Ricardo Sanchez: Hunger for Education
Born in Wenatchee, Ricardo Sánchez grew up in the Columbia Basin area and began working in the orchards at three years old. His first memory is of picking peaches by headlamp in the dark. By sixth grade, he was working in the orchards before and after school.
"My family needed me to work to help pay for rent and food," said Ricardo. "I was always behind in school. Sometimes, when the bills were piling up, I needed to stay home and work." Early in high school, he began missing a lot of school. "My GPA was 1.8. I was failing many classes," he said.
By his junior year at Royal High School in Royal City, his family's employment situation improved, and he spent less time working in the orchards. Due to his passion for academics, Ricardo began to excel in school. His GPA rose to 3.7, and he was honored for academic excellence and improvement.
His thoughts turned to the future. Since elementary school he had wanted to be a nurse. At the time, however, his parents weren't supportive of his desire to leave home for college. He decided not to tell his parents and applied to WVC over the summer.
"I had a car. I was working multiple jobs – orchard work, restaurant work, mowing lawns, selling cutlery – whatever I could find to save up money. My parents assumed the worst, that I must be in to drugs or alcohol, but it was completely the opposite," Ricardo said.
Ricardo left for the Wenatchee Valley College campus on a Sunday night. He packed his car with items including blankets, pillows, dry bread, Nutella and canned soup. He slept in his car by Lincoln Park and started classes on Monday morning. With no friends, and nowhere to turn, he spent the entire first quarter searching for stable housing.
"As much as I wanted a friend, I was scared to reveal all the things I was going through," Ricardo said.
The winter was hard. He was turned away at the food bank after being recognized by fellow students who thought that because Ricardo was a student, he didn't need the help as much as the next person in line. The nights were cold, but he quickly learned how to survive and shared these winter survival tips:
• Park under a tree in cold weather; it prevents frost on the windows.
• Park really close to a wall of a heated building; it provides warmth and insulation.
• Always crack a window; it prevents moisture build up and the need to scrape the inside of the windows.
• Newspaper is the best insulator to stuff clothes with.
"I'd grab the Nickel ads and stuff my sweatpants. It was still miserable, but it made it a little easier," he said.
Tired and unhealthy, he kept going. During winter quarter, he made his first official friend and was invited to dinner to help out with a school project. The friend let him stay on his couch and hang out on weekends. As the year went on, he made more friends and became proficient at sofa surfing, but the stress took its toll.
"My grades were falling," he said. "Concentrating on scraping by and staying alive were my priorities. And then I found CAMP (College Assistance Migrant Program). It's been steadily better ever since."
Now in his third year at WVC, Ricardo is working on prerequisites for the nursing program with the goal of becoming a nurse practitioner in the future. He works as a math and science tutor for CAMP students and volunteers as an anatomy and physiology lab assistant for open lab sessions with biology professor Rob Fitch.
"Ricardo is very respectful and a great role model for his peers," said WVC CAMP Director Marcia Fall. "He understands the importance of giving back to people and the community, and his actions positively impact those around him."
Through a recent donation to the WVC Foundation by an anonymous donor, Ricardo is now living in the residence hall for the remainder of the school year. While there are still uncertainties and struggles, he is determined to succeed.
"As long as you're still alive, still kicking, keep going," Ricardo suggested. "There were several times I was out of food, out of money and still living in my car. I didn't have a place to turn. I wanted to give up. I wanted to eat, I was so nauseous. I felt like I was starving. Once an instructor talked to me, bought me some food. I don't even know how, but I made it. You can do it, just don't give up. If your hunger for education and a better life is stronger than your hunger for actual food, you can do it."