A trip primed by a passion
Early on during winter term, Chemeketa Community College freshman Marcos Sanchez received a distracting text while focused on a microscope during an anatomy and physiology lab.
That distraction was minimal, simply amounting to curiosity about why the texting individual, the northwest regional coordinator for Students for Life of America (SFLA), wanted him to call. Following class he made the call, and what he found out intensified the distraction – if Sanchez could adjust his schedule, he would soon have an opportunity to meet U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, face to face.
Sanchez, who hails from Mount Angel, was already planning a trip to Washington D.C. so he could participate in a demonstration march.
"I originally planned to fly into D.C. on Thursday, Jan. 17 at about 5:30 p.m." Sanchez related. "Once I told (the coordinator) she said that I had to figure something out because she nominated me to meet the vice president of the United States -- I was selected, along with 7 other students from around the country."
That's not an everyday occurrence for a college student, much less a denizen of the humble Willamette Valley hamlet of Mount Angel.
Sanchez will have more distractions before winter term ends; he is planning a trip to Sydney, Australia between March 7-17 (embarking just before finals week), as part of the same overarching quest: being an active participant in the Pro Life movement.
The whirlwind actually has its roots in Mount Angel at John F. Kennedy High School. The 18-year-old has had little time to reflect on the chain of events, but when he does, he finds it uncanny.
"It is crazy how getting involved with Pro Life and starting a club at my high school would end up taking me around the world," Sanchez said, noting that he also started a club at Chemeketa.
Last April during a national movement against abortion, Sanchez, then a senior at Kennedy, was highlighted by the Woodburn Independent as A one-person student protest in town. His more recent quest in January was part of the March for Life and attendance at a SFLA national conference. The upcoming March foray into the southern hemisphere involves a stint with SFLA's international pro-life movement.
Simply a passion
The son of George Sanchez and Angela Rodriguez of Mount Angel, Marcos Sanchez said he grew up in a Pro Life home. He knew he always leaned that way in his views. But his activism stemmed from lessons he received at Camp Joshua while he was in high school.
He parlayed camp lessons into forming a Pro Life club at Kennedy during his junior year, later starting one at Chemeketa this current school year.
But he feels one experience, overall, affected his views and cemented his conviction on the often controversial issue: witnessing the birth of his younger brother, Darion.
"When I was 13, I was able to watch my brother be born," he recalled. "That helped me realize the importance of life and how precious life is."
That time spent in the delivery room also may have influenced his career goals as Sanchez is strongly considering becoming a certified nurse and midwife, a part of which would be geared toward family and birth counseling.
Meeting the vice president
When he first learned about the planned meet-up with the VP, Sanchez was taken aback.
"My first reaction was surprise -- I couldn't believe it," he said. "But once I found out that the meeting was scheduled for Thursday evening, I was disappointed and didn't know what to do."
Sanchez' travel itinerary had him landing in town about the same time the meeting was in session. He was afraid the whole thing might be a wash.
"I raced home to tell my parents, and I just remember hoping that there would a way to make this all work out," he said. "As soon as I got home and told my parents the situation, my mom and I began making phone calls to schedule a new flight and an extra night in a hotel. Thankfully it all worked out and I was able to fly in a day earlier than expected."
That change of plans yielded a lifetime memory.
"Meeting the vice president was definitely a highlight during my trip in D.C.," Sanchez enthused. "I was joined by seven other pro-life students from around the country, and several mothers, who received help from HeartBeat International, a network of pregnancy resource centers dedicated to helping pregnant women in need.
"I was able to share my experience as a pro-life student activist with Vice President Pence. I had the opportunity to discuss the challenges, controversy, and criticism I face due to my involvement in the pro-life movement."
March for Life
Meanwhile, another big day was in store. Sanchez joined what he described as more than a half million people in the march – the largest of its ilk nationally.
"This is was my first time to the March for Life, and it was surreal to see the sheer amount of people marching," he said. "It was a sea of people that never stopped coming. I remember as we were marching, I was near the U.S Capitol building on the hill and decided to look back at everyone. As far as the eye could see, there were people marching, the roads were congested with so many people.
"It was also great to see so many young faces. We often say that we are the pro-life generation and I truly felt and saw that as I was marching."
The ensuing SFLA conference afforded Sanchez to mingle and trade ideas with like peers from around the country. More than 2,500 students attended the conference, ranging from middle school age to college students.
He even had a bit of time for more traditional D.C. fare, visiting the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, U.S Capital, and Mount Vernon.
"I only saw these landmarks on TV or in books, so it was very cool to be able to see these huge buildings in real life," Sanchez said.
Trip Down Under
Of course, attending college poses challenges of its own, and the whirlwind trips don't make those any easier. Sanchez is currently working at an accelerated pace academically and trying to coordinate with instructors on how to complete the term, finals and all, while fitting in the overseas outing.
The Australia trip should prove to be another memorable experience. But Sanchez doesn't really know what to expect, except perhaps to expect the unexpected.
"I applied to go on this trip with Students for Life of America in September, and I was later selected, along with 8 or 9 other students from around the nation," he said. "We will be going to four different college campuses in Sydney speaking with students about the pro-life stance.
"In Australia, the pro-life movement is several decades behind. They are in major need of strong pro-life activists to jumpstart the conversation."
There is also a price involved, and Sanchez is working on raising $2,000 for the mission.
"In order for this to happen, I do need to raise $2,000 for this mission trip, so if (sympathizers) are interested in donating they can donate online or send a check," Sanchez said. "So far, I have raised about half, so any little bit more really helps me reach my goal."
Direct via check:
PO Box 152
Mt. Angel, OR 97362
Memo Line: Australia/Mission Trip