When Sandra Sepulveda was a little girl, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her classmates would proclaim that they dreamed of being teachers or astronauts or mermaids one day. Though Sandra had a lot of ideas, she wasn’t sold on anything in particular. She just knew she was a helper.
Trevecca alumna Sepulveda (’15) became the first Latina woman to be elected to Nashville’s city council in September. She is also one of 20 women elected to the council, which is an all-time high.
She credits the needs she saw in her home district, District 30, as well as Trevecca’s emphasis on servant leadership, as her inspirations to run for office. During her freshman year at Trevecca, Sepulveda was involved as a mentor through the local after-school program, in KidPower, and in Best Buddies on campus, an organization that facilitates relationships between people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and typically functioning people.
“The aspect of making service a priority was something I really took away from Trevecca,” she said. “I wanted to make sure I bring that into every aspect of my work,” she said.
Sepulveda’s family moved to District 30 when she was five, and she started her elementary career at Rosa Parks Elementary before finishing at Haywood Elementary. Very early on, Sepulveda says she realized that there were things that could be better for her and her classmates.
“I had to share textbooks when I was in school because we didn’t have enough for every student to have one, and that’s still happening today. That or kids get copies of copies,” she said. “I have a nephew in the public school system now, and I want to make sure he has the best education. All the kids in this area deserve that.”
These types of needs inspired Sepulveda to run for Metro Council. She announced her intent to run for District 30’s seat in November of last year, and since then, the wheels have not stopped turning.
“District 30 doesn’t have a library, a community center or a park. We have very few sidewalks and bus stops, and there is nowhere for kids to play for free. The district just needed help, and I couldn’t sit back,” she said.
It was no surprise to some of Sepulveda’s Trevecca professors that the alumna would choose to use her passion for people as fuel for making a change in the city. Erica Hayden, who was at Sepulveda’s swearing-in ceremony at the end of September, said Sepulveda always displayed a genuine passion for service.
“Seeing Sandra go straight from college to public service in her 20s has been really inspiring,” said Hayden, associate professor of history. “We want graduates to be servants to our community and beyond, and it’s really wonderful that we have a strong voice like that in Sandra who took the University’s mission of service to heart. I know I’m excited to see what she does in this role and where she goes next.”
As she settles into this new role, 26-year-old Sepulveda said she’s making big plans, but she has a specific message for fellow millennials: It’s never too early to start caring about what goes on in your community.
“A lot of young people who are interested in political work are going to be met with this idea that it’s not our turn, it’s not our time. You’re just going to have to decide whether you believe that or whether you are ready to fight for what you believe is right. It’s going to be hard, but at the end of the day, you have to fight for what you believe,” she said.