Former ELAC student, journalism adviser retires

By Sonny Tapia

Professor Sylvia Rico-Sanchez has given her all as a journalism professor and Campus News co-advisor throughout her career giving praise to East Los Angeles College.

At the end of the Spring 2020 semester Rico-Sanchez will be retiring after 35 years of service to ELAC students and the community.

Rico-Sanchez has been a professor at ELAC since fall 1985, but was only made a full-time professor in the Journalism Department in 2013.

Before earning a full-time position at ELAC, she worked part-time for years, while also working in the City of Commerce public information office.

Teaching at ELAC came with previous knowledge about the campus and schooling with alumni from the school in her family.

“My father was the first person in our family to graduate from college and he graduated from ELAC. My husband, sister, nieces, nephews, friends and I all graduated from ELAC. There was never any question that I would attend ELAC,” Rico-Sanchez said.

Being a part of the college was instilled in her by her father who would plan her educational path by telling Rico-Sanchez to first go to ELAC and then attend Cal State University Los Angeles.

As a student at East Los Angeles College in the late ‘70s, she took a Journalism 101 class and remembered the final project for the class.

The final project was putting out an issue of East Los Angeles College Campus News. Rico-Sanchez was chosen by current fellow Campus News advisor and journalism professor Jean Stapleton, to be page one editor.

“That was a big responsibility, but my teacher Jean Stapleton had faith that I could do it, so I did,” Rico-Sanchez said.

Using typewriters in the S-2 bungalow, she managed to finish the page using proportion wheels and rulers to size and place photographs.

This experience made her want to join the staff officially and was then later selected to be editor in chief of Campus News.

Later on in her college career as a student, Rico-Sanchez graduated from California State University Fullerton and received a call from Stapleton asking her if she would like to teach a class at ELAC.

“I was both flattered and frightened at the prospect of doing meaningful work that impacted many lives,” Rico-Sanchez said.

Demanding more from herself, she worked hard to become a full-time professor at ELAC, but not without some mental struggle.

During her interview for the position in 2013, she struggled when she was asked a question by the president of the school, a dean and the Journalism Department chair.

Rico-Sanchez stumbled the first time and asked to start over and apologized. She then made the same mistake again and finally answered correctly on the third try.

The president of the school then asked her why she felt the college should hire her.

“By then, I felt like a loser and like I had blown the interview. I confidently proclaimed that I was the best person for the job and started listing my ties with the community and my experiences as an ELAC student,” Rico-Sanchez said.

After the interview, she called her husband crying and disappointed with her performance explaining how everything went and then cut the call short due to another call coming in. 

Once again this call was from the Journalism Department chair Jean Stapleton, to inform Rico-Sanchez that she had gotten the job.

As a professor she strived to give students her best by teaching the course materials and skills students could use outside of class in their professions.

She wanted to show her students the true value of an education so that they could have the same amount, or more of the success that she had.


Although these were her goals as a professor, she understood that students had to be willing to accept her guidance and experience.

“Achieving these goals is a two-way street. I can only do the best I can to reach students. It’s up to the students to accept what I offer,” Rico-Sanchez said.

Rico-Sanchez believes that she did her best as a professor in that respect.

 Along with her career as a college professor, she also joined the Journalism Association of Community Colleges as the Southern California President.

She participated in events at the conventions in Fresno and San Diego, receiving two first place trophies and one third place trophy, solidifying in her mind that she had as much talent as everyone else.

“Those competitions boosted my confidence and confirmed that I was just as skilled as everyone else. I couldn’t refuse,” Rico-Sanchez said.

Rico-Sanchez would worry and dwell on issues at times in her career, but never to any avail. A piece of advice for her past self would be to not worry so much and just have fun.

“I would tell my past self to not worry as much and to be satisfied with just doing my best. I would make myself realize there are forces beyond my control and not waste one minute of time reliving mistakes and disappointments,” Rico-Sanchez said.

She will miss being a part of this profession and serving her community that she grew up in. “It was an honor to be part of this family of educators and to know I helped my community like other educators helped me,” Rico-Sanchez said. 

“I will always feel love and loyalty to East Los Angeles College.”     

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