Life doesn’t always end up as planned.
Nick Sanchez, Western’s employment inclusion manager, can attest to that. His journey, however, brought him to help Western’s campus. Sanchez works with a variety of faculty and staff to create workshops and programs to educate others about the importance of diversity.
“Visually, at least here in Bellingham, we are not as diverse as other cities and communities,” Sanchez said. “What I find, and have always been optimistic about, is how willing and open people are to embracing new identities.”
From an early age, Sanchez said he had a calling bigger than himself. He often had to work hard to receive the opportunities he has had in his life.
Sanchez struggled with financial barriers, troubled high school years and being the first in his family to go to college.
By the time Sanchez finished his senior year of high school, he had attended 11 different schools.
After high school, Sanchez joined the Marine Corps for four years and next attended six different community colleges. From there Sanchez went to Humboldt State University in California then to Santa Clara University School of Law to get his graduate-level professional law degree.
While attending Santa Clara University, Sanchez worked with a program at the university called Fresh Lifelines for Youth. As a law student, he taught young children on probation their legal rights.
Sanchez wants to set an example for his seven nephews. He’s proved someone in their family could go to school, get a career and use their passion to help others, he said.
Sanchez said the programs he involves himself in are difficult since they challenge people to lean into discomfort.
Sanchez spent three years as a co-chair of the President’s Task Force on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity.
Since then, Sanchez created four different workshops focusing on diversity that can be taken by faculty, staff and students. After attending all four workshops, attendees each receive a lifelong learning certificate.
“[The lifelong learning certificate] is an agreement to continue on learning these things for a lifetime because one of the complexities of diversity work is that the learning’s never done. You’re never done learning about everybody.”
Although workshops are Sanchez’s main focus, they aren’t the only programs he’s spearheaded. Sanchez is working with journalism professor Maria McLeod on the play “First Person: Diverse Student Stories.”
“Maria interviewed seven different students from diverse backgrounds, captured their stories, turned them into scripts and found seven actors to deliver those,” Sanchez said.
The play is free and open to anyone and is set to show at Old Main Theatre Thu., Feb. 23 and Fri., Feb. 24. After the play, workshops will be offered to students and community members to digest what they heard and express their thoughts about the play.
Chris Casquilho is the manager of marketing and special events for the College of Fine and Performing Arts and earned a lifelong learning certificate after going through the workshops last spring.
The different workshops include “Cultural Awareness of Self,” “Experiences of Others,” “Critical Conversations in a Work Place” and “A Call to Action.”
“The facilitators were folks from these underrepresented groups, from these minority groups. You were talking to them and they were speaking from this place of absolute truth,” Casquilho said.
To have someone who’s experienced discrimination articulate why it matters to talk about it makes the open dialogue workshops so powerful, Casquilho said.
“[The lifelong learning certificate] is an agreement to continue on learning these things for a lifetime because one of the complexities of diversity work is that the learning’s never done,” Sanchez said. “You’re never done learning about everybody.”