WHO IS LAURA SANDOVAL?

If you know me, you know that I am a proud member of the SVMP class of 2014. But you may not know that I am also a marketing professional, an unapologetic Latina, an involved mentor, a fearless leader, a believer in Christ, a first-generation college graduate, a philanthropist, and unapologetic about the things that define me.

There’s no dispute that my life’s experiences have helped shape who I am today. Rewind 17 years to me living in a cramped, one-bedroom apartment with my mother, sister, and grandmother in Queens, NY, where making ends meet was a constant struggle. By the time I turned 18 I had moved 13 times and dealt with my fair share of difficult circumstances; but that’s another story for another day.

Fast forward to summer 2014 when I received my full-time offer from one of the world’s most reputable Fortune 200 companies. I remember standing outside one the hallways, offer letter in-hand, tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t believe it. I would be making more than every single member of my immediate and close extended family. In one year, I would become the first in my family to graduate from an American college and the first to work in a corporate setting. To say I felt overwhelmed would be an understatement. All I could do was cry. And then the Imposter Syndrome took over: I SHOULDN’T BE HERE. I’m sure many of you SHOULD be here. You are right where you belong. Oftentimes the initial outlook on your journey may seem winding, never-ending, obstacle-ridden, and hopeless. But all the bumps in the road are necessary to help fortify who you are and what you will eventually do with your life. You can sulk in your misery or like Beyonce, you can use your lemons to make some lemonade.

So back to my crying 21-year-old self- It’s not that I didn’t think I deserved being in this position, but it was more-so a moment of stunning realization where I fully recognized the extent to which I was blessed. As I counted the blessings in my life I realized that it was too much for me to handle on my own. I needed to share these blessings with someone and that was the seed that planted what soon became the Lucha Latina Foundation.

WHAT IS THE LUCHA LATINA FOUNDATION?

Lucha Latina is an organization I created to support and promote Latina excellence and achievement by empowering young Latinas through a pipeline (high school to college to young professionals) in order to help them achieve their professional, academic, and personal goals. We aim to serve as a premier resource for Hispanic/Latinas by providing financial aid, mentorship, networking opportunities, and prospective career placements. Having turned 1 year old 2 months ago, we are still very much in our infancy with tons of room for growth.

As of today, we have awarded 5 deserving high school seniors in the Miami-Dade area with scholarships to continue their education. We have initiated our pilot mentorship program with these scholarship recipients, and are now working towards establishing collegiate chapters of our organization nation-wide. We are very excited for what’s to come! They sky is the limit for Lucha Latina.

LESSONS I’VE LEARNED ALONG MY JOURNEY

A beautiful gift that comes with any failure or success is lessons learned. In no particular order, here are a few parting takeaways that I have internalized either in college or as I created my startup nonprofit:

You won’t always have the best answers or even the right answers: For whatever group, business, or philanthropic organization you create always be sure include a diverse set of people, especially that will challenge you. The last thing you want is a bunch of YES men/women.
Support comes in many different shapes and forms: Many of my family and friends weren’t able to help support my organization financially, but they have lent their eyes to my posts, their ears to my video messages, and most importantly –their time.

Seek advice from your peers: Utilizing your SVMP networks is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Two of my fellow cohort members are among the most admirable men I know and have really pushed me/encouraged me to start my organization when I was having hesitations.

Dream big: No idea is too crazy or far-fetched. You will oftentimes pleasantly surprise yourself.

Just do it: Don’t wait for things to fall into place, because they won’t. If you have a vision act upon it.