Meet Violeta Sanchez,Ph.D.

Dr. Violeta Sanchez, English professor and co-coordinator of MiraCosta’s PUENTE program, is proof that stepping out of your comfort zone (and stepping into the limelight) can lead to great things. That’s exactly what she did last October when she spontaneously sent Elaine Lui, founder of the celebrity gossip and pop culture blog Lainey Gossip, an email asking to write for the publication.

“I was taking a break between Zoom meetings one day, eating lunch and scrolling through the blog, when I noticed an article anticipating Netflix’s Selena series,” says Sanchez. “I don’t know what possessed me, but I immediately composed an email to Lui explaining why I was the one to write about that series. The subject line was ‘PLEASE LET ME WRITE THIS’ in all caps.”

Sanchez made a case for herself in the email. She explained that she was born in Mexico and moved to Texas when she was 12 years old, and that she was basically an expert on Selena. “I was obsessed with Selena when I was a girl. I’ve always connected my migration story with her,” says Sanchez. “I also pointed out that I could offer Lainey Gossip a Latinx voice.”

To her surprise, Lui responded and set up a time to talk with Sanchez. By the time the conversation ended, Sanchez was on board to write about the Selena series, as well as other topics. She was officially part of the Lainey Gossip roster of writers.

Sanchez was excited—and scared. “My writing has mostly been academic—not for a large public audience,” she says. “Lainey Gossip gets over a million unique visits a month. It was nerve-wracking to put myself out there.”

After her first post, reader comments rolled in, and they were positive. “People were excited to see a Latina writer on the blog, and they connected with what I had to say,” she says. “It was very validating. I had always wanted to write creatively. And, even though I teach writing, I had never had enough confidence in myself to write more publicly.”

Sanchez says writing for Lainey Gossip has influenced her teaching. “It’s amazing to teach writing now as a more public writer. And I’m sharing the kind of writing I do for Lainey Gossip with my students, merging the academic with the more creative.”

The majority of Sanchez’s students in the PUENTE program identify as Chicana/o/x or Latina/o/x. “The PUENTE program focuses on helping them transfer to four-year colleges and universities,” she says. “We work closely with our students to provide the support they need and help them navigate the transfer process. PUENTE has a very high success rate.”

One thing Sanchez loves about teaching in the PUENTE program is a curriculum that centers around Chicanx/Latinx experiences. “We read writers of color, many of them living writers,” she says, “who share stories my students can relate to.”

“Our stories—authentic Latinx stories—are not abundant in the publishing world,” adds Sanchez. “I encourage my students to write their stories—they know their stories best, so they should be the ones who tell them.”

Sanchez is taking her own advice and working on a book. “I’m ready to write my story now,” she says. “The timing is right for me.”