Art Student Shows How Small Grants Make a Crucial Difference

As a first-generation student, Antonia Sanchez was still navigating UCLA when she ran out of scholarships for textbooks and art supplies.

Her parents, both field workers in the farming community of Soledad, help her with money to pay for her accommodation, but she knows it’s not easy for them. She hopes to return to the community as an art teacher, bringing arts education back to schools where budget cuts have cut it out. But when money became tight, Sanchez decided to focus on her general education requirements and reluctantly planned to postpone her art classes until she could afford new materials and them. laboratory costs.

Then she received an email.

“I saw that I had a new financial aid notification, and it was a new scholarship for $1,500,” Sanchez said. “I read it back like, ‘wait, what?’ I felt such surprise and relief.It helped me a lot to buy art supplies and books.

The Ruth Anne Kenney Centennial Scholarship came just when Sanchez needed it. For Sanchez, like many other UCLA students, a scholarship doesn’t have to cover all tuition to make a critical difference. The scholarship was created as part of the recently completed Centennial Campaign in honor of UCLA’s 100th anniversary. Sanchez’s scholarship was one of many funded through the Chancellor’s Centennial Scholars Match initiative, which increased its scholarship by half. The campaign raised $665 million in student support, providing much-needed help to thousands of students.

“For the next term, I was planning to take photography or ceramics, and at first I couldn’t because of lab fees, but thanks to the scholarship, I don’t have to postpone it,” said Sanchez. “With the scholarship, I feel less stressed. I have more options. Sometimes, to get art supplies, I need transportation to go to the art store, and if there’s no bus, it’s difficult. Now it’s easier to get around without it being a financial burden. “

All of this also allows her to focus more on her studies, she added. It’s still a lot of work and stress, but the example of her parents pushes her to give everything.

“My parents are field workers,” Sanchez said. “I see how tired they are at the end of the day. I am often exhausted from my workload, and sometimes I am tired of studying. But then I think of my mom and dad, and they inspire me to work harder.

Like Sanchez, nearly a third of UCLA undergraduates are first-generation students and more than 35% of undergraduates receive Pell Grants, federal financial aid for students from low-income families. income. Through financial aid and scholarships, 45% of undergraduate students pay no tuition, and many receive several smaller scholarships that significantly enhance their college experience.

Artist and UCLA lecturer Victor Estrada met Sanchez when she took her introductory painting class.

“She was very dedicated, coming in outside of school hours to work on her paintings,” Estrada said. “It’s very important that students like her get a scholarship because without it, you reduce the diversity of the student body and the diversity of voices, knowledge, and experiences at UCLA. Diversity of voices matters. That makes art better, enriches cultural dialogue and creates an inclusive culture in which people can relate.

Art shapes the way people identify with themselves, which means it needs to represent more perspectives, Estrada pointed out.

“She’s a first-generation college student from a farming community in central California, and we need voices like hers,” Estrada said, noting that his own family is from Mexico and he sometimes had trouble. difficulty identifying with classmates. “Art helps expand our understanding of the diversity of our great national culture, and the narrative of where we are going, especially in the face of this current counterforce that seems to want to take us back to that mythical and more restrictive past. .”

Although Sanchez is majoring in art, she plans to add minors in education and Chicano studies to help her become a teacher.

“In high school, I was part of a program called Girls Leadership Network, and we talked about how our schools didn’t have enough funding for things like art classes or photography classes because they’re the first to be approached for funding,” Sanchez said. “It made me want to become an art teacher so I could provide that service and give back to the community where I come from.”

When she heard about the new scholarship, she immediately called her father. Even though she interrupted her workday with a video call, she said, he was beaming.

“I was so proud of her when she got this new scholarship,” said her father, Hector Sanchez. “From an early age, she was responsible and cared about others. When she received all of her awards when she graduated from high school, I cried because of the sacrifice she made to earn them. I am thankful to God that she gets scholarships through her hard work and sacrifices. The fact that Antonia was accepted to UCLA inspired me to be a better father, and I am so grateful to her for this opportunity.

Kayleen C. Rice