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.
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.
- NEVER GIVE UP.
- 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’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.