Michael Sanchez (‘15) draws a direct line from his experiences at Mustard Seed to his success at Memorial High School in West New York, and his acceptances to Yale, Wesleyan, Middlebury, Cornell, Brown, Columbia, Rutgers Honors College, and the College of NJ Honors Program. He was the valedictorian of his high school class and the recipient of the Math and Science Awards. He was also the president of the Student Council, Select Choir, and Franciscan Youth.
This fall he’ll be a freshman at Yale University, majoring in either biology or neuroscience. Michael plans to become a doctor and return to his hometown of West New York, NJ to provide healthcare to underserved populations.
How did Mustard Seed prepare you academically?
Mustard Seed provided just the right amount of rigor without exhausting me. Because MSS class sizes are small, I was able to connect with my teachers and get to know them as people. I learned the benefits of individualized attention and to seek help when I need it. My teachers taught me to be curious, take risks, and find creative solutions. I learned to be a leader and to ask questions in class. My friends in high school would often thank me for speaking up in class when they felt too shy.
The high volume reading program at Mustard Seed helped me to excel in language arts– especially in writing. Strong readers become strong writers. And the Academic Exhibitions were also really formative. I honed my presentation and public speaking skills at MSS, and this served me well in high school.
The MSS arts and music program gave me a creative edge in my academic work. I love music and auditioned for Select Chorus in high school. I was admitted as a freshman, which was unusual.
Can you tell us about a time when you struggled and how you handled it?
I remember struggling in language arts at Mustard Seed, but I worked through it with Ms. Decker. I became much more independent so that by the time I entered high school, my writing set me apart from others. I became known as the grammar king. I took these gifts and started an extracurricular group called the Tiger College Advising Team. We’re a group of students who help other students through the college application process. We read and edit college application essays. My high school doesn’t have a lot of resources, so we’ve made a huge difference.
Overall, I tend to struggle with chemistry. Even though I like the subject, I’m not naturally good at it. I like the fact that all of the atoms work together to make larger things, and they all work together to create an organism. So I put a lot of passion and effort into my chemistry study. And I don’t hesitate to seek out extra help when I need it. I persevere and get it eventually!
How are you a change maker?
During high school, I volunteered for Income Tax Assistance/Tax Counseling for the Elderly. I prepared taxes at no cost to low income families, the elderly, and people experiencing homelessness. My peers and I brought $1.7 million back to the community. That’s money that people spent on groceries and necessities. Because of my education at MSS, I was able to see the beauty in each person I served and make connections.
My big dream is to become a doctor and come home to West New York, NJ. So many people in my community don’t have access to affordable health care. I want to change that.
Why did you choose Yale?
I love math and science, but I chose Yale because of its liberal arts focus. A well-rounded education will help me better serve my patient community. Make me a more compassionate doctor.
Why does the Mustard Seed School sliding scale tuition program matter?
My education at Mustard Seed School would not have been possible without sliding scale tuition. Donors have generously participated in my education. Thank you so much for the gift of learning! When you support Mustard Seed students, you’re creating leaders and change makers. One day, you’re going to see MSS students leading all over the world. You’re not just helping one student, you’re helping the world. Giving students the opportunity to take in other perspectives and care for others while they learn!