It was during those long phone calls between our first and second date that I got to know Sandra very well. She was born Sandra Faustina Peralta on September 30, 1966, at Doctors Hospital just west of downtown San Jose, the second of four daughters born to Fausto and Connie Peralta, a construction worker and cannery worker. She was a cute baby with big brown eyes, chubby cheeks, and puffy arms and legs that looked like they were tapered at the joints with rubber bands like a cute Michelin Man from the tire company’s commercials.
As she grew up, Sandra was obedient, studious, and cheerful. In elementary school, she helped in the school library, cafeteria, and could always be found at recess time helping a teacher with some odd job in the classroom. Beneath the exterior of the model student and obedient daughter was a girl who had tremendous strength of character and unflinching determination. According to her mom, even as a toddler, “Sandra knew what she wanted to do and was confident she could do it.”
The family next door had a daughter the same age that constantly competed with Sandra in the classroom and with extracurricular activities. Only once did Sandra let the pressure of that competition get the best of her when in a fit of anger she called the other little girl a bitch, and abruptly went home to confess to her mom, express remorse, and return to apologize. This incident accurately describes Sandra’s dual qualities of toughness and compassion.
Sandra went on to excel in school earning good grades, playing clarinet in the award winning high school marching band, participating in after school activities, and eventually getting elected student body president her senior year at Silver Creek High School in east San Jose. After two years of community college she enrolled at San Jose State University to begin a journey that would lead to her career as an educational administrator.
Sandra’s success can be attributed to her spirit, personality, and the unconditional support from her family. Her parents, Fausto and Connie Peralta, are the personification of the American Dream. Born in the village of Cumpas, Sonora, Mexico in 1938, Fausto was raised by aunts and uncles because his father Mariano died as a young man; and his mother Concepción left him, and his sister and brothers in the care of relatives to go to the United States in search of work and a chance to send for her children so they could have a better life than the one they had in Mexico.
He came to the United States at the age of sixteen and settled with his mother in the small California farming town of Mendota; his brothers followed later. In Mendota, Fausto quickly established himself as a hard working young man who provided much value to the farmers who employed him in the cotton fields of central California. When not doing the back-breaking work required in the hot and dusty fields, he could be seen around town neatly dressed in clean and pressed clothes, polished shoes, and hair combed just right.
Sandra’s mom, Connie Rosales, was born in 1941 just a few miles up the road from Mendota on the Hotchkiss Ranch just outside of Firebaugh, California, the ninth child of Jesus and Encarnación Rosales. Like Fausto, she was raised by a single mother as her father passed away when she was just three years old. Connie, a strong-willed, hard-working, and compassionate woman, grew up dreaming of one day living in a nice house and raising a successful family just like the Americanas who lived in town.
Connie and Fausto met in 1958 when Connie’s presumably match-making aunt invited Fausto to a New Year’s Eve party at the home of Connie’s sister. Two years later they were married, then moved to San Jose looking for work where Fausto made his way as a cement mason and Connie supplemented their income working in the canneries of Santa Clara Valley, and where they built a family with their four daughters: Valerie, Sandra, Kimberley, and Shelley. They worked hard and did whatever it took to ensure that their daughters had a chance to succeed.
Raising four daughters was a challenge for Fausto and Connie as each woman has her own distinct personality. Collectively, the Peralta girls made an impression at Silver Creek High School and proudly call San Jose State University their alma mater. A large photo of the sisters standing together resplendent in college cap and gown under the shadow of the university’s ivy-covered Tower Hall hangs in the entryway of the Peralta house.