Cesia Sanchez is a dynamic young woman who will graduate from A&M in May 2016 with a degree in economics and a minor in math. Cesia Sanchez is the recipient of numerous academic awards. As a finalist for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Scholar of the Year, she will soon travel to California for the organization’s Leaders in Education Awards dinner in April. Her next step includes earning a doctorate in economics, and her dream is to one day become president of a Reserve Bank. The following is a speech she gave to our 2016 Community Builders Breakfast audience:

Debbie Eller, from City of College Station, celebrate the home dedication with the Sanchez family

Howdy! I am so excited to be here today to tell you what Habitat has meant to me and my family. It’s been a year and a half since my mom, Margarita Sanchez, received the keys to her Habitat home in College Station. My mom is here with me today, and I know she shares the same sentiments about Habitat that I do.

Before I talk about where our Habitat journey has taken us, I want to share a little about where we’ve been. I am one of five siblings. We grew up in Oak Cliff, a neighborhood southwest of Dallas. Those were difficult times. My dad was a truck driver and rarely home. My mom worked two jobs while trying to raise five kids. It got even worse when my mom suffered a neck injury in a car accident. She was laid off from both jobs and, when my father lost his income, the bank foreclosed on our house.

Because my parents lived paycheck to paycheck and struggled to pay all the bills, there was never extra money for school supplies or holiday gifts. When it came to having fun, we kids had to be creative. My siblings and I would collect rocks and leaves from our backyard. We used the rocks as coins and the leaves as dollars to buy items from a pretend supermarket in the house.

As difficult as things were, two things helped sustain me. My mother’s faith is one. I am still amazed at how she never gave up believing that God would provide her with a new house of her own. I also learned firsthand that there were caring community members who helped families in need. The school supplies and Christmas gifts we received from the people at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas made a huge difference in my young life. I have come to realize now that what happened in my childhood is what drives me today. It molded my character. Without experiencing what I did, I wouldn’t know how to value the things I have. And without the people who sacrificed to help me, I wouldn’t be here today.