Big goals, big dreams: Sanchez overcomes obstacles, wants to be a newscaster
Editor’s note: This is the final story in a three-part series dedicated to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
WORTHINGTON — To improve his language skills, Jesse Sanchez often watches Spanish-language television. Of special interest to him are the newscasts. He can picture himself at a chair behind the anchor desk, relaying the events of the day to viewers, in either Spanish or English.
That would be his dream job.
But Jesse realizes that dream is a ways off in the future. For the moment, he’s content in his current position as a pharmacy assistant at the Worthington Wal-Mart.
Jesse has lived most of his life in Worthington, having moved here at 1 year old with his mother, Margarita, a native of Mexico, and older brother. When it came time to go to school, initially he was placed in ESL classes. As he continued with his studies, it was determined that language wasn’t the only barrier to his education —he was in need of specialized services to help with learning and social disabilities.
“I had trouble with math and reading,” explained Jesse. “They helped me out with my math homework, and when I was getting ready to go to college, they helped me to get ready for that. From my sophomore to my senior year, I worked with Mrs. Wasmund (Worthington High School Vocational Evaluator and Transition Coordinator).”
Despite his learning obstacles, Jesse was determined to continue his education in college.
“I was the first on in my family to go to college,” he stated proudly. “I was the first one to graduate high school, also.”
Jesse graduated from Worthington High School in 2008. He decided to continue his education at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus, although he has yet to earn his two-year degree.
“I haven’t finished yet,” he noted. “I was really confused about what I wanted to go for. Toward the end, I decided I wanted to be a news reporter, but I know it’s a tough job to get into, but that’s even more reason why I want to do it.”
Because his mother is diabetic, Jesse continues to live at home with her and stepdad John Gibson, so he can help her out whenever possible. He puts in full-time hours at Wal-Mart, where he started working when he was just 17 years old.
“I’ve been all over the store,” he explained. “I started out as a loader,” unloading the freight that came into the store. “Then I worked in toys. Then I became a supervisor in the front end of the store. Then I went to pharmacy.”
Working in the front of the store was Jesse’s preferred position, because he liked the rush of adrenaline when the store got really busy. But he chose to move to pharmacy for the change of pace. Jesse is especially fond of his co-workers, and the feeling is reciprocated.
“He’s awesome,” said pharmacy co-worker Melissa Hennings with a big smile for Jesse. “What did I tell you when you came back (from a recent vacation)? You can’t be gone that long again.”
Starting in middle school, Jesse was placed in classes aimed at improving his social skills, and his time at Wal-Mart has also made him feel more comfortable with personal interactions.
“I’m really shy when I first meet you,” he said. “It takes me a while to open up to you, but it’s getting easier. Some days are challenging.”
Jesse’s work in the pharmacy can be fast-paced, and he also gets to meet a lot of people.
“I help fill prescriptions and take orders, interact with a lot of people, translate a lot,” he said about the different aspects of the job. “Our crew is just really good to work with.”
After six years at Wal-Mart, Jesse has become a familiar face in the aisles and now behind the pharmacy counter.
“Everywhere I go, people always say to me, ‘You work at Wal-Mart, don’t you?’” he related.
Although he grew up speaking Spanish with his family at home, Jesse would like to enhance that language ability, so he continues to watch Spanish-language television as much as possible.
“I’m not as fluent as I want to be,” he said. “I can understand it, but I can’t read and write it. My mother wanted me to not get confused growing up. But my mother has also said my Spanish has improved over the years.”
Besides the classes that helped build his social confidence, Jesse is also grateful for the extra coaching he received in math — always his most difficult subject in school. He now sees the value in what he has learned as he uses math on a daily basis in his job.
“I liked history, photography, ceramics I took in college, and I took film in both high school and college,” he said about his most favored school subjects. “I liked anything that was artistic.”
Eventually, after he’s managed to save up some more money, Jesse wants to return to college —maybe Iowa Lakes Community College to begin with and then Southwest State University in Marshall so he can stay close to home and continue to help his mother. She came here to provide a better life for her family, and now he wants to help make life better for her, too.
“She became a citizen of the U.S. and has been another role model for me,” he stated with pride. “She still has trouble speaking English, but she overcame her challenges and studied for her citizenship and became a citizen all by herself. Besides me and my brother, she is the only citizen in our family.”
Jesse’s recent vacation — what he called a highlight of his life so far — was a two-week visit to Durango, Mexico, to see family. He has aunts, uncles and cousins still living there.
“I hadn’t been there in 10 years,” he said. “Durango is the Land of the Scorpions. I got to see my grandfather’s grave. He died two years ago, and I wasn’t able to go down there then, so I was able to see that.”
During his stay, Jesse had a few adventures and one misadventure.
“I did a new thing every day that I had never done before. I rode a horse, and I had never done that. But I also fell off a cliff. We were climbing a mountain because my uncle wanted to go there, and I fell off a cliff and hit a cactus,” he said, showing scars still visible on his arm from the cactus spines. “It was painful.”
As he awaits new opportunities to pursue his dreams, Jesse feels a bit like he’s in a limbo, but he’s determined to make the best of whatever comes his way.
“I want to do something new every year,” he said. “I want to make every year better than the last year.”
Daily Globe Features Editor Beth
Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.