Succeeding on my own terms

My life has been far from traditional. I've always struggled to feel connected to my peers because my experience has been so different from most people my age. I was bullied throughout elementary and middle school and dropped out of school after the eighth grade. When I was 15 and everyone else was starting high school and learning to drive, I was taking the bus to my full-time job.

Steven Sanchez
Sanchez has made personal connections with some great people through his involvement on campus.

When I finally did go back to school, it was through a dual-credit program at a community college in my hometown. It was a great opportunity, I graduated in two years with my high school diploma and associate's degree, but it wasn't a traditional experience, and I still didn't feel connected to the experiences of my peers.

That all changed when I came to UNI. I transferred in the fall of 2011 as a communication studies major and journalism minor. Since then, I have grown so much as a person. I've become involved with great organizations, like the Hispanic Latino Student Union and UNI Proud, where I've served as co-director of public relations and director of media relations, and I've made personal connections with some great people.

One of the major highlights of my UNI experience happened in fall 2013 when I was crowned Homecoming queen, making history as the first queer, gender-nonconforming UNI student to win the title. In addition to being history making, the experience was personally validating for me because I finally felt like I was a part of the traditions and experiences I used to feel so far removed from. More than that, I was participating in the tradition on my own terms.

I'm now finishing up my last year at UNI. I'm not entirely sure what my post-grad plans are, but I'd love to work at a magazine or do public relations for a nonprofit. While I don't know yet which path I'll take, UNI has given me the confidence to know that I can be successful in any endeavor, and that I can do it all on my own terms.