The Detours to Success

The power up perseverance can lead to life changing results


Graphic by Andie Kalinowski.

It was a warm and breezy afternoon. The smell of freshly cut grass combined with the scent of Santa Barbara coastal water seeped through the whole campus. The trees whistled as the wind blew through the leaves causing them to clash with one another.

Allen Sauceda remembered struggling to find his first class. He tried to understand the map but it seemed like a maze. He had never been so confused in his life.

“I was so scared to arrive at my first class late, but at the same time, the terror of asking someone for directions scared me even more,” he said.

He saw this was only one of the challenges he would encounter.

He knew what he had to do and weighed it against what he wanted, to achieve his goal of being admitted into his dream school, the University of Southern California.

Sauceda vividly remembers when he was 12, his dad gave him a hat that was branded with bold red letters that said USC on it.

“My dad had always dreamed of higher education,” he said. “But when he arrived in the United States, his citizenship would interfere, [he wasn’t] able to attend at all.”

Sauceda’s father had given him that hat to inspire him to achieve his best in his educational career. This hat symbolized a torch of ambition handed to him by his father. It was a turning point for him on how he would approach higher education.

Every time he lost motivation, he would reflect upon the meaning behind the hat and try to fulfill what his dad had always dreamed of doing, furthering his education.

Sauceda’s first year of attending Santa Barbara City College is where he found what to major in. He has always loved science but growing up in a family of business owners, his father had other plans.

“Being a businessman is the success I dreamed for my son, I want him to be part of a big company,” said Dave Sauceda, Sauceda’s Father.

But Sauceda had other plans; he always loved science and found wonder in understanding the way things worked around the world.

“Science has always interested me because it constantly changes our way of thinking by challenging the world around us,” he said.

This juxtaposition of opinions caused an internal conflict within him. He wanted to allow himself to pursue what would give him personal fulfillment, but he did not want to fall short of the expectations his father had for him.

This internal conflict revealed itself through the quality and motivation he had put towards his school work. He found certain classes especially difficult because they didn’t align with his personal values.

The process of trying to find a fitting major added another pressure to his college experience.
No matter what he did, he always felt stuck.

He questioned if the effort he was putting into school or specific course work was even going to be worth it.

Despite all the confusion and doubt, he was able to push himself through these courses. He reminded himself of the role models he had in his own life, specifically his father.

Sauceda found himself doing particularly well in math courses which led to his ultimate decision of majoring in mathematics. While the coursework was manageable and rewarding, he still always second guessed his decision.

This feeling followed him through his second year of college.

After deciding to change his major, he also decided to move to L.A. County to further his education. He registered himself to complete his community college at Citrus College in Azusa, California.

Entering a new college, he struggled to find the momentum and discipline he had when he first enrolled in college as a freshman in Santa Barbara.

This was a big change for him.

“I started getting used to Santa Barbara, the smell, the environment, the pace,” he said. “It had all felt comfortable to me, but once I transferred, it threw me all off balance. But I knew what I had to do. It was just finding a way on how to do it, it was what challenged me.”

He also experienced a culture shock when he moved to L.A. county. He no longer had the comfort of familiarity surrounding him but he saw this challenge as nothing but a stepping stone towards reaching his final goal of transferring to USC.

While he had lingering feelings of doubt surrounding his major, he knew that no matter what he pursued in school, he would put his best foot forward if it meant reaching a higher education.

After a couple semesters of majoring in mathematics, he found that it was not only a struggle for him but boring and repetitive.

“It feels all the same to me; it doesn’t give me the desire to want to learn more,” he said.

At home he struggled to convince his father to allow him to change his major to math. It barely met the halfway mark between his fathers expectations and his own personal desires.

“I knew that I wanted to change my major but trying to get my dad to support me was what made it hard,” he said. “I had to make a plan and show my dad my plan of getting into USC.”

Sauceda had known that shifting his father’s ideologies around success would not be easy but he found that his personal aspirations were just as important.

In order to convince his dad to support what he wanted to pursue, he tediously planned his academic route in order to achieve his end goal.

After deciding to major as a biology technician in his second year at Citrus College, he stayed up day and night studying and dedicating his time to get the highest grade in the class possible.

“Having a high GPA is a must when applying,” he said. “I knew that. Dedicating myself every night to not going out and constantly re-reading the things I had already known over and over is what helped me succeed through my classes.”

Even throughout college application deadlines he stayed consistent in his classes.

Applying to USC was a given but he did have backup choices like La Verne, UC San Diego and a few local California State Universities.

When the season of acceptance letters started, he was nervous waiting for his letter from USC.

“Every hour I would check my email to see if I had gotten anything from them,” he said. “And once I saw that email the nervousness nearly made me throw up.”

Once he saw the email, his anxiety skyrocketed.

Reading the first sentence his heart dropped. All of his work to attend his dream school was down the drain as he read the letter stating his denial to the school.

“The feeling of being denied felt like my heart had a hole and sunk to the bottom of my stomach,” Sauceda said.

Although he was denied by USC, he was accepted into all the Cal States he applied to.

“I still want to do whatever it takes to attend USC and I have already taken the journey to dedicate myself to education so why stop here,” he said.

After deciding to attend Cal Poly Pomona, he continued to achieve the highest grades possible and never stopped dedicating himself to his education.

That same year he reapplied to USC. He felt like he had gone through a relapse of emotions.

“Opening what was gonna be the same letter I had opened last year is what scared me,” he said. “But looking that I got accepted didn’t seem real. Cliches are not my thing but it was like a dream come true.”

He celebrated the fact he had gotten in and proceeded to register for his first semester at his dream school.

His father, despite feeling contradicted by his son’s major, was overcome by feelings of joy for his son. He was proud of him and that overruled his differing opinions over his major choice.

He quickly accommodated to his new school by being actively involved in everything from welcome events to club rushes.

After years of struggling with familial and internal conflicts surrounding his education, he was able to finally feel content with all aspects of his academic life. USC was a school that made him feel fulfilled, challenged and eager to learn.

The ambiance of the Santa Barbara community college is now seen as a nostalgic memory in the story of Allen Sauceda’s educational journey but it is one that kick-started his expedition to success.