By Katie Huffman 

When Roberto Anguiano applied to La Sierra University, he was skeptical he would be admitted. There were only 10 days before the start of the 2006 school year. Even if he got in, he had no way to pay for school and nowhere to live. But when Anguiano was accepted he felt called to attend. He took a leap of faith and left his home in East Los Angeles with only a bag of clothes and a few dollars to his name.

The first half of the school year, he lived in his truck. His financial aid only covered tuition, not room and board, but thanks to Student Financial Services he obtained loans and grants to help cover costs year after year. “A lot of people in financial aid went out of their way to find funds for me to attend,” Anguiano said.

The La Sierra community continued to perform acts of kindness for Anguiano. Outside his dorm room one day he found a box with a cell phone, calling card, and a note that said: ‘to stay connected with your mom back home.’ To this day he does not know who gave him this generous gift, but he is eternally grateful: “Even though L.A. was only 50 miles away from Riverside, I was a broke college student, so to be able to call home was great.”

Little did Anguiano know he would travel much farther than 50 miles from home during his time at La Sierra; he would end up traversing over 9,000 miles from California to Ethiopia with the School of Business’s Enactus team. That is, once he was convinced to join. 

A friend of Anguiano’s first encouraged him to attend a meeting for Enactus (formerly SIFE), which is an international organization that challenges university student teams to design community empowerment projects in order to help create a better, more sustainable world. Anguiano attended the meeting, but did not feel it was the right fit for him; he had his heart set on studying abroad in Spain. School of Business Dean Dr. John Thomas convinced Anguiano to join Enactus for one year, promising that if Anguiano still wanted to go to Spain after that, he would fund it himself.

Dean Thomas’s instincts were right. Once Anguiano got involved with Enactus projects, he found his niche. Anguiano credits Dean Thomas as a mentor who was pivotal in his success as a student. Dean Thomas challenged Anguiano to rise to his potential. “He told me, ‘You don’t know it yet, but you’re a champion and you’re destined for greatness, so no low hanging fruit,’ ” recalls Anguiano. “ ‘Don’t let challenges bring you down and always make sure you strive for success.’ ” 

Each year, over 1,700 Enactus teams compete in regional, national, and international events. La Sierra’s Enactus team, established by Dean Thomas in 1991, has won an unprecedented seven national trophies and two world cups. One of Anguiano’s most cherished memories is serving as captain of the presentation team and earning third place in the 2008 national competition. 

Anguiano is proud of the projects he was involved with as a student, including the Kalaala Green Village in Ethiopia and the Welfare-to-Work program in Riverside, in which he taught welfare-dependent women how to start and run their own businesses. This project was particularly meaningful for Anguiano because he was able to help women living in circumstances similar to those in which he grew up. “Getting e-mails and hearing success stories [that read] ‘Because of you I feel like I’m someone now, I feel like I’m worth something again,’ that, to me, is worth more than the awards and championship,” reflects Anguiano.

His humility is just one of the many reasons that, as a senior business management major, Anguiano was chosen to receive the Alumni Association Award (and a $300 scholarship), the SIFE President’s Award, and the Pay It Forward Alumni Award, which included a $3,000 scholarship that went toward the cost of his MBA degree, which he completed in 2011.

After graduating, Anguiano began a career in sales in San Francisco, and now works as a Customer Success Manager for Aruba Networks HPE, a leading company in Wi-Fi technology. This career choice is drastically different from the opportunities available to Anguiano 14 years ago when he was managing his own landscaping business. He is grateful for the day he got the call that changed the course of his life’s trajectory; when Paul Negrete, an Enactus alumnus, encouraged Anguiano to reach for something bigger and apply to La Sierra University at the last minute. 

Despite his initial doubts about getting accepted and his concern about finances, Anguiano readily admits that attending La Sierra changed his life. “It opened doors and provided opportunities to me that otherwise I probably wouldn’t have experienced. It allowed me to travel to different parts of the world all while giving me skill sets that I still use to this day.”