Father’s day spotlight: ASU Online grad successfully completes final semesters while juggling fatherhood and work

Some superheroes don’t wear capes. Instead, they can be found reading bedtime stories, pursuing full-time careers and going back to school to set a positive example for their children. This Father’s Day, we’re celebrating No. 1 dads who are juggling their professional and educational goals while prioritizing their families.

Recent ASU grad and dad Justin Sanchez shares his tips on balancing fatherhood while completing a degree program online. This dad is not only reaching his educational goals, he is also working to create a safer and more connected community.

Sanchez, a Phoenix native and father of two, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in public service and public policy with a concentration in emergency management and homeland security and shares how ASU helped him succeed. “ASU has shown me that I am stronger and more resilient than I thought I was. It has helped make me a better father, a better husband and an overall better human being.”

1. Please tell us about your children

 

Justin: I have two children. My oldest is named Amaya, who is 15 years old and just finished her first year of high school. She and I have had an interesting time getting to know each other. I am her stepdad; I’ve known her for more than half her life and her father is still very much in the picture so I’ve really had to navigate our relationship when it comes to things like chores and discipline and such since I’m not the only male figure in her life. I think we have an understanding now though and she realizes that everything I do is to make sure she is ready for life and can take care of herself. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to watch her grow up and become the beautiful, amazing and smart young woman she is now, and I know she will do amazing things in her life. My youngest, Liam, is 5 years old but acts like he’s 20. My little boy is everything good that I have in me and is so strong, smart and goofy. He loves school, his sister, Minecraft and the Sun Devils!

2. What, if anything, have you told your children about your educational journey?

 

Justin: I’ve been pretty open about my educational journey with my kids. I explained how important it is to Amaya that she make one of her goals getting into college and how it can really set her up for success when she hits the job market. When it comes to Liam, I’ve tried to show him my passion and love for ASU, just like my family did for me. He knows how to throw up the Fork and he yells “Fork ‘Em” all the time. He has a few shirts and a few Sparky stuffed animals. I hope to start taking him to games in the near future as well, and if he decides to when he gets to that age, I hope he goes to ASU.

3. What motivates and inspires you as you actively juggle parenting and online learning?

 

Justin: Juggling is just something I do. I know that as a father and husband it's my No. 1 job to provide for my family and give them a life that is free from worry or stress, to allow them to grow and flourish. I hope that by balancing full-time school and full-time 12-hour night shifts, that it will inspire them and motivate them to reach for more and never give up. My motivation is them, always and forever.

4. How has being a father impacted your student life (and vice versa)?

 

Justin: I think that fatherhood has had a positive impact on me and my role as a student and vice versa. It reminds me that I have eyes watching me 24/7 and that if I struggle or feel like quitting those feelings may transfer down to my little ones, so it keeps me focused and grounded, knowing that this journey is not just for me. I will say that it does take some finessing, especially when it comes to deadlines and bedtime. Thankfully my amazing wife Stephani is always helping with this and makes sure I have enough time to focus on assignments.

5. Did being an online student during COVID-19 help you remain on your educational path?

 

Justin: When COVID-19 came busting through the door earlier this year it didn’t really change anything that I was doing like assignments or deadlines. I just kept pushing through; I wasn’t going to let a worldwide pandemic take over my goal of graduating from Arizona State. If anything, it makes it that much sweeter that I finished my degree while dealing with all the craziness.

6. What are your aspirations post-graduation?

 

Justin: My plan after graduation is to continue my educational journey with my graduate studies in the fall in the same field as my bachelor’s, emergency management and homeland security with a focus on biosecurity and threat management. I’m also still working full time at Palo Verde Generating Station in nuclear security, a job that I love and has also supported me through my studies. From there we will see where this road takes me.

7. What is the biggest parenting lesson you’ve learned while earning your degree online?

 

Justin: My biggest parenting lesson I’ve learned while getting my degree has to be they are ALWAYS watching. There have been long nights and early mornings trying to get assignments done and there were times that I thought no one noticed everything I was doing, but they do. On the day of graduation my son Liam came straight from bed, jumped into my lap and told me “Happy graduation dada,” even though I never told him anything about it. So, if you don’t think the kids notice what you are doing, they do, and they appreciate it.

8. What advice do you have for other parents who are thinking about pursuing their degree online?

 

Justin: My advice to other parents thinking about earning their degree is to just do it. Make the time and you will be better for it. I won’t say there won’t be struggles, stress, fights and numerous other obstacles, but I will say that in the end it will be worth it. I had to fight deadlines, work, parenting, being a husband, cancer, more stuff than I thought I would have to ever deal with, but I would do it all over again without a second thought. ASU has shown me that I am stronger and more resilient than I thought I was. It has helped make me a better father, a better husband and an overall better human being.

ASU Online is proud to be able to help working dads like Justin achieve their goals while raising a family. Happy Father’s Day to all ASU Sun Devil dads! We know your families are very proud and thankful for all you do.

Son of Justin Sanchez, an ASU online student dressed in ASU gear holding a miniature stuffed Sparky.
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