Photo: Lee Pellegrini

Monica Sanchez | Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences

Hometown: Elizabeth, N.J.
Majors: Political science and history

Notable Activities/Achievements: 2020 Saint Oscar A. Romero Scholarship winner; Organization of Latin American Affairs co-president; Learning to Learn Dominican Republic Service Learning and Immersion Program; Compass mentorship program; El Principio Mentorship Program mentor for first-year Latinx students; orientation leader and ambassador for the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center; interned at Catholic Extension Latin American Sisters Program in the Woods College of Advancing Studies; Pilates instructor, Campus Recreation.

Post-Graduation Plans: Will attend law school.

More: Sanchez was born in Colombia and moved to New Jersey with her mother when she was eight. A first-generation college student who has relished opportunities for intellectual and spiritual formation, she has channeled the pride she feels for her heritage into a means for helping others—her engagement with and service to both the BC and wider Hispanic/Latinx community earning her the University’s Saint Oscar A. Romero Scholarship last year.

Why BC?

Nobody in my family had gone to college, so I had no advice about where I should look. But my mother worked as a babysitter, and she noticed what colleges her bosses had graduated from, so I applied to some of those schools. I didn’t know anything about BC, or Boston, or Massachusetts, because I’d never been there. A friend of mine had visited Boston once, though, and she said I should apply to BC. I was interested in seeing this other school, but my friend convinced me to come with her for AHANA Weekend at BC.    

The first speech I heard that weekend was by Juan Concepcion [1996 alumnus, co-chair of the AHANA Alumni Advisory Council]. He said how, when he came to BC, there were so few students of color, and he wondered what he was doing there. But he knew that coming here was important to future generations, because if students of color didn’t try to make it at BC then nothing would change.

After hearing that, I literally called my mom and said, “I’m coming here.”

Talk about some of the faculty at BC whose classes you found challenging and stimulating.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott, taught by [Associate Professor of the Practice] Karen Miller in the History Department, was a big step for me. I’d taken a lot of Latin American classes and I did well in them, but I thought I should take something out of my comfort zone. I felt like I needed to learn something new about American history from a different perspective. Professor Miller is an incredibly smart woman, and her class was really eye-opening—because of her I wound up taking other classes in African and African Diaspora Studies.

I tend to stick with professors I really like, and two in Political Science have been [Associate Professors] Jennie Purnell and David Hopkins. I really liked the Politics of Human Rights and Latin American Politics classes I had with Professor Purnell, and with Professor Hopkins I learned a lot of the basic concepts of modern politics. By helping me better understand how politics and the political system work, I feel they helped to shape the reason why I want to go into law.

The class I took with [Assistant Professor of the Practice, Theology] Elizabeth Antus through the PULSE program was challenging but very rewarding. I had a placement in Rosie’s Place, which was awesome—I taught English to immigrants there—and in class with her we touched on topics like suicide, homelessness, white supremacy, and had some great readings, including from the Bible; you got to the root of so many of these issues.

What’s guided you in your choice of extracurricular and service activities?

At BC, I wanted to stay connected with my roots. I was ready to start my own club, until I found out about OLAA and decided to join it. The thing is, the AHANA community at BC is so small, if you do one mentorship program you develop an interest for another mentorship program. And you look up to the mentors you meet: “OK, this person is successful and has done so much for the community; what have they done that I can also get involved in?” Then you see that, for instance, they went on the Dominican Republic service trip, so I got involved in that. After being a mentee in the Compass program, I became a mentor. I got so much out of OLAA, I decided to get involved in the leadership, and I became co-president. I wanted to give back to the programs that made a difference for me.

What's next after graduation?

I definitely want to go to law school, and I’ve been accepted at BC Law. As for what aspect of law I want to study, that’s up in the air. As an immigrant, immigration law is always something of interest to me, and an option I’ll look into. But when I did my junior year abroad in Spain, I had the opportunity to study intellectual property law. I really enjoyed that, especially being able to learn property law from the Spanish perspective; you get a sense of how much power the United States has in the area of intellectual property. So that’s another possibility.

You’re going to be the first member of your family to graduate from college. What does that mean to you?

I’m very proud of graduating college, and it’s a huge accomplishment—my mom literally came to the U.S. for this reason. But I feel that, especially at BC, you develop this ambition; you want more. So in some ways, I haven’t been able to enjoy thinking about graduation yet, because I know that law school is coming next, and that’s been the main goal. The other day, I was at a panel for students from a high school very similar to mine—kids who immigrated to the U.S. and barely spoke English—and I’m telling them “You can do this! You can do this!” And I’m thinking to myself, “Wow, I’ve had this amazing opportunity, I need to be enjoying what I’m doing.” But I’m sure once we start doing class photos and other end-of-year activities, I’ll get into the spirit.

Sean Smith | University Communications | May 2021

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