San Jac Certified: It’s only the beginning

07.03.2017 | By Madelon Zimmermann

HOUSTON, Texas – Karen Sandoval is a first generation college student who immigrated, at the age of 2, with her family to the United States from Mexico City in search of a better life. After she graduated from high school, Sandoval was drawn to San Jacinto College by the relative proximity to her home.

During her time at San Jac, Sandoval was a part of the Federal Work Study (FWS) program. As a FWS student worker, she would proctor tests and sign in students at the welcome desk. She then started working as a student assistant where she was trusted to administer the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA) test. From there she was made a part-time administrative assistant, helping administer other exams such as the General Educational Development (GED) and College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests.

“Being a part of this program taught me to be persistent. When I first started I didn’t know I would complete a bachelor’s degree. It was the people who God surrounded me with that influenced me to continue going,” said Sandoval, who graduated from San Jac with an associate of arts degree in general studies. She then decided to attend the University of Houston -Downtown, where she majored in finance. “I didn’t want to stress my parents out with the cost of college, so I took classes on my own terms. Meaning, I continued to work here at San Jacinto College part-time to pay for school,” she added.

While at San Jac, Sandoval had many influential mentors that taught her skills to help her succeed in college and beyond. Alfredo Gomez, a shared counselor at C.E. King High School and San Jacinto College North, helped her to complete her Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) and helped her discover the FWS program. It was through this program that she met Ronald Hopkins, Program Director of Men of Honor, who taught her reading, studying, and writing techniques that stayed with her throughout her college career and into her professional life.

“If I didn’t understand something in class I knew it was to my benefit to ask. Both faculty and staff took the time to explain what it means to be a professional and what that looks like,” said Sandoval.

After graduation she returned to San Jac to work full-time as the student engagement and activities office administrative assistant. “I found a whole new way to help students. I encouraged them to get involved in an organization they found interest in, so they could find out a little more about themselves. Some students needed this so they could realize what they wanted to do in life,” said Sandoval.

As the first in her household to obtain a degree, Sandoval knows her time at San Jac has impacted her own siblings to attend college. It has also inspired her to see each student not as a number, but as an individual. “I want to let students know that I am here to help them reach their full potential and that personal growth does not stop at San Jac because it is only the beginning,” said Sandoval.


About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. As a fiscally sound institution, the College currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Rising Star Award recipient and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. Approximately 30,000 students each semester benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers seven areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to a four-year college or university or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College call 281-998-6150, visit or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.