Meet Dulce Maria Sanchez, or as people know her, Candy. She and I met when we were only 15 years old at Six Flags Fiesta Texas while patiently waiting in line for the Iron Rattler roller coaster. We were there as part of a weekend trip held by the Upward Bound Program at College of the Mainland, a program that dedicates its time to ensure potential first generation high school students a chance to look at different college career options. Besides being in the program together, we both grew up in the same area, went to the same high school and shared mutual friendships. The moment we met was the moment I met one of my best friends and I don't see that changing anytime soon. We've been through a lot together and have always been there for each other in the greatest and worst of times. But I'm not here to share our stories of awesome, crazy adventures, I'm here to share with you all a short summary of what an incredible person and inspiration Candy is to me and to many others. 

Candy Sanchez was born on July 15th 1991 to two hard working Mexican immigrant parents and grew up in the area of Bacliff Texas. She currently attends college at the University of Texas at Austin where she plans on graduating with a nursing degree this May. As I mentioned before we were both part of the Upward Bound Program, a program that not only exposed us to an array of opportunities but also shaped the way we saw the world outside of our homes and school setting. As Candy and I opened up to each other during this time, we realized we had more in common than we thought. We strived for better; a better future than that of our parents, an opportunity into something that couldn’t be wasted, and to achieve a level that others like our younger selves could look up to. Yea, we had our similarities, but she had more obstacles and the more determination than anyone I’d ever known. The thing about Candy that astonished me the most was that she looked past these walls and never gave up. You see, when Candy was only 14 years old, her mother passed away from cancer. At that moment she made the hard decision to step up her role as the oldest sister to the motherly figure her younger siblings had lost.

I had met Candy a year after this tragic moment had happened. I remember her telling me for the first time and how hard I kept my own tears from falling. I couldn’t imagine a world without one of my parents but Candy was living it and she was doing something about it. She went to school, did her best, and was doing the most so that her brothers and sisters could have someone to rely on. At the same time, I was keeping up with my own younger siblings, and her struggle in some way made me see that the life I was living wasn’t just for myself to learn from. I knew then that this was the element that kept us together, being the oldest. Being the oldest meant more pressure, more responsibilities, but more satisfaction of knowing you could do things people told you you couldn’t. She is a second generation, Mexican–American young woman who is redefining statistics. History told her that she was supposed to stay in her hometown until she grew old not knowing the world outside of it, but she went beyond and is now making a difference.

She is about to graduate from UT at Austin this May and I honestly couldn’t be happier for her. All of her hard work is finally going to pay off and it’s all thanks to the love she has for her family and friends. She is someone who I myself look up to even though I know she wouldn’t believe, but I do. Looking back at everything and not knowing what's ahead of life has been something I've been constantly thinking about. Graduating from college, living on my own, getting a job, living in a different area, your typical 'recent-college-graduate life dilemma. But knowing I have a friend like Candy in my life makes me feel a little bit more at ease. 

Thanks for everything you've done and everything you are. It's people like you that remind me that the world isn't as bad as it seems.