UALR grad pays it forward after receiving overwhelming support

Sandra Carmona-Garcia

Thanks to the financial assistance she received to attend the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, a graduating student decided to dedicate her time to help high school students get into college. 

Sandra Carmona-Garcia, president of the UALR student chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), will graduate on Dec. 17 with two bachelor’s degrees, Spanish and mass communication with an emphasis in strategic communication.

A firm believer in community service, Carmona-Garcia uses her time to help high school students with the college application process and to raise money for student scholarships through LULAC.

Although she had a 4.0 GPA in high school, Carmona-Garcia did not think she could go to college due to her immigration status. In 2012, during Carmona-Garcia’s junior year of high school, President Barack Obama ordered the immigration policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which, in part, allowed undocumented students to attend college.

When Carmona-Garcia learned of the opportunity, she knew she wanted to attend college. However, she did not know how she would afford out-of-state tuition.

“I was losing hope, and suddenly, I had an explosion of blessings,” she said. “The teachers at Central High School decided to get together and help me. I have a teacher that gave and still gives me a contribution to pay for my books. A person that I’d never met sent me a check to buy my computer and pay for some of my classes.”

One of her teachers also contacted LULAC, who helped Carmona-Garcia find ways to finance her education.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Carmona-Garcia said. “That’s why I never take anything for granted. Whenever LULAC needs me to participate or needs my presence somewhere, I make sure I’m there.”

Thanks to the overwhelming support she received, Carmona-Garcia made it her business to exceed collegiate expectations and help others along the way. She now goes back to her high school to enlighten students on their opportunities for higher education and show them how to reach their goals.

“I’m an intern at Central, and I’m kind of like a career coach,” Carmona-Garcia said. “I help students to sign up for college, the ACT, and FAFSA. I also help them with their resumes and give them more information about college, because I know what it feels like to want to go and not be able to afford it.”

Not only does Carmona-Garcia work to help students get into school, but she also teaches them how to express their gratitude. As president of UALR’s LULAC chapter, she makes sure members take every opportunity to thank those who supported them.

“I have always emphasized the importance of community service,” Carmona-Garcia said. “I want those who have been helped to show that they’re thankful for getting a scholarship, a donation, or anything. For me, you have to be present, you have to volunteer, and you have to let them know that you’re thankful.”

Because of her experience in high school and with LULAC, Carmona-Garcia believes she has finally found her calling. She plans to get her graduate degree in student affairs, so other students have better opportunities for higher education.

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