Born to immigrant parents from Michoacán, México, Sandra Magallon was raised in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood and attended Curie High School. She dreamed of continuing her education at a four-year university after her high school graduation in 1990, but she didn’t receive the support she needed to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Instead, she was encouraged to stay home and help her parents with their paleteria.

Shortly after deciding to forgo her college dreams, Sandra enrolled in a nine-month technical program at the National Latino Education Institute (NLEI) instead. There, she learned the basics skills of word processing, typing, interviewing skills, and office etiquette, which led her to an internship at First National Bank of Chicago (now JPMorgan Chase & Co) and then, a full-time position at the bank.

Life seemed good to Sandra—she started as a data entry associate and quickly rose to a marketing associate role. She was earning a steady salary, receiving health benefits, and learning about Global Treasury Services through the surveys she was programming and analyzing. So, when her boss called her into the conference room one day, she was paralyzed with fear that she was in trouble or that something might disrupt her current routine.

Instead, Sandra walked into her yearly review—though the meeting did end up disrupting her work trajectory. Her boss started the conversation by sharing his appreciation for her work and recommending that she go back to school to pursue a degree in marketing or business. He felt she had a knack for it and informed her that the bank would pay for 80% of her education.

That conversation marked the beginning of Sandra’s college journey. She first decided to attend Daley College to finish her core classes and then transferred to Harold Washington to complete her associate degree.

From the very start of her college journey, Sandra says that City Colleges faculty and staff helped her find a path to success, providing her with the support and motivation she needed to continue her education.

“The teachers were incredibly supportive. They were mindful of my full-time work and school schedule and were flexible with meeting times,” said Sandra.

After earning her associate degree, she was able to transfer to DePaul University in pursuit of her bachelor’s degree. And with her new credentials, Sandra was soon promoted to an international client associate position at JPMorgan Chase & Co, where she helped service bank clients from Latin America. From there, she continued to climb the ladder, working as a vice president and moving all the way up to the executive suite at the bank.

All the while, Sandra’s desire to further her education hasn’t waned. After graduating from DePaul, she has since earned her master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from the Forbes School of Business and a DEI certification from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She’s now working towards earning her doctorate in the field.

From associate degree to Ph.D., Sandra continues to turn her college dreams into a reality.

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