Angela Marie Sanchez has taken over UCLA.
In one year, the Glendale native who spent her 11th and 12th grade days at Hoover High and her nights in homeless shelters, has starred in a UCLA public service campaign, been profiled in the school newspaper and is a few months away from starting a campus chapter of School on Wheels, a mentoring program for at-risk children.
She has also volunteered for the AIDS Project Los Angeles, Los Angeles Team Mentoring and served as a UCLA ambassador, helping to recruit middle and high school students to Westwood.
"I'm at like, 20 million places at once on that campus," she said.
That's on top of her UCLA honors courses, scholarship applications and campus jobs. And that's not including her summer workload, which includes a Japanese language course at Glendale Community College.
"It comes to a point where you're making service a part of your life," Sanchez said. "And service is something that I've carried with me since junior high."
That attitude was on vivid display regularly when Sanchez worked as a cashier in the UCLA student center, Ackerman Union, her manager Neo Alpuerto said.
"She fits right in," he said. "As far as failure in life, I do not foresee that happening with her. She's a very hard worker."
She was a mentor to students at Bancroft Middle School in Los Angeles and to the adults who worked with her, said Gloria Ramos, a program manager for Los Angeles Team Mentoring.
"Angela is an individual who sets a standard and then challenges herself to break it," she said in an e-mail. "As Angela continues to raise the bar as a mentor, everyone that crosses her path receives substantial benefits."
Sanchez graduated from Hoover High with a 4.23 grade-point average that she earned, oftentimes, by studying in dark spaces where light was visible through a closet doorway. The homeless shelters had a strict lights-out policy.
When Sanchez turned 2, her mother began suffering from mental illness, and her father struggled to find stable employment in architecture and construction. Taken together, the circumstances drained the family's income and savings.
But Richard Sanchez had built up a library of more than 1,000 books and never lost focus on the goal of ensuring that his daughter got a strong education.
"She learned to take lemons and make lemonade," he said. "She achieves her goals day by day. No matter what the setbacks are, she has the tendency to stay focused and progress."
Among those books were many about Japanese culture and literature, which sparked Angela Sanchez's interest in kendo, Japanese sword fighting. She enrolled in the UCLA Kendo Club, and quickly made friends from across the globe.
"If I was doing it just for exercise, I would've quit because I was so sore," she said. "It helps get your mind off academic stress. You're out there yelling and screaming, and can think "Aaaahhh midterms!"
Her first year of college was also complete with parties too, although a fraternity party on Halloween is an experience she said she wouldn't try again.
Instead, sophomore year will be another year of scholarship applications, academic challenges, and a time when she hopes logistics can be finalized and the UCLA chapter of School on Wheels, with its 70 student volunteers who've already signed up, can open and begin mentoring.
"In giving my all to every activity that I do, with due diligence, trying to make it better, improving myself and my community, it makes me feel more attached to the UCLA Bruin ideals: excellence, accountability, respect, integrity and service," Angela Sanchez said. "I don't know about being special. I know whatever I do, I do to the best of my ability. Like John Wooden says, 'Make every day a masterpiece.'"