Commemorating a ‘champion of justice’

Gabriela Sanchez was a SF State student expected to graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting and electronic communications arts.

On July 18, 2017, Sanchez died early in the morning when a semi-truck collided with her car while she was driving to her 4 a.m. shift at Starbucks in Los Banos, California. She was 23 years old.

She is remembered by family and friends as a passionate young woman who cared deeply for her family and fellow undocumented students.

Sanchez was born in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán, Mexico on Sept. 9, 1993. Her passions and ambitious dreams of being in the entertainment industry motivated her to be a positive role model for her friends, family and siblings, including the students and faculty at both De Anza College and SF State.

“Gabriela always liked school, even when she was little,” said Mireya Espinoza, Sanchez’s mother. “She was always thinking of her future and as a DACA recipient she wanted to stay here in America and receive her citizenship.”

Sanchez’s mother remembers her as a hard-working young woman and recalls her daughter  expressing her love and passion for media entertainment, movies and comic books at an early age.

For Espinoza, it was easy to recall what her daughter was like when she was younger — a little girl who loved “The Powerpuff Girls” and desired to go to the beach every day to become more like Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.”

Gabriela showed extreme dedication to her education and future. Living in Dos Palos, California her mother would drive her each morning to the Gilroy Caltrain station where she would spend two to three hours commuting to SF State. Sanchez’s friends in San Francisco would often open their homes to her and allow her to stay the night.

“She was my first friend at community college,” said Shrreya Jain. “She always knew how to make me feel accepted, loved and valued.”

Many of Sanchez’s friends called her a “Champion of Justice” who fought for the disenfranchised and was passionate about becoming a role model for her fellow undocumented students.

“She was a light in this world and my best friend,” said Ola Lulu Elatta, a friend of Sanchez. “She was there for me through so much and I knew she was going to do amazing things.”

Sanchez’s devotion and memory are carried on by her whole family and many of her close friends. Her funeral was attended by the multitudes of people who loved and cared for her. Most of her friends stayed the night underneath the canopy where her ashes rested.

“I took Gaby under my wing like a little sister,” said Gardenia Zuniga-Haro, a close family friend. “And I took pride in being her big sister. She was passionate about making films with me and passionate about everything. I know she is in heaven but I think she went too early.”

Gabriela Sanchez is survived by her father, Gabriel Sanchez, her mother, Mireya Espinoza, her step-father Jose Manuel Hernandez, her three sisters: Liceth Sanchez, Stephanie Sanchez and Yeila Hernandez — and one brother, Jose Manuel Hernandez.