Rossina Sandoval: Bridgebuilder honored as 2022 Athenian

Rossina Sandoval exploded from the table where she sat with her husband and friends at the Rotary Club of Jasper’s Athena Dinner Thursday evening when she heard her name as this year’s Athenian.

She gushed as she walked to the podium to accept the tenth Athena Award. She cried briefly as she thanked her family for their support but quickly composed herself as she addressed the crowd of about 270 at the Huntingburg Event Center.

Recognizing this achievement and barrier-breaking moment, she pointed to all the groundwork done to build bridges between cultures before she arrived in Dubois County.

Rossina moved here in 2016 when her husband, Daniel, received an offer to work with MasterBrand. It was a hard decision, she had a professional psychology practice in Mexico, but they saw an opportunity to do more and took it.

When the couple arrived in Dubois County, Rossina wondered how she could integrate into the community. She had made the decision many years ago to change career paths. That led her to psychology and a passion for helping people. After arriving in Indiana, she was able to continue that when she was hired by LifeSpring.

But then, she received an offer that would allow her to make an even greater impact in the community she was growing to love. She was offered a special position as Director of Community Engagement for Southwest Dubois County School Corporation. “It was the opportunity to work with the Hispanic community, with my community,” she told the crowd Thursday evening.

She saw the number of resources available for emigrants to the area that had already been established. And she appreciated the foresight the leadership at Southwest Dubois County Schools had in creating the position.

Now, she is making an impact on the students, their families, school staff and the community to help carry out her vision of building a system that sustains education equity and cultural competency.

“They created a decision with sufficient power to change things. To start building a system for a community that is underserved — because we are underserved,” Rossina said. “And that is why I’m standing here today. I am here because of the work of so many women and men.”

Rossina has leveraged her passion and position to create partnerships with IU, VUJC, ALASI, Latino Collaboration Table, Sisters of St. Benedict, Center for Rural Engagement, the cities of Jasper and Huntingburg, Dubois County Museum, SWICACC, Dubois County Courts, Dubois County Health Department and Dubois County Purdue Extension among others, to help improve the health and welfare of her community.

Rossina is a Dubois County Board member for LifeSpring Health Systems, and has partnered with them to promote access to health. She has worked with the Dubois County Community Foundation so that all Dubois County students, regardless of their immigration status, can apply for scholarships. Together with the Dubois County Purdue Extension, they brought JUNTOS, a 4-H program to Southridge Middle School for the first time. She is a member of the Dubois County Latino Collaboration Table, where she has worked to create a system that supports minority communities, their pathway to higher education, and access to wellness.

“Thank you so much for this recognition. This is truly humbling,” Rossina said in closing her acceptance speech. “I’m incredibly, incredibly grateful.”

“I can’t wait to call my mom and say, ‘Hey mom, look I made it,'” she added. “Thank you. I am here to work with you.”

As the recipient of this year’s award, Rossina is able to choose a nonprofit for a portion of this evening’s proceeds to benefit. She chose to donate to the LifeSpring Foundation.

Rossina joins the nine previous Athenians and will be added to the display at the Dubois County Museum. Those Athenians include Jane Chappell, Brenda Stallings, Kathy Tretter, Nancy Eckerle, Connie Nass, Tonya Heim, Kim Messmer, Dr. Tracy Lorey, and Kelly Clauss. In 2020, the Rotary Club of Jasper recognized the essential worker.

Pat Koch was the keynote speaker for the event.

Pat Koch keynoted the event with a rousing speech that began with her stating that she was told by Rotary President Joyce Fleck to speak for about 25 minutes. “But I got news for her, if I want to keep talking, I will,” she said to laughter.

Ms. Koch spoke eloquently and sincerely for about 40 minutes covering a broad swathe of ideals and actions centered on ways everyone can make an impact in others’ lives by being servant leaders in the community. She highlighted the impact of kindness and the lasting effect it has on those who receive and give it.

“One hundred years from now, none of us will be here. It will not matter what kind of house you lived in, how much money you made, what kind of clothes you wear, what kind of shoes you wore, what kind of jewelry you owned,” she said. “But it will be important if you were important in the life of even just one person. It only takes one smile, one phone call, one card, one moment in time, one word. That’s all it takes.”


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