Magic helped her survive homelessness. But scholarships helped her succeed in school.
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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."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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