When District 7 City Councilwoman Ana Sandoval graduated as the Valedictorian from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1993, little did know she would return to lead her hometown into prosperity.
Following a full scholarship to MIT where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering, her journey to the nation’s best schools continued with a Master’s Degree at Stanford University in Civil and Environmental Engineering.
The San Antonio native was far from done garnering a Master’s in Public Health from Harvard University. As a Fulbright Scholar in 1997-1998 her academic prowess went international when she received a Diplomado in Binational Business from Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) in Mexico City.
The fidelity she had to her education she recalls comes from her high school teachers and her older sister Nancy, whom she saw as an advisor.
“[My sister] would come home from school and teach me what she had learned. She became a teacher, and worked at the elementary school we’d attended,” said Councilwoman Sandoval (D7) to La Prensa. “In college, I was fortunate enough to participate in a program for incoming freshmen from underserved high schools. When I was at Jefferson High School, we only had one advanced placement course.”
As a daughter to parents from Monterrey, Mexico who immigrated to the U.S. in 1976, the reality of an Ivy League education was far off. But what the Councilwoman lacked in connections, she more than made up for in a tight family bond. With her sister preparing her with her lessons she would soon encounter in the classroom, community involvement was never far behind.
While at Jefferson, Councilwoman Sandoval participated in the Thomas Jefferson Mariachi, where she once performed on one of the Riverwalk barges during Fiesta. That opportunity led to a job as a mariachi musician for Fiesta Texas, where she earned $13 an hour, and helped pay for household expenses.
Lessons learned singing for her supper as it were and bussing tables at EZ’s Restaurant solidified her already strong work ethic. It also sparked her interest in public service, and thus began her professional career at VIA Metropolitan Transit.
Being entrusted with providing viable transportation for the people of San Antonio was no small task. But it was those challenges that underscored a cause still close to her heart today.
“One of our biggest and most pressing challenges is reducing poverty in our city and reducing the gap between our richest and poorest neighborhoods,” said Councilwoman Sandoval (D7). “There’s a 20-year difference in life expectancy between San Antonio’s wealthiest community and its poorest. That’s unacceptable.”
After a career that took her across the country to lead some of the largest municipal initiatives on the west coast, home was always the Alamo City. Serving the community, like any great calling, is not always an expedient process. Even deciding to run for City Council came after seeing disparities in her district in comparison to others.
That community bond that was cultivated all those years ago only grew with every new phase of her career. Now it was time to throw her hat in the political ring.
“Public office wasn’t always in my plans. But, I always imagined myself coming home. In fact, I moved back to San Antonio twice,” Councilwoman Sandoval continued. “I now live next door to my parents. I decided to run for City Council a little more than a year ago because I saw that District 7, where I grew up, wasn’t prospering.”
As the seventh largest city in the nation, San Antonio is already poised to grow by an additional 1 million people by 2040. For Councilwoman Sandoval, preparing for that influx means sustainability.
An admittedly untraditional environmentalist, lessons on conservation was not honed in any forest, but in the Sandoval home. Wasting resources of any sort was avoided. Those lessons stayed with the Councilwoman and eventually led to a greater understanding of true sustainability.
“These habits are engrained. It’s a lens. Where some see convenience, I see waste. Conserving the environment is about caring for what we have,” admitted Councilwoman Sandoval. “Later in my career, I became more aware of the health impacts associated with environmental issues. Healthy environments mean healthy people. And without health, how can we fulfill our dreams or care for our families?”
With much to accomplish in her hometown and a finite amount in which to do it, the Councilwoman seeks only to be a role model for anyone working for positive change in their community.
As she says, “you’ll never know where your passions will take you.”