Full Speed Ahead: MATC Outstanding Associate Graduate Keeps Pushing to Achieve

Mark Feldmann, feldmam1@matc.edu

December 16, 2022

Iris Sanchez

MILWAUKEE – Iris Sanchez has always had a supercharged drive to succeed.

After finishing middle school, she attended summer school to prepare for high school. At 13, she got her first job, working at a Serbian restaurant in Milwaukee. By 16, she had two jobs and was also watching her younger brother and sisters at home.

This month, Sanchez will become the first person in her family to earn a college degree when she graduates from Milwaukee Area Technical College.

“I always wanted to get ahead,” Sanchez said. “I was also told to always try to do my best.”

And at MATC, she has been one of the best. She earned As in every course she took and made the President’s List four times. She was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for students at open-access institutions, and The National Society of Leadership and Success. She participated in student government and volunteered at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission, all while raising a young daughter.

For her academic performance, community involvement and unwavering dedication to attaining her degree, Sanchez was named MATC’s Outstanding Associated Degree Student for the Fall 2022 semester.

“Iris was a model student, expertly balancing the dual responsibilities associated with her young family and the demands of her professional and academic endeavors,” said Michael Cape, MATC physical sciences instructor.

On Sunday, December 18, Sanchez will receive an Associate of Arts Degree and will speak to her classmates.

“I feel like MATC is home,” Sanchez said. “My whole time here I felt comfortable, I felt supported and I felt recognized. It felt like I had a second family and that was something I really needed in my college experience. That provided the perfect foundation for me to be successful.”

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Sanchez graduated from Greenfield High School in 2017. She attended some courses at MATC after high school but decided she wasn’t ready for college. She got a job, then had a daughter in February 2019. A year later, she decided to give college another try.

“As a mother, I wanted some financial stability for my daughter, and I also wanted to be able to be a role model for her and show her what she can achieve,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and study pre-dietetics. She hopes to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

“Sanchez did outstanding work in her MATC nutrition classes,” said Rachel Hughes, manager of MATC’s Dietetic Technician/Dietary Manager programs. “Iris stays up to date with nutrition and enjoys discussing the latest research and trends and how they might impact her health and the health of her family,” Hughes said.

“I’ve been around food my whole life, but my interest was piqued by a Nutrition for Living class I had,” Sanchez said. “That course really made a connection with me. I want to bring awareness about how nutrition affects our lives.”

At MATC, Sanchez took all her courses online. “I loved it,” she said. “Online classes helped me create a routine. They allowed me to stay connected with life coaches and tutors when I needed them. I think they really helped my self-discipline.”

Her discipline was so good that she knew when she needed help. This fall she was struggling in her Math 200 class. She reached out to Samantha Burgos, a bi-lingual academic life coach at MATC.

“I could tell Iris was determined and disciplined, which are needed to be successful in math. However, I could hear how taking this class was challenging her. She was juggling so much,” Burgos recalled. “She had a little one, was working and was feeling so overwhelmed. Through planning, positivity and a sharp focus on her end-goal of graduating, she was able to keep up with classes. 

“It was incredible to watch her confidence grow and build,” Burgos added. “She put in the work, she passed that class and she absolutely deserves the Outstanding Associate Degree award.”

About MATC: Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 25,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 170 academic programs — many that prepare students for jobs immediately upon completion and others that provide transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.