Summer 2024
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La Familia lo es Todo

Dahlia Citlalli Carrillo-Sanchez is driven to represent her family and culture at George Fox By Jeremy Lloyd and Chris Low

Three cell phones lay face down on the kitchen counter. Dahlia Citlalli Carrillo-Sanchez is home for dinner, and this is family time – no time to be scrolling Instagram.

It’s the weekend before finals, and the George Fox junior sits at the family table while the rich smells of traditional Mexican food fill the dining room – birria with pinto beans and rice followed by champurrado for dessert.

Her dad, Lugardo, leads the family of four in prayer before Dahlia, her mom Gabriela and younger sister Aliye launch into conversation.

Dahlia is at peace here. Family is what grounds her. It’s what drives her, pushes her to do things she never thought she could.

So when nerves and anxiety get the best of her as she waits backstage to lead chapel worship in front of hundreds of people, or when she feels like an imposter as a woman of color in her computer science classes – a field traditionally dominated by men – she doesn’t give in to the doubts. Instead, she hears her mother’s voice.

“She says, ‘You come from a background of hard workers and people who are very determined and resilient,’” Dahlia says. “She reminds me that I have all of that in me.”

Gabriela knows resilience. She came to this country as an undocumented immigrant at just six months old. Her family worked in the fields. Lugardo crossed the border, alone, at 18 years old. Both are no stranger to poverty.

They worked hard to grasp every opportunity their new home offered, while staying true to their Mexican roots. So how could Dahlia do anything but the same?

“I think about it almost every day, the sacrifices my parents made for me to be here,” she says. “So when academics get really tough, when I’m doubting myself, the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is knowing where I come from and who I’m representing.”

Dahlia's father Lugardo leads the family in prayer

Dahlia’s father Lugardo leads the family in prayer. Each year, Dahlia’s family visits her father’s hometown of Ajijic, located near the north shore of Lake Chapala, in Jalisco, Mexico. “I really admire my dad. He always reminds me where I come from and the people, my ancestors, who ultimately got me to the place where I am right now.”

Dahlia sits with her professor at a computer

Dahlia works on a coding project with the help of her favorite professor, Brian Snider. “Sometimes coding can be very difficult for me. I’m a very visual person, and almost all the time in computer science, it’s not taught visually.” When Snider discovered this, he started drawing out concepts on the whiteboard in Dahlia’s classes.

Dahlia helps decorate

Dahlia helps the Latinx Heritage Club decorate before a live music performance. When she first arrived at George Fox, it was friendships through this club that made her feel at home. “To have that community where I can share my culture, eat the same food, listen to the same music, it was really nice. I no longer felt isolated. I felt like I found my community.

Dahlia connects with one of her campus mentors, Debrianna DeBolt

Dahlia connects with one of her campus mentors, Debrianna DeBolt, who serves as university pastor for chapel programs. She’s made the most of her George Fox experience by connecting with mentors from the spiritual life office, the computer science program, and the university’s College of Business, where she takes classes as part of an interdisciplinary major.

Dahlia sings on stage Dahlia sings on stage in front of a crowd

She has been part of her church worship team since the age of 12, but nerves are a constant battle for Dahlia. Her mom encouraged her to overcome her fears and participate after seeing students lead worship during Welcome Weekend Dahlia’s freshman year. “I’m usually in a one-on-one conversation with the Lord the whole time. I’m like, ‘Lord, you know I’m nervous, and being nervous is good because that means I care.’”

Watch video: Dahlia Carrillo-Sanchez | George Fox University
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Summer 2024 Journal Cover

Cover of Summer 2024 issue

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