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Bronx Woman Toughing It Out At University Of Iowa

December 10, 1988

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) _ Welfare mother Elyse Sanchez had a lot of confidence when she accepted a teaching fellowship and moved her children from a rat-infested building in New York to a three-bedroom apartment in view of open space and corn fields.

That was in August. Since then, Ms. Sanchez says her confidence has been tried by the rigors of academia at the University of Iowa and the unexpected departure of her adopted daughter, Rochelle.

″It’s harder than I feared it would be. I came to see I didn’t come fully prepared. The education which I received in New York did not prepare me for graduate school in the 1980s,″ Ms. Sanchez said.

″I feel as though I’m beating batter and I’m going to cook it on a wood stove while everyone else can just pop it in the microwave oven,″ she said.

But she’s also marveling at the strong sense of community.

Ms. Sanchez, 35, who had been living in the New York City borough of the Bronx, made national news when she graduated from Lehman College in New York last summer with a 4.0 grade-point average, and was offered the Iowa post.

Adviser Miriam Gilbert said Ms. Sanchez, who will begin teaching in the English Department next year, is fitting in nicely.

″I don’t think it’s necessarily the easiest thing in the world to come with the spotlight on you,″ Ms. Gilbert said. ″In my own class, she’s a wonderful asset, full of contributions and ideas and sharing a great deal with others in the class.″

But life at home has been tough. Adopted daughter Rochelle, 17, who had been with Ms. Sanchez since she was 3 and babysat Ms. Sanchez’ three younger children while Ms. Sanchez got her degree at Lehman, left in mid-October. The University of Iowa had waived tuition for Rochelle as part of the fellowship agreement.

″She had written something for her rhetoric class. She said she hated me and always had. It wasn’t anything I had done, just being in the room with me made her angry,″ Ms. Sanchez recalled in an interview. ″So I said if you’re really unhappy here, why don’t you think about maybe leaving.

″Within 10 minutes she packed her bags.″

″At that point I began to doubt what I was doing here because it had so many implications,″ Ms. Sanchez said. ″I began to think, ’I want to teach people her age, and if she’s so against work, if this is the attitude an adolescent has and she’s my own daughter, how are a bunch of students going to accept me when I begin teaching next year?‴

She decided to tough it out, concentrating on her workload of three courses and caring for her other three children, aged 12, 11 and almost 9.

She explained her problems to English Department Chairman John Raeburn and Ms. Gilbert, and credits the pair with helping her through that difficult period. She said she wasn’t accustomed to ″such a sense of community.″

″That’s a nice feeling to have here, that people understand one’s problems,″ said Ms. Sanchez. ″I had been told that when I got here it was going to be very cut-throat, but it hasn’t been.″

Ms. Sanchez said she and her children will go back to New York for Christmas, but she doesn’t miss the city.

″I don’t feel this constant sense of anxiety anymore. I think I picked the right place,″ she said. ″The kids like it here, they absolutely adore it.″

″The big threat, my parental threat, is that I’ll take them back to New York if they don’t behave,″ she said.

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