It was just before Thanksgiving when then-high school junior Angela Sanchez and her father lost their home in Glendale, California.
A perfect storm of financial and family problems left her architect father unemployed, and the hardships soon led to eviction.
They slept in a car for the first few months, keeping up appearances of normalcy as best they could. Eventually, they found their way to a cold-weather shelter, then a family shelter.
But these were little more than places to sleep, and while it certainly helped to have a roof over their heads, it wasn’t enough to stop the stress of poverty and homelessness.
Despite it all, Sanchez did what she could to keep her grades — and her attendance — up. Her father had always taught her that education was incredibly important, and she had just started a new after-school club at the beginning of the year.
The theme of that club? Magic.
“A magician, by profession, is someone who is withholding knowledge,” she explains.
And Sanchez’s desire for hidden knowledge — to move beyond the hand that life had dealt her to experience something more — pushed her to succeed.
But just like magic, it would take a little know-how to get her there. That didn’t stop her from trying, though.
From a young age, Sanchez was drawn to the history of magic and magicians.
Everything from witchcraft to voodoo to Harry Houdini — particularly the ways they all tied back to women’s roles in society. Women who practiced magic were historically condemned while men were revered. Even as magic became more theatrical, women were still relegated to the role of assistants.
The history of women in magic resonated with Sanchez’s thirst for knowledge, particularly when the odds are stacked against you.
After all, even AP calculus is still a secret knowledge of the world.
But it wasn’t easy. As her anxiety and uncertainty about the future got the best of her, even magic club began to fall apart her senior year, and calculus turned out to be an even greater struggle than she imagined.
Sanchez’s plummeting grades threatened the future she’d been looking forward to (one that, she hoped, would take her to UCLA).
That’s when she discovered School on Wheels, a nonprofit that offers tutoring support for children struggling with poverty and homelessness.
The nonprofit paired her with an astrophysics graduate student from Cal Tech.
“Making that connection was the best thing that ever happened to me while being homeless, and since then I have maintained a constant relationship with them,” she says.
Her tutor not only offered her guidance in AP calculus, but he also gave her some “secret knowledge” to help unlock the mysterious realm of the college application process, a process that many underprivileged students are unsure of how to navigate.
A little support went a long way, and Sanchez was accepted to UCLA.
And by calling on that same tutor, Sanchez was also able to track down a variety of local community scholarships, and learned about the differences between need, merit, and passion-based support as she navigated her way through a pile of applications.
Read the full article on upworthy.com here.