Sandra Ortiz’s willingness to try different things has led to some excellent adventures.
In high school, Sandra’s mother put the kibosh on playing soccer because of injuries sustained by her father and sister. Basketball was out because Ortiz doesn’t like it. Tennis proved to be an acceptable compromise and Ortiz quickly grew to enjoy the sport, playing four years at Morton High School.
When it came time to select a college, Ortiz briefly considered Moraine Valley because it has a women’s tennis team. Morton College came up with a free education. The Cicero resident wisely followed her head and not her heart in deciding to come to Morton College.
“For me, Morton College was the only opportunity to go to school,” Ortiz said. “I was undocumented at the time and didn’t have any opportunities. Morton College offered me a free ride and that seemed pretty sweet.”
During Ortiz’s time at Morton, she decided to run for the student seat on Morton College’s Board of Trustees.
“I wanted to try something different,” Ortiz said. “It seemed like an opportunity to develop leadership skills. Plus, I had received so much from Morton College, I wanted to give something back.”
Ortiz wrapped up her one-year term in March. She graduated in May, where Ortiz was the student speaker at Commencement.
“Morton College is constantly underestimated,” Ortiz said. “Many people in the community doesn’t understand what it does and what it offers. It’s not seen as a destination, go-to place for education. It offers a variety of great programs.”
Ortiz took advantage of what Morton College has to offer and more in walking away with a pair of associate degrees in two years. She was part of the Campus Activities Board, helped with Junior Achievement, hosted a radio show and wrote for the Collegian. She’s headed to Governors State University to major in biology.
“I underestimated Morton College, too,” Ortiz admitted, “until I was able to enjoy all the programs.”
Ortiz enjoyed her term as student trustee. Like her predecessors, Ortiz admitted once she became comfortable in her role, it was time to leave.
“The biggest thing I learned and it wasn’t until the end, is that the other trustees really valued what I had to say,” Ortiz said. “You underestimate your worth. There were a lot of times I would be quiet. I should have been speaking up more. It’s just something you learn in the process.”
Ortiz discovered Morton College’s trustees to be “welcoming and encouraging.” She added, “They helped me open up. They really cared for what I had to say. They’re really great people to look up to.”
As a student trustee, Ortiz became involved on the statewide level. She was an Executive Member of the Illinois Community College Board’s Student Advisory Council, which tried to resolve common student issues across the state.
“This year, the big issue on the table was getting co-curricular activities on student transcripts,” Ortiz said. “We were able to get some schools to jump on that.”
Ortiz also enjoyed her experience participating in the Student Advocacy Day, a statewide event where students from community colleges visit Springfield to meet with elected officials. Ortiz said this year’s focus was on MAP funding.
“We asked the representatives to allocate a certain amount to community college students,” Ortiz said. “They often choose to attend a community college at the last minute and MAP funding is dried up by then. They’re the ones in need of the most help.”
Morton College President Dana Grove appreciated what Ortiz brought to the table.
“Sandra’s very passionate about serving the students of the College,” Grove said. “She always was actively engaged in what was going on. I enjoyed the reports she gave at the Board meetings. They were always very upbeat.”
While Ortiz enjoyed a successful two years at Morton College because of her leadership skills, she was quick to deflect any credit away from herself.
“I can’t take credit for anything,” Ortiz said. “In reality, it’s a whole team of people who make good things happen.”