Unidos club president shares focus on God and heritage

Erika Sanchez shares her hopes for the upcoming Latino Heritage Month.


Brittany Cervantes and Brittany Cervantes

Taking a break from her busy day, senior Erika Sanchez, stands near the lawn by Calvary Chapel, one of her favorite rest spots on campus. | Emily Arnold/THE CHIMES

Leading students and sharing Latino heritage on campus is senior sociology major Erika Sanchez’s main goal as Unidos club president.

The Santa Ana native kicked off the semester with a club meeting on Sept. 6. Unidos’ purpose is sharing fellowship with the Latino community and discovering the beauty of God's creation through the diversity of each student’s ethnic identity, according to Sanchez. Students played “Two Truths and a Lie” and other ice breaker games to spark fellowship. Between 25 and 30 students came to the meeting and Sanchez gave them information about the upcoming events for Latino Heritage Month, which takes place Sept. 15 – Oct. 15. Sanchez shared ways to encourage the Biola community to become involved in Latino Heritage Month.

“I am passionate [about Unidos] because it is part of building the kingdom for God; the kingdom includes people from all nations,” Sanchez said. “As Christians we have a calling to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Family Dynamics Important In Latino Heritage

Sanchez had difficulty watching her family struggle while they lived in a low-income home. There were times when her family lived in an apartment with two or three other families. Sanchez describes her parents as two of the most hardworking people that she knows.

“My neighborhood taught me the value of hard work, the beauty of family and the importance of education,” Sanchez said.
Her father’s alcohol addiction contributed to the stress of financial hardship and it was also a part of her culture for men to drink. She witnessed the same difficulties among her aunts and uncles.

Sanchez became a Christian in the summer of 2008. She learned about the Bible and fell in love with the God she came to know. Initially, her family questioned her faith.

However, her parents recently have opened themselves to attending church with Sanchez and her sister to learn more about Christianity.

“[My parents attending church] is a huge miracle that so many had been praying for for so long,” Sanchez said. “To see my father, an addict to alcohol, pray is like a miracle in action.”

Her family even led an eight-week children’s ministry program this past summer. Each week, Sanchez and her family served 50-70 children in their front yard, according to Sanchez.

“God is faithful to my family,” Sanchez said. “We have a tight bond, and it is huge part of our culture.”

Unidos Representing Biola’s Mission

Sanchez was involved at KidWorks, a local community center, for more than 10 years. She attended KidWorks from 2nd grade until the end of high school.

“It was a place where volunteers from all over Orange County would come and share their stories, their life with me,” Sanchez said. “[It was the first time] I had met young people that went to college, held successful careers or even lived outside my neighborhood.”

The community center gave her the opportunity to receive a full ride scholarship at Mater Dei, a private high school. Sanchez held a 3.85 GPA at her local junior high school when she heard about the scholarship. She needed to be actively involved in KidWorks to maintain her scholarship and maintain hold at least a 3.0 GPA.

Once at Biola, Sanchez knew she wanted to display good leadership by guiding students through a smooth transition into Biola as a minority. Because of this, she became a leader of the Unidos club in the spring of 2011. She believes Biola’s mission is at the center of what Unidos does for students, “equipping men and women in mind and character to impact the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Multi-Ethnic Programs Development is a huge support and a joy to work along side with, said Sanchez. Tamra Newman, associate director of MEPD, collaborates with the club to help with Latino Heritage Month, according to Newman.

MEPD sets aside a specific budget for heritage month for each club, although the clubs are not directly under them, according to Newman. The ethnic clubs are mainly led and supported by Associated Students.

Sanchez would like to encourage involvement and awareness to help bring together students of different backgrounds, especially seeing as she is currently the only leader.

“I think it is something shrugged off as something just for Latinos,” Sanchez said. “I wish more students would enjoy from a club where we share fellowship with the Latino community and discover the beauty of God's creation through the diversity in our ethnic identity.”

Taylor Best, a junior sociology major, was not aware of the club’s existence. She expressed she was not familiar with the club because she is not from Latino heritage.

Sanchez said Unidos has a good number of members, although she hopes that the club grows to match the increasing percentage of Latinos at Biola.

“[Because] the Latino population is growing, we still have a hard time bringing people together because Latinos are some of the hardest working people out there,” Sanchez said. “They are the ones with two jobs, commuting and handling family issues.”

There will be multiple events taking place and Sanchez hopes students will sign-up to help volunteer. Sanchez hopes to spread the message that those in the Biola community are all family.

“We are all brothers and sisters, we all come from the same family,” she said. “If you think of your family, a big part of that is knowing one another.”

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