like, “Yes.” Most likely, I will probably know that person from the Mesa Court community, and simple stuff like that. I think that’s how most of my friends describe me, as very friendly. I make people feel comfortable with each other. That’s what I try to do, and I think that’s how people describe me.
E: Who are some of your heroes?
G: I’d say that my favorite heroes are my brothers — my two older brothers — because when I was young — they’re about ten years apart from me — and they didn’t get the opportunities that I’m having today, as in going to university here, and getting an education here in America, and I look up to them all the time because even though they didn’t have same opportunities that I have like going to summer engineering camps, or learning more instruments and having all this free time to just learn stuff, they still managed to get a very decent life. They struggled, and they proved to me that wherever you come from, you can reach your goals, and they proved that to me. Back then, when they were in high school, sometimes they wouldn’t even go to school because they worked, or sometimes they would have jobs from 8 p.m. until 2 in the morning, and they would come home late and then miss school the next day because they didn’t wake up on time in the morning. Also, when they were 14, they would go out and sell bread with a basket on top of their heads. I did that for a while, too, but they would do it more often than I did. My parents weren’t even able to buy them shoes, so when my brother wanted some good shoes or to replace the ones he had, he’d have to earn it by selling bread or just working somewhere. Me, on the other hand, I just ask for it and I receive it most of the time because my parents work here more. The quality of life is greater than in Mexico. Back then in Mexico, it was way harder for them to attain something that my brothers wanted, and I looked up to them for that particular reason. I think they’re my heroes.
E: Where in Mexico are you from?
G: I was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, but I was just there for a couple months, and then my parents moved to Tequila, Jalisco. It’s a very small town near Guadalajara, about an hour away, and it’s mostly known for its name — Tequila — because it’s pretty much where tequila comes from. It’s a very small town. Everybody feels like a family because you know everyone in the town, and that’s where I’m from.
E: What is your most treasured memory?
G: I’d say that my most treasured memory was staying at my grandma and grandpa’s house and seeing all the family there because when I was about four or five years old we’d live right next to my grandma and grandpa because they had this really big house, and pretty much the whole family lived there, like all my uncles, my cousins, everyone would just be there, and I constantly have flashbacks of when my grandpa was there, when all the family was there, playing around in the big house. Just having everyone around–that’s one of the best feelings you can have, and I think that’s my most treasured memory — having the family all together in one place and just hanging out, relaxing, and having a fun time.
E: Going back to the Stars of the Future Gala, how was the event last year?
G: I was not at the event last year. This was my first time as a recipient.
E: Are you planning to go to the event in the future?
G: Yes, I will be attending.
E: So what would you want people to know about the scholarship?
G: I would like people to know that no matter where you come from — whether you’re an illegal immigrant or not, whether you’re a permanent resident or U.S. citizen — there’s scholarships out there. There’s always going to be help from anywhere. Just because you don’t have a legal status in the country, especially in this country because I don’t know about other countries, but in this country I would say that there are opportunities. You’ve just got to look for them, and when you truly look for them, you will find them, so what I want people to know is, go after what you want, and you will most likely find something.
E: And is there anything that you would say in particular to other undocumented students applying to college?
G: Of course! What I would say — and I’ve told this a lot of times to my friends that are immigrants or that come from Mexico a while ago — I tell them, don’t be afraid of going to college. If you want to do something in engineering or computer science, or even cosmetics, there’s school for everything nowadays, and it’s very interesting to just go out and learn because you don’t lose anything. The only thing you’re losing is an opportunity because money should never be an issue. Money will come in in many ways, either through scholarships, or through financial aid, there’s always going to be money out there; you’ve just got to look for it. One socioeconomic factor that we see in America is the displacement of the wealthy and the poor, and colleges tend to scare off people and immigrant students by having these high prices for education, so what I’d say is don’t care about the numbers. Care about what you’re going to miss out on because if you just miss out on that education or that opportunity to know and learn more things, then I don’t know what else to say but you’re going to miss out on a lot. That’s what I would tell them. That’s what I’ve said to a lot of my friends, actually
E: What are your goals after college?
G: I plan to do internships — hopefully Google, Facebook, other tech companies, or maybe startups in the programing field and also do a little bit of the business part, and later on move back here in the Bay Area, close to Silicon Valley, because that’s where the heart of innovation is right now, and that’s where I want to strike. That’s where I want to work. Those are my goals after college.