In honor of UCLA's Sweet 16 win last night and their entrance to the NCAA Elite 8, I present you with: THE BIGGEST BRUIN I KNOW! Oh, and yesterday was also her BIRTHDAY. Talk about a great GIFT! Thank you, Bruins, for the W! You made this UCLA Alum's day one she will always remember.
Sandra, or Ms. Tabares, as I still catch myself calling her, is a family person. I saw that early on when I was just in the 5th grade as she smiled and introduced herself with a great, big, "Bruin" hug. She is warm, loving, compassionate, and understands people from the inside out.
Sandra is the Magnet Coordinator and Athletic Director at Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (SOCES), my alma mater, and has been working there since the millennium...AKA the year 2000, the same year I began attending this amazing institution and family-oriented, visual and performing arts school.
Sandra IS a family person, as she introduces new students, siblings, and parents to the well-rounded, SOCES community. Ms. Tabares always makes sure that everyone is happy and at ease. Let's also note that although she is super fun and chill, she is also quite the disciplinarian and knows exactly how to deal with all types of people and their respective personalities. She takes her job seriously, but also knows how to have a good time. I always felt safe when Ms. Tabares was around. I mean, not only carried a walkie-talkie and rode around in a golf cart, but she was in charge of rounding up the twenty-seven yellow school busses that students rode from all over the valley to get to school and home on time. Bottom line: Sandra is one you can trust and she knows hot to get things DONE.
Although UCLA's NCAA Basketball appearance is currently making her smile from ear to ear, Covid-19 made it extremely challenging for Sandra to show her true happiness and zest for life.
In the Summer of 2020, Sandra's father, whom she was extremely close with, contracted this awful disease. As a positive person and fellow Bruin, I empathize with how hard this must have been for Sandra and her entire family. Her dad was her biggest cheerleader. In fact, they were cheerleaders TOGETHER. They were extremely close and went to almost every sporting event as a duo - from Los Angeles Kings games at STAPLES Center to UCLA basketball games at Pauley Pavilion, and football games at the Rose Bowl...they had season tickets and cheered on our LA teams, often losing their voices because they cared so much. Losing their voices for passion was never an issue, but losing her dad was absolutely devastating.
See below for my intimate interview with this amazing, True Bruin:
RR: How has Covid-19 impacted you personally?
ST: "I lost my father on September 28, 2020, to COVID. It has been the most devastating thing to ever happen to me. The difference for me, was that I was able to see him in the hospital every day. My sisters and I were was fortunate to visit our dad in his ICU room in full body PPE. I was able to talk to him, hold his hand, and let him know he wasn’t in that room alone. My biggest fear was that he would feel alone. I remember his blood pressure and heart rate fluctuating when we spoke to him. Some say it’s coincidence. I believe this was his way of telling us he could hear us. This was a blessing in disguise."
RR: Did you or anyone you know get Covid-19?
ST: "I have not gotten it, but many family members have. I know of colleagues and friends who have as well."
RR: What specifically changed your personal / professional life during this time? I.E. What daily routine did you have to adjust?
ST: "I am an LAUSD educator (Coordinator and Athletic Director) who now works from home. I miss the kids!!! I know many are upset at the stance teachers have taken, but for me personally, it’s all about safety. My safety, the student’s safety and the safety of those they live with is of the utmost importance. PERIOD. Doing our jobs from home is not easy, it’s not ideal, but it is the safest."
RR: Is there a story behind your mask?
ST: "A long one...GO BRUINS!"
RR: What do you miss most about life before Covid-19?
ST: "Traveling, gatherings, watching my students succeed."
RR: What has Covid-19 made you grateful for?
ST: "My health, the friendships that were created from this. The support system I have."
RR: What has been the biggest challenge for you during this time?
ST: "Getting over the fact that my dad was stolen from me. He easily had a good 10-15 years left. I constantly wonder if he realized before they intubated him, that he would never see his kids or grandkids again." She goes on to say that, "being separated from most of the people in my world has been difficult as well."
RR: What are you most excited for when things return to “normal”?
ST: "Traveling, hugging my friends and family."
Thank you, Sandra, for being completely and utterly vulnerable with me. Your honesty is the best policy, and you have always been an inspiration to all those lucky enough to know you. Oh, and GO BRUINS! This is for your dad.
CAN I GET AN 8-CLAP and HAPPY BIRTHDAY for the one and only, Sandra Tabares?! Please, and thank you.
This is Robin Randolph, with your SOCES Sports Report...just kidding. This is Robin Randolph, with your latest Covid in California feature.