Livin’ Life Against the Odds

Sandy Barajas
Sandy Barajas

Sandy Barajas grew up in Barrio Logan, one of the toughest neighborhoods in San Diego. Since her father usually worked out of town in construction, her mother practically raised Sandy and her two siblings. She remembers her uncle, Ken Seaton Msemaji, taking carloads of nieces and nephews to the roller skating rink, so they could have a blast just being kids. At Barrio Station, the community recreation center, Sandy enjoyed games with her friends. She also played guitar and performed with the Barrio Station Mariachi.


Then at age 16, Sandy’s world turned upside-down. “I have [overcome] many obstacles,” she says, “…but [discovering I was pregnant] was definitely the most challenging, scariest, life-changing event.”

Coming from a home where they never talked about sex, Sandy grew up misinformed and never believed it would happen to her. Suddenly she faced dropping out of high school and the enormous responsibility of raising a child.


After her son, Rogelio, was born, Uncle Ken encouraged her to go back to school. He’d always been an advocate in the community, including working alongside Cesar Chavez, and she respected him. With support from family and friends to watch her baby, Sandy enrolled in the Cesar Chavez Continuation Adult Center where she earned her high school diploma. Many, attended her graduation as her success had been a group effort.


Uncle Ken presented Sandy with her first real dictionary and convinced her a college degree was within her reach. Who cared how many years it would take? What greater example could she provide her son than to watch her work hard to realize a dream?


Often taking one class at a time, five years later, Sandy received her Associative Arts degree at Southwestern Community College. Having experienced two education successes, she decided to register at National University where she could complete an entire class every month until she achieved a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice.

Sandy Interviewed on T.V. to talk about Hair Daisies
Sandy Interviewed on T.V. to talk about Hair Daisies


Today, Sandy works for the County of San Diego, and she owns a business with her sister called Hair Daisies where they make getting treated for head lice an economic, pleasant experience for kids and adults. Most recently, she entered the pre-law program at the University of San Diego and plans to become a lawyer.


And knowing Sandy, she’ll make that happen.


Sandy’s advice:

  • Never let anyone else dictate your dreams.
  • Continue to better yourself every day.
  • When you feel like you’ve reached a dead end, there is always a path and a light waiting to guide you, so be proactive in seeking thedirection that will get you closer to reaching your goals.
  • Find an organization to get involved in the community, where you can meet successful people who offer inspiration and encouragement.
  • The rest is up to you!
Sandy and Rogelio at SDSU graduation 2014
Sandy and Rogelio at SDSU graduation 2014


Sandy’s son, Rogelio, has followed his mother’s example by earning a Bachelor’s of Science degree in National Security and Conflict Resolution from San Diego State University. He works for a non-profit organization in San Diego and plans to pursue a masters’ degree. He also takes classes to learn Chinese and hopes to teach English in China in the near future.


See? Dreams really are possible, though reaching them usually takes a lot of hard work.


Thanks, Sandy, for sharing your story!


We’d love to read your comments regarding Sandy’s experience, or hear about your own road to reaching a goal, whether you’re still working on it or you’ve crossed the finish line.

One Event Can Change a Whole Life

Sarah Noelle
Sarah Noelle

Sarah Noelle had known the rule, no boys allowed in the house without a parent at home, but she let a guy she knew come over anyway.


He was just a friend, totally harmless – until he raped her.


Sarah blamed herself. How could she let this happen? Shame isolated her from friends and family. She wanted to tell someone, but the words wouldn’t – couldn’t – come out of her mouth.


By the time Sarah went off to college, she believed love and respect were for other people, not a Christian girl who allowed her innocence to get stolen – by a supposed friend. She found a relationship to support her self-loathing, with a guy who berated her, who made her feel less than human. She knew she deserved it.


Within two months, Sarah became pregnant. Desperate, she set up an appointment to get an abortion and cried all week. Then the Monday before her Friday appointment at the clinic, her phone rang.

“When I prayed for you just now, I got this overwhelming urge to call,” said her mother’s voice.

“Honey, are you pregnant?” came her dad’s voice next.


Sarah broke into racking sobs, and her parents promised they would face this dilemma together. Sarah began to rediscover her faith and reconnect with family. Still, she knew she couldn’t provide a stable home for her child. In seven months, she delivered a beautiful baby girl and did the most difficult thing a mother can do: she blessed a married couple with the miracle who was her daughter.


But self-loathing is insidious.


When Sarah returned to college, she got into another caustic relationship and found herself pregnant – again – less than a year later. Drowning in despair, Sarah finally faced the origin of her perceived disgrace. Through prayer, therapy, and support from her family, although she advises girls to avoid isolated encounters with boys, she came to realize the rape hadn’t been her fault, that she’d been a victim of a violent act.


Letting go of her shame gave her strength, so Sarah felt, this time, she might be able to be a good single mother to her child. But by the time her baby boy arrived, she knew what she had to do. The same loving couple who adopted her daughter, who had given her baby the kind of stability Sarah had no hope of providing, were overjoyed when she blessed them, again, with her son so that he, too, may have the life he deserved.


Today, Sarah works for an electrical company to pay the bills, but her passion is supporting other birthmoms. On her website, Sunshine in a Bottle, she shares her experience and insights. She also writes articles for “Big Tough Girls” (BTG), an organization that provides understanding, resources, and the strength of a community to women who have experienced difficult circumstances (See Sarah’s latest post: “Your Authentic Self”). Bethany Christian Services adoption agency just voted for Sarah to serve on the board for the Southern California chapter. She’s the first birthmom to join the board – ever. Sarah regularly accepts invitations to tell her story at conferences, galas, and fundraisers. Most recently, she’s been talking to clergy about giving presentations to youth groups and at church services.

Sarah's Modern Family
Sarah’s Modern Family


Over Memorial Day weekend last May, Sarah got to see her daughter, Ryanne, now 13, and son, Riley, age 11, with their parents at her

Sarah, Riley and Ryanne
Ryanne, Riley, and Sarah

brother’s wedding. The kids have known, for most of their lives, they were adopted, that their birth mother loved them enough to let them go, so they may have a life she couldn’t provide. Seeing her children after all these years, how happy and healthy they are, helped to heal Sarah’s heart. She’d made the right choice. Since then, the kids have kept in touch via Facebook and Twitter.

It’s been a long road, but Sarah Noelle has found a way to heal through faith, friends, forgiveness, and honesty – taking it a step at a time.