#CYProud: John Sanchez, Psychology

Student success comes in many different forms, and Cypress College is proud to recognize and celebrate the variety of paths our students take to achieve their dreams. Whether it’s transferring to a four-year institution, or receiving an associate degree or certificate and heading into the workforce, we are pleased to feature distinguished #CYProud students.

Cypress College is ready for you whenever you are. John Sanchez knows this. He came to Cypress when he was almost 50, with a desire to help others, to help himself, and – although he didn’t yet know it – to tell his story. One of his first classes was English, where his professor drew him out and got him writing. John kept up this passion for communication and wound up on the Speech and Debate team. Now, he’s transferring to earn a degree in Psychology, to hear other people’s stories and help them reach their goals, just as he has done at Cypress.

Please tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I am 52 years old and returned to school at the age of 48. My parents were missionaries and I have lived in London, Dublin, Holland, and Italy. I grew up in East LA, to a single mother whose bothers were involved in gangs and drugs. My mother worked two jobs to put me through private school where I felt out of place and did not fit in. I was good at sports, however, and that was where I got my acceptance from students and their parents. I always felt academically not good enough or not smart enough. I had an opportunity to play college baseball and quit the team. During this time, I started drinking heavily and over the years would battle with alcoholism. I am now sober for more 3 years and school has helped me overcome fears and allowed passion and direction to change my life.

A gray-haired man in graduation regalia and a university baseball cap smiles at the camera.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I am most passionate about seeing people change and do things they once thought impossible. I always tell people. If I can do it, so can you.

Why did you choose Cypress College?

I chose Cypress because of its rating and proximity to where I lived. I did a Google search and they were better rated then the other colleges.

What have you been involved in (programs, clubs, events, jobs, other opportunities, etc.) at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?

I got involved in both Psi Beta and the Speech and Debate Team. In Psi Beta I found my purpose and career plan. I learned about clinical psychology and the path it takes to become a clinical psychologist. Both Professor Young and Dr. Martinez guided me and nurtured me to believe I could finish college and move on to a major university. I never could have made it, if not for them. In speech I was able to find my voice back and give back to people who might have thought they could not change. I learned that I had a story that motivated people and I could help people just like me who were stuck, with broken dreams and no hope in sight.  

Share a memorable event or experience while you’ve been a Cypress College student.

Wow! There have been so many. Getting a 95% on my final in College Algebra, after getting a 17% on my first test. Winning my first speech competition. Getting accepted to three major colleges. Writing a 10-page paper on homelessness when I hated writing. Graduation was the first thing I had ever completed in my life.

Who are the faculty and staff (in your major, an academic or other support program, etc.) who have helped you get where you are today?

Dr. Young and Dr. Martinez, like I said could not have done it without them. Oh, and of course my counselor Jacky Rangel.

How has Cypress College supported you throughout your time at the college?

From the moment I stepped on campus I was encouraged the whole way. From the young girl who helped me register on the computer in the transfer center on my first day (I was computer illiterate) to the financial aid office, I cannot express in words all the help I have receives from faculty, students, and workers. It has been one of the greatest experiences in my life. To the point that I would love to come back and teach or help in anyway.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?

I am headed to Cal State Fullerton in the fall and will get my degree in Psychology, after which I will pursue my career in clinical psychology, concentrating on drug and alcohol rehab. I work in a rehab facility now and would love to run my own facility one day. 

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I want to be the best clinical psychologist I can be. I have one major question that leads me in life and my studies. The question is, “How do people change?” I want to know all I can about people changing and being all, they can be. I would love to write a book on change that would help people find their calling, overcome bad habits, and find meaning in life. Of course, as stated before I would love to run my own rehab facility.

An older man in graduation regalia with honors cords and sashes poses in front of the Cypress College science building.

What are you most proud of?

Getting accepted to three major universities and being sober for more than 3 years.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

If I can do it, so can you! Get involved and talk to your professors, they can see things in you that we do not see.

Is there anyone in particular you’d like to thank?

Professor Corey Leis was my first professor and I do not think he knows the impact he had on my life. When I came to Cypress, I was a mess, coming out of a 10-year relationship, sober for only a few weeks, fighting major depression, gambling, estranged from my family, and pretty much about as down as I could be. His creative writing class was like therapy, I could not wait to go every morning at 7 a.m. during the summer. He somehow brought life back into my life. His little words of encouragement meant the world to me. I hated writing and he taught me to love writing; the joy of writing about all my experiences and life brought me to a place understanding. I know he got into teaching to make a difference and I just want to let him know he made a HUGE difference in my life. I believe he was sent by God to nurture me back to life. Because of him I went on to finish my degree at Cypress.    

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I do not think words can express the gratitude I have for Cypress College. It changed almost everything I knew about life. I came at the lowest point in my life with no direction, and I leave with direction and excitement about the future. Where else does this happen?  

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