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Achieving the Life My Mom Wanted for Me

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By Anel Garza de Sandoval

I was born in the northern part of Mexico. When I was 3 years old my parents moved to the United States for a better life. We left the grape fields where my parents worked 9-11 hours a day with an annual salary of $12,000.

My mom told me she never wanted me to physically work as hard as she did. I didn't realize what she meant until I was 12 years old and started working in the cotton fields during my summer vacations. I had to work to help my parents with the cost of living.

My mom only completed third grade, but she wanted a better life for her family. When I was 12, my mom told me I needed to finish my studies and go to college. After working a few summers in the hot sun for little pay, I agreed with her. I wanted to remove my mom and dad from the hard life we were living.

I was accepted to Sonoma State University with financial help from the athletic department for my basketball skills. I realized I had a gift for math, which led me to my first major: statistical engineering.

Tragedy Brings About a New Path
I had a very successful first semester. During my second semester, however, I had to withdraw—my mom had passed away from lung cancer. After her death, I reconsidered what it was I wanted. I knew I wanted to continue my college career, but I lost interest in engineering.

Reflecting on my education, I remember what a difficult time I had as an English language learner. That's when I realized I could help students like me to have a better school experience. I found the perfect project: TEAMS (Teachers Education Addressing Minority Speakers). I attended Marshalltown Community College for two years then transferred to the University of Northern Iowa for two years, where I received my elementary teaching degree with English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement. I found my calling.

Overcoming a Roadblock
After teaching for seven years, I realized I wanted to help educators. My former principal and mentor, Dr. Renze, encouraged me to pursue a master's degree in leadership. I hesitated to start my master's because of financial reasons.

My husband and I had three children and we were caring for my older sister who had special needs. Dr. Renze said I should check into the MILE (Minorities in the Leadership of Education) program. I was accepted and graduated from UNI certified to take on my new passion—helping adults make a bigger impact on our students.

I recently accepted an assistant principalship at Perry, Iowa. I am so excited to start this new experience.

I Didn't Do It Alone
I would not have been able to do this without the support of my husband, kids, UNI, the many mentors I have had throughout my life and the financial support from MILE. I would not be here at all, however, if I did not have the push from my mom at a young age and the work ethic I inherited from her.

Find out how you can easily help a student like Anel with a lasting gift.

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to the University of Northern Iowa Foundation a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

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