Students arrived on the University of La Verne campus Monday toting backpacks and hot coffee, some still sleepy-eyed from months of summer relaxation and others raring to go for the first day of t...
As a Presidential education adviser, Sara Lundquist ’81 holds far-reaching power to ensure Hispanic students have the opportunity to pursue a college degree.
It is not every day the President of the United States teams up with a La Verne graduate to take action on a national issue. That fact made the events of September 13, 2011, indeed memorable as President Barack Obama announced Sara Lundquist as one of his appointees for the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Lundquist, Vice President of Student Services at Santa Ana College, earned her master’s degree in psychology and counseling from the University of La Verne in 1981. But even before completing that degree, she knew she wanted to be part of something big.
In this new position, Lundquist joins other esteemed members of the commission who are tasked with advising President Obama on effective policies that will support his goal of expanding educational opportunities for Hispanics.
“This role will entail me taking trips to Washington, D.C., for commission meetings that I estimate will be quarterly,” Lundquist said. “We will continue the work that is already under way here regionally with the Sana Ana Partnership, which is developing strategies to help students enter and complete college.”
Aside from her vice presidency at Santa Ana College, a position she’s held since 1992, Lundquist is the Principle Investigator of numerous grants and research projects aimed at education reform. She is also the director of student development organizations, including the Santa Ana Partnership.
Born out of a need to address a growing Latino learning population within the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) seeking to learn English, the partnership focuses on helping underserved students pursue higher education by identifying areas of academic vulnerability.
Current U.S. Census statistics show that Hispanics are the nation’s fastest-growing minority group. It is estimated that by the year 2050, the non-Hispanic white population will no longer be the majority.
With the anticipation of this new reality, educators like Lundquist are endeavoring to prepare students for the future, a process that begins by devoting much-needed attention to the situation.
She considers Santa Ana to be a “hub” for Latino talent and believes the U.S. is very interested in how to capitalize on the development of that talent by supporting the educational work under way here and shining light on the results that are emerging. She shares that interest, and any effort to help foster success in young Hispanic students exemplifies Lundquist’s ambition since she was in college.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do professionally,” said Lundquist, reflecting on her early college years. “I was much clearer about what I wanted to learn than what I wanted to do with what I learned in terms of a specific job title. I wanted to be where the most important social justice work was being done. I wanted to be involved in transformational work that would address prevailing inequalities in education.”
She has certainly put those goals into action. Through her leadership with the Santa Ana Partnership, she has helped unite teachers, parents and community leaders to create strategies and opportunities based on results for the Hispanic population in the greater Santa Ana area.
Some of the accomplishments of the Partnership include increasing the academic achievement of secondary school students, creating a pathway to college for local high school graduates, implementing One Stop Higher Education Centers in high schools throughout Santa Ana, and creating guaranteed transfer to local universities for Santa Ana College students.
As a result, Lundquist has developed a large network of advocacy colleagues throughout her work, including Juan Sepulveda. He would eventually be appointed executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans in 2009.
“We both worked on community collaboratives and he heard about the work of Santa Ana,” Lundquist shared. “When he was appointed to that position he wanted to know how communities across the U.S. were helping Hispanics, and we stayed involved.”
Now that Lundquist is working with President Obama, she will be balancing a full plate of responsibilities, an all-too-familiar undertaking for her.
As a full-time grad student at La Verne, Lundquist also worked full-time at Santa Ana College and raised a family, which included a 2-year-old and a newborn. But she chose La Verne because she knew it would be conducive to her personal life and professional goals.
“It’s accurate to say that ULV catapulted me from my status as an educated professional to a faculty member at Santa Ana College,” Lundquist said. “I was able to balance work and school and graduate in a year, which led to a big changing point in my career.”
Although she went on to earn her Ph.D from Claremont Graduate University in 2002, Lundquist still considers herself a student.
“I still take a class every semester at Santa Ana College,” she said.
Lundquist thrives on seeing that all students reach their highest potential. And through her work, she continues to be an excellent example of how to make that happen.