Today@Sam Article

Heritage Magazine: Service Through Empowerment

July 19, 2023
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins

Ileana Sanchez has a desire “to live in a world as it should be.” While she admits this world is likely unattainable in her lifetime, the Sam Houston State University graduate and community organizer remains optimistic.

Sanchez has made it her business to empower those whose voices have often been overlooked because of the color of their skin.

She took this to the next level in her higher education journey when deciding to minor in community leadership at SHSU, a program that provides students with knowledge, skills and dispositions to be agents of change in their communities. She credits sociology professor Lee Miller, the minor’s adviser, for choosing this path. Ileana Sanchez

“At SHSU, many of our students are eager to contribute to making life better for others, but Ileana stood out as being particularly aware of social issues and is strongly committed to enacting positive social change,” Miller said. “She uses her talents and education to make a difference on her way to becoming a leader in her community. I can’t wait to see what else she accomplishes.”

In high school, Sanchez participated in Teen ACTS Catholic youth retreats and, as a junior, became the organization’s youngest director at the time. Through her Catholic studies, she was introduced to Saint Óscar Romero.

Romero served as Auxiliary Bishop in El Salvador from 1977 until his assassination while performing mass in 1980. He was a vocal critic of the violent activities involved in El Salvador’s civil war.

“He was assassinated for speaking against the government as well as the Catholic Church, even though he was archbishop. Romero and individuals like Dorothy Day inspired me to get involved in the social justice movement,” Sanchez said. “These people were political. Being American is political, being a woman is political, being a Hispanic woman is political.”

Sanchez began to view her service through a social justice-oriented lens, which offered a new perspective on how to orchestrate change most effectively. 

“You can be a non-profit and do great work, but if you are not actively in the fight and involved in policy, you won’t really be changing anything,” Sanchez said. 

She continued to broaden her horizons through her curriculum at SHSU with sociology classes that gave her a better understanding of humanity as a whole. She also learned the inner workings of a local government through an internship with the City of Huntsville.

“While working for the city and taking sociology classes, it all came together perfectly. I was learning about capitalism, neoliberalism, the inequity of the market and how it was impacting People of Color the most. I just kind of got angry,” Sanchez said.

These experiences led her to community organizing. After graduating from SHSU in spring of 2021, she moved to Dallas to work for Dallas Area Interfaith, where she strove to organize schools and build leaders to inspire systematic change.

Today, she proudly serves as a youth organizer for Mi Familia Vota, a national civic engagement non-profit organization that unites Latino, immigrant and allied communities to promote social and economic justice through citizenship workshops, voter registration and voter participation.

Sanchez plans to pursue her master’s degree in geography at the University of Illinois next fall. While she does not have the future completely mapped out, she knows she would like to remain in the fight for those who need her assistance in order to make the world appear a bit more as it should.

“If we create leaders in our communities and give people the opportunities to strengthen those skills, then those leaders who are created can build more leaders, which creates accountability,” Sanchez said.

To view the full Spring 2023 edition of Heritage Magazine, follow this link

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