Sandoval is an alumnus of the King-Chavez Academy of Excellence who graduated this year from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and was hired by the law firm Hogan Lovells. She lives in Los Angeles.

For most K-12 students in San Diego, the morning hustle and bustle at school means rushing to catch a bus or battling neighborhood traffic. If students are really lucky, they can just run down the street to class before the bell rings. But that’s not every student’s reality, and it certainly wasn’t mine.

Starting at age 6, I crossed the US-Mexico border from Tijuana to San Diego every weekday, starting in line at 5 a.m. My father and I waited in long lines alongside dozens of other students and their families to cross the border crossing at San Ysidro and get to class on time. My parents hoped that an education in San Diego would give me a better future with more opportunities. They were right.

From first to eighth grade, I attended King Chavez Academy of Excellence in the Logan district. When I first joined the school, I was in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program which gave me the opportunity to start learning English in a warm and supportive environment. Over the years, I have continued to thrive in the inclusive setting that King-Chavez provides. Looking back, I recognize that the level of care and attention I received from my teachers is not typical of a traditional public school. In fact, I vividly remember my parents not being able to attend my sixth-grade parent-teacher conference, so my two teachers made a point of visiting my family in Tijuana and holding the meeting in my living room.

Now that I am in my twenties and graduated from law school, my heart is full of appreciation for the effort, care, and interest that my teachers have shown in my education and my future. King-Chavez’s diverse school community and enriched curriculum is what sparked my interest in social justice and law, which I have focused on throughout my academic career. San Diego has invested in me, and I’m already working hard to give back and make our community proud. However, I recognize that not all students have an experience like mine.

The daily commute to and from Tijuana can have adverse consequences, especially for a young child. The days are long and can be logistically challenging. For the benefit of all students – especially kids on the go like me – I hope our federal and state elected officials will continue to press for improvements to our public transit system, doubling down on programs that benefit families from low-income workers and increase funding for our free and reduced meal programs to ensure that no student ever misses breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Advocacy from constituents and leaders in our community is especially important at this time. As I begin my career at a global law firm, I will be proud to serve as a voice for young people and their families who are walking down similar paths to mine. I will also be a mentor, especially to those who may not have access to the invaluable support I received at King-Chavez. We all need to be mentors, volunteering our time and helping without asking for anything in return, to help more students overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. Our community must work to ensure that the best support systems are in place so that every child can achieve their dreams, just like I did.

I know my experience of having to cross the border to go to school and learn another language is not unique, but I hope it provides a different perspective on life and establishes a foundation for hard work. and perseverance.

To the young people here in San Diego who are currently going through the same experience I just shared, know that all of your hard work and tenacity will pay off. You have an amazing opportunity ahead of you; stay focused and don’t get distracted from achieving your goals.

And to all graduating class of 2022, remember that your education is a gift – and no one can ever take it away from you.