Editor’s Note: To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Kern Sol News is highlighting notable Hispanic leaders in Kern County who are working to create positive change in their community.
Sandra Pachecho is dedicated to the future of every child that crosses the threshold of her office. As an interventionist at Bakersfield High School (BHS) Pacheco interacts with students from every type of background.
She needs to be able to connect with her students and one way she does that is by letting them know that they aren’t that much different from each other. She grew up not far from where they go to school. Pachecho is originally from El Paso, Texas, and moved to Bakersfield when she was 12 years old where she graduated from BHS.
“I think it’s important that they realize that I’m not just sitting behind a desk and I have all this good stuff happening. I’ve gone through stuff,” said Pacheco explaining that she can associate with them.
This connection with students is needed to help them see better for themselves.
“Otherwise you can’t take them anywhere beyond what they think. You need to inspire and just light that fire inside them,” said Pacheco with passion and care in her voice. “It’s hard, our kids are really struggling right now. I believe that if you can at least get a student to respect you because you show them respect, that goes a long way.”
While this is hard work it is also very fulfilling for Pachecho and she said she does it with all of her heart. She makes sure, to be honest with her students and also instills in them that they are worthy and her for a reason.
She is reminded that her work is important every time she sees a student have an “aha moment” of realizing their worth or when they come back later on to visit her. Currently, she has a test hanging in her office that a student brought to her showing he passed.
“I told him I’m not taking it down till he graduates. So, he’s getting ready to graduate and he comes and checks in every once in a while and I say ‘still here’,” said Pacheco smiling at the test.
The effort Pacheco uses with her students is not forgotten when they graduate. Petra Romero had Pacheco as a counselor and mentor when she was in high school around 6 years ago and still keeps in touch with her. She remembers Pacheco being hands-on and really caring about her students.
“She’s the best mentor/ counselor you would want. She’s there for you no matter what. Like most counselors, they’re just there because it’s their job but Mrs. Pacheco, she cares for you. She wants to actually know what’s going on in your life,” said Romero.
Romero said she learned to never give up from Pacheco because she wouldn’t let her. She noted that Pacheco pushed her and made her keep going and graduate. Romero said Pacheco doesn’t just treat you like you’re her student but like you’re her kid.
Romero reminisced on always having lunch with Pacheco and said when she was in a really bad mood one day she sent Pacheco a text and they had a long conversation over the phone where Pacheco helped her out with what she was dealing with.
Pacheco decided when she was really young that she’d want to help people. In middle school, Pacheco was severely bullied but she remembers having one friend that was always “upbeat”.
“I wanted to help others who were also being bullied. My heart has always been in that. So part of what I wanted to do with my life was be in the peace corps… I think that somehow I am still fulfilling my dream because I am here(BHS),” said Pachecho.
She has been working at BHS for 28 years and has several evidence-based groups on campus that help students with a multitude of life situations. Some groups include; Before and After Baby Education (BABE), Friday Night Live, a girls’ group, a grief group, and an anxiety group.
The programs are not limited to just being together on campus, BABE connects them with resources in the community, and Friday Night Live gives back to the community by donating to senior citizens during the holidays, and providing thanksgiving dinners for the group members that need it.
The girls’ group is all about them as an individual growing in their self-esteem, creating boundaries, and self-respect.
Pacheco stated that the interactions with her students are not limited to when the groups meet because she makes sure her office is a safe space and that the students have someone else they can go to if she isn’t there. Students know if they are having a hard time or even a bad hair day she has an open door for them to relax and get themselves together. This along with her groups makes her realize the sense of community on campus.
“Bakersfield High School for me is a family. A melting pot of a lot of us getting together. Although we do have hard times I think we have great times as well,” said Pacheco.
Pacheco does not stop at just her students but she helps to extend that community feeling to other students by helping them see the representation of themselves on campus. For Hispanic Heritage Month, she was able to get Folkloric dancers and a Mariachi to come to perform during the school lunch for students.
While Pacheco has been working at BHS she was also included in efforts to get Cinco De Mayo celebrated because of the importance of representation. For the celebration, they have an activity every day that week, announcements about what Cinco De Mayo is, and they also bring people into the school for students similar to having the folkloric dancers during Hispanic Heritage Month.
“It’s just letting them know that they’re important, we’re important, everybody is important, and everybody has a right to celebrate, and everybody has a right to enjoy everybody’s culture,” said Pacheco.
Representation on campus is important for students so they can feel valued and everyone can come together according to Pacheco.
Along with her passion for her kids, Pacheco’s faith is a large part of who she is. Around the walls of her office and on her desk are different scriptures for her to see during the day that mean something to her.
Outside of work she enjoys reading anything she can get her hands on from mystery, to romance, and health. Her favorite thing to read is the Bible because it gives her peace.
“That’s what stills my heart and fills my bucket so I can keep going,” said Pacheco.
One of her favorite scriptures is in Ecclesiastes chapter 3 which in part states, “For everything, there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven” (ASV).
She carries her faith in everything she does and relies on it to help her know how to proceed in each situation.
“I just say Holy Spirit, give me the words. Show me how to act, show me what to say, show me what to say,” said Pacheco.
Pacheco also loves to dance to every type of music and it helps to lighten her mood. While laughing and dancing in her chair she continued to say she sometimes dances around the office.
If there is one thing she hopes every student takes away from her it is, “There’s a purpose for you here in this world. Don’t short-change yourself. There’s a purpose”