Magic helped her survive homelessness. But scholarships helped her succeed in school.
True
UCLA Optimists

It was just before Thanksgiving when then-high school junior Angela Sanchez and her father lost their home in Glendale, California.

A perfect storm of financial and family problems left her architect father unemployed, and the hardships soon led to eviction.

They slept in a car for the first few months, keeping up appearances of normalcy as best they could. Eventually, they found their way to a cold-weather shelter, then a family shelter.


Image via UCLA/YouTube.

But these were little more than places to sleep, and while it certainly helped to have a roof over their heads, it wasn’t enough to stop the stress of poverty and homelessness.

Despite it all, Sanchez did what she could to keep her grades — and her attendance — up. Her father had always taught her that education was incredibly important, and she had just started a new after-school club at the beginning of the year.

The theme of that club? Magic.

"A magician, by profession, is someone who is withholding knowledge," she explains.

And Sanchez's desire for hidden knowledge — to move beyond the hand that life had dealt her to experience something more — pushed her to succeed.

But just like magic, it would take a little know-how to get her there. That didn't stop her from trying, though.

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

From a young age, Sanchez was drawn to the history of magic and magicians.

Everything from witchcraft to voodoo to Harry Houdini — particularly the ways they all tied back to women’s roles in society. Women who practiced magic were historically condemned while men were revered. Even as magic became more theatrical, women were still relegated to the role of assistants.

The history of women in magic resonated with Sanchez's thirst for knowledge, particularly when the odds are stacked against you.

After all, even AP calculus is still a secret knowledge of the world.

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

But it wasn't easy. As her anxiety and uncertainty about the future got the best of her, even magic club began to fall apart her senior year, and calculus turned out to be an even greater struggle than she imagined.

Sanchez’s plummeting grades threatened the future she’d been looking forward to (one that, she hoped, would take her to UCLA).

That’s when she discovered School on Wheels, a nonprofit that offers tutoring support for children struggling with poverty and homelessness.

The nonprofit paired her with an astrophysics graduate student from Cal Tech.

"Making that connection was the best thing that ever happened to me while being homeless, and since then I have maintained a constant relationship with them," she says.

Her tutor not only offered her guidance in AP calculus, but he also gave her some "secret knowledge" to help unlock the mysterious realm of the college application process, a process that many underprivileged students are unsure of how to navigate.

A little support went a long way, and Sanchez was accepted to UCLA.

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

And by calling on that same tutor, Sanchez was also able to track down a variety of local community scholarships, and learned about the differences between need, merit, and passion-based support as she navigated her way through a pile of applications.

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

She secured enough scholarships to cover the cost of her education. But there were two in particular that meant more than money.

Sanchez received $10,000 through the Spirit of American Youth scholarship, awarded by L.A. developer and USC alum Rick Caruso.

"Having that scholarship was extremely important because I was able to request that money in different amounts over the course of my four years," she says, "So, I could fill in the gaps as I needed it."

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

She also received a UCLA scholarship from the Alumni Scholars Program and was supported by an alumnus named Craig Ehrlich.

Ehrlich not only doubled the value of Sanchez’s initial scholarship, but also turned out to be a crucial networking conduit for Sanchez's personal and professional relationships.

"More than just maintaining a relationship with my donor, I’ve also kept in touch with all the other scholarship recipients," she says. "When you're able to provide support for students like that, it's a game changer. It colors your whole experience."

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

That support helped Sanchez find tremendous success throughout her time at UCLA — and she used that opportunity to pay it forward.

During her sophomore year, Sanchez launched and organized a School on Wheels chapter at UCLA to help out other kids who were in the same tough spot that she had been just two years earlier.

"Our volunteers took care of everything from supplies to snacks to transportation," she explains. "We would go over to the shelters and group homes at night, and we would work there with the students."

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

When it came time to write her thesis for her history degree, Sanchez returned to a topic she knew well: the representation of women in magic history.

And thanks to the skills she learned in seeking out and applying for scholarships and grants, she was able to find the funding to travel around the country and continue her research through fellowships at other universities, too.

"If you can invest yourself into an area of extreme passion for you, everything else follows from there," she says.

The connections that she made — and the knowledge she discovered — helped Sanchez to secure a job after graduation.

After completing her bachelor’s in history, Sanchez stayed at UCLA to get her master’s in education. Along the way, she became interested in ECMC Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in L.A. that invests in programs to improve educational outcomes for students from underserved backgrounds.

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

For some students — especially those who are at-risk or low-income — the pathway to success is mysterious enough that it may as well be magic.

But Sanchez’s story shows that scholarships can open the doorway to the tools that students need to make their dreams a reality.

Today, Sanchez continues to work as the program analyst for College Success at ECMC Foundation, helping students like the one she used to be.

She helps oversee and determine the efficiency for college support and scholarship programs that help out people in similar situations to the one she used to be in. Essentially, she's professionally giving advice about how to succeed in college like she did.

She’s also on the board at School on Wheels, and is a magician member/magic historian with The Academy of Magical Arts. She gave back to UCLA with a monetary donation last year and hopes to give again in the future.

"I’m hoping to foster opportunity for others," she says. "A lot of opportunity has been given to me, so I am responsible for creating the same experience for other students and scale it as far as I can."

Most of us don't think of a bird as a cuddly pet, but Swoop the snuggly magpie didn't care what humans think. After he was rescued by New Zealander Matt Owens, the baby bird became a beloved part of the family—the family being Owens and his cat, Mowgli.

"It was just sitting there bleeding, sort of unable to walk properly and it looked like it had been abandoned by its mum so I just picked it up and decided to take it home," Owens told Newshub. The timing of finding Swoop couldn't have been better. Owens' dad had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the bond he formed taking care of Swoop gave Owens an extra dose of love and comfort.

Mowgli wasn't sure about the new family member at first, but soon took to Swoop and the two became fur-feather friends. The Dodo recently shared a video on Facebook highlighting Owens, Swoop, and Mowgli's story, and it's unbelievably adorable.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
True

It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

Keep Reading Show less

Bill Gates has always been passionate about providing vaccines to the parts of the world that lack resources. On Friday he came through again by announcing that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is committing $150 million toward efforts to develop and distribute a low cost COVID-19 vaccine to some of the poorer countries of the world.

According to Vox, this latest financial commitment brings the total Gates has dedicated to the pandemic to around $500 million. He is hoping the funds will keep vaccine costs down to increase accessibility beyond just the wealthier populations. As Gates told Bloomberg, "We're trying to make sure we can end it not just in the rich countries." Gates is working with the Serum Institute, which is the most prolific vaccine producer in the world, to make $100 million doses that would not exceed $3. In general, companies producing the vaccine have agreed to keep the profit margin low."


Keep Reading Show less