College Alumnae Association presents 2022 Outstanding Senior Award
Genevieve Coleman | Friday, May 13, 2022
At the annual Alumnae Association Board of Directors’ Champagne Brunch on Monday, Sophia Sanchez was presented with the 2022 Outstanding Senior Award.
Sanchez is graduating with a double major in gender and women’s studies and sociology with a concentration in criminology and minors in intercultural studies and U.S. history.
In a press release, the College described the characteristics it seeks in award winners.
“The recipient of the Outstanding Senior Award exemplifies the spirit and values of her school and is distinguished by scholarship, leadership, and outstanding dedication to Saint Mary’s through participation in both curricular and extracurricular activities,” the press release said. “As the valedictorian represents the mind, and the Lumen Christi recipient reflects the soul, the Outstanding Senior embodies the heart of Saint Mary’s.”
Sanchez noted her pride in receiving the honor, despite that she did not expect to receive it.
“It is such an honor to be named Outstanding Senior,” Sanchez said. “It definitely gives me the feeling of imposter syndrome. I was not expecting it since I waited until my senior year to be involved on campus.”
Sanchez said she was honored to receive the award, especially as a student of color at a predominantly white institution.
“It is a privilege to receive this recognition since there are so many other seniors who have contributed so much to the Saint Mary’s community,” she said.
Describing how she originally heard about Saint Mary’s, Sanchez said she learned about the College from people in her hometown.
“When I was a junior in [high school], I had first heard of Saint Mary’s,” she said. “Some people from my city, San Antonio, had attended Saint Mary’s, and I really didn’t know much about it. I visited my senior year on a whim and fell in love with the campus. I had no idea what kind of college it was or what it specialized in, but I felt a connection as soon as I stepped on campus.”
Coming to Saint Mary’s as a first-generation student, Sanchez described the persistence she needed to attend college.
“Being a first-generation student means rolling with the punches,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t even know what it meant to be first gen until my second year of college.”
Sanchez said she had to learn college readiness skills by herself until the Office for Student Equity was established.
“Since my parents did not attend college, I really just didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I had to just learn on the go for the most part. No one teaches you how to study or how to budget, but the Office for Student Equity does a great job on educating students here.”
After using the resources found in the Office for Student Equity and the LGBTQ+ Center, Sanchez described how she felt a sense of belonging on campus.
“I had no idea that it was created for students like me,” she said. “After it opened, I realized how much of a positive impact it would have on the Saint Mary’s community. When I first came to Saint Mary’s I felt like I didn’t belong, and I think it was because we did not have a place for me. The Office for Student Equity and the LGBTQ+ Center were spaces created for me.”
Sanchez discussed what the LGBTQ+ Center means to the Saint Mary’s community.
“One of the most impactful things that I have been involved in is opening the LGBTQ+ Center,” she said. “It really was such a monumental moment in the Saint Mary’s community. It touched so many people including faculty, staff and alums. It was not only a healing moment for alums but a pivotal point for the Saint Mary’s community as a whole.”
Recalling when vice president for equity and inclusion Redgina Hill asked her to join the center’s planning committee, Sanchez said she did not realize it would be completed before she graduated.
“When [Hill] asked me to be the only student on the planning committee, I was really honored,” Sanchez said. “I did not think something like this would happen while I was at Saint Mary’s. As a student on the planning committee I was able to help conceptualize the center itself and plan the Sense of Belonging celebration. It really was a moving moment in SMC history that will always be in my heart.”
Sanchez also hosted a transgender inclusivity workshop last semester.
“Creating the transgender inclusivity workshop was just another extension of me bringing discussions of inclusion and equity to campus,” she said. “I just wanted to bring visibility to a group of people who are often overlooked at an all-female campus. I hope Saint Mary’s will continue to uplift voices that are underrepresented and belong to minority groups. I have no doubt that they will continue to transgress boundaries and create positive change.”
Speaking to future students, Sanchez gave the simple reminder that they belong at Saint Mary’s.
“My advice for future students is that you belong here,” she said. “There is no student who is not worthy of being here. As a first-generation student I would always suggest to follow your own dreams. Try not to let others, even your parents, dictate your decisions in college.”
Sanchez emphasized the need for all students to feel visible while they are in college.
“Once I found my place on campus, it was easy for activism and change making to follow. I really just want future students like me to feel like they belong. I want students to be able to just be visible while here,” she said. “College is not easy and having spaces and people to support you will hopefully make it that much easier.”