This post is part of our Alumni Spotlight Series, where we share the stories of DCP alumni who are accomplishing amazing things. Check out the previous post here.
As a first-generation immigrant, the path from picking fruit alongside her parents to graduating from UC Berkeley wasn’t an easy one, but for DCP Class of 2010 alum Sandra Cruz it was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
Sandra came to the United States from Mexico with her family at the age of seven, and her parents had always emphasized the value of education and the importance of being a role model, especially for her younger sister. Her parents worked in the fields in Gilroy picking cherries and apricots, and Sandra worked alongside them during the summer months through her senior year of college. Growing up, she remembers them telling her she needed an education if she wanted to make a better living for herself and use her voice to help others.
“Being discriminated against as an immigrant and undocumented until age 15…seeing the discrimination based on not having a piece of paper is very dehumanizing and not right,” she says. “It’s human rights, people not having access to x, y, and z just because of lack in status. Growing up as an immigrant in this country motivates me to achieve that [career] dream.”
Since earning her UC Berkeley degree in 2014, Sandra has used her knowledge and skill set to work toward her goal of giving back to immigrants and the communities that helped shape her. After graduation, she worked at DCP, where her mission was to help parents of first-generation students by educating and informing them about college access and resource programs. She also worked at Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN), where she traveled across counties empowering immigrants with information about their rights; she even co-founded an immigrant youth program.
Sandra’s meaningful roles working within these communities have propelled her toward her next goal: becoming an immigration lawyer. She has been interested in the field of law for as long as she can remember, seeing it as the best way for her to advocate for people in the court system. Furthermore, she has a thorough knowledge of the Green Card application process and has long been fascinated by immigration forms such as DS-260 that allow people to apply for permanent residence from any country outside the United States.
Now, as Sandra prepares to apply to law school, she is back home working for the City of Gilroy, running a community center in the part of town where she grew up.
“Each position I’ve had [since graduating from college] has always been to give back, to empower, and to drive change in communities, especially for first-generation immigrants,” she shares. “[Now, working in Gilroy] brings me back full circle and reminds me what my goal is in life. It also empowers other people in my community to want to do the same.”