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Credit: Dan Nguyen/ La Salle University
Alexis Sánchez becomes La Salle University's first woman mascot in the last seven years. Photo: Dan Nguyen/ La Salle University

A first-generation student becomes the first woman in nearly a decade to play The Explorer at La Salle

Alexis Sánchez, a Puerto Rican and Philadelphia native, became the first woman to play La Salle University’s mascot, The Explorer.

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Alexis Sánchez is a Philadelphia native and first-generation student at La Salle University pursuing a double major in Finance and Marketing. She comes from a single-parent home—raised by her father in what she deemed “not the best neighborhood” in the Philadelphia Tiago section.

Sánchez describes the transition from high school to college as “something very hard and challenging” because her “family doesn’t know anything.” A shared experience by first-generation students navigating academia. 

Growing up in a Latino family, she was encouraged to go into the nursing field—which was her initial major when she applied to La Salle University, but in orientation found herself drawn to business. 

“It was a hard decision to make,” she assures. “I felt like I was betraying my family by choosing business, but I told myself, in the end, whether they like it or not, is what's best for me.”

“Being Latina, you have the responsibility of the entire family,” she adds. 

Despite being encouraged to pursue a career in healthcare, she has the support of her father, who she says has the same goals as her—her success. 

As a commuter student and a part-time employee, she credits the Academic Discovery Program (ADP), a special admissions program at La Salle University that supports students that could benefit from extra academic assistance, with her newfound academic confidence. 

She believes ADP is ideal for first-generation students like herself, who need additional college guidance—specifically helping students develop good study habits, establish clear career goals, and compete successfully in academia. 

“They [can] advocate for me,” assures Sánchez, who received recommendations on ways to be more involved on campus.  

Sánchez credits ADP’s mandatory free six-week, credit-bearing pre-college summer program with teaching her “the correct way,” as she feels “high school did not help me at all.” 

Describing her summer program experience, Sánchez says it helped her prepare for the upcoming semester, especially because they taught her how to write an essay and do algebra. For her, this was an incredible experience and the reason she ultimately decided to attend La Salle University.

According to ADP’s website, “students participate in classes, workshops, and individual tutoring sessions geared to strengthening their writing, mathematics, reading, and study skills. Students also participate in individual and group support sessions intended to increase self-confidence, improve study habits, and clarify career goals.” However, not many people know ADP exists because La Salle does not market the program, something she feels La Salle can improve.  

Sánchez plans to join the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), which provides “a space for students to celebrate Latin American heritage and culture.” 

The Puerto Rican notes she would consider a study abroad program “if given the opportunity;” but is hesitant because of the financial implications. 

After graduation, Sánchez aims to work professionally in real estate—already expressing interest in some real estate firms in Fishtown, Philadelphia. Additionally, she is actively seeking sports marketing internships. 

The Explorer

As a high school student-athlete playing volleyball and softball, Sánchez did not find sports at La Salle that interested her enough to try out. 

After attending a basketball game at La Salle, her attention was on the mascot—displeased with the mascot’s lack of performance, Sánchez said, “I would be running around doing cartwheels, jumping, and bust down dancing.” 

She often joked that she should be the mascot and eventually was encouraged to speak with an academic specialist, who put her in contact with the Athletics Department. After a tryout and nearly a year later, Sánchez became the first woman to play the role of The Explorer, La Salle’s mascot, at athletic events in at least the last seven years. 

“I want to be a role model for others looking to try new things and break the mold,” she said. “[Others] may not like [what you do], but in the end, you have to do what’s best for you.”

On Tuesday, Sánchez had the opportunity to be one of several to ring the Nasdaq bell in Times Square for The Atlantic 10 Conference to celebrate the return of the Men’s Basketball Championship.

Photo: Courtesy

 

She cheers at all the home games for men and women and travels for important events such as the Women’s A-10 Conference held last week in Wilmington, Delaware.  

In an interview with La Salle News, Sánchez said the role of The Explorer “boils down to four main tenets: you have to be fun. You have to be outgoing. You have to dance and get others to do the same. And you have to love the team you’re rooting for.”

Photo: Courtesy

“The Explorer is an important figure at La Salle and an integral component of our in-game experience. We are so excited that we had Alexis take on the role this year and carry on this proud tradition,” said Dan Lobacz, Associate Athletic Director of External Relations, La Salle University’s Department of Athletics. 

What’s next?

Her goal is to own a construction company to help build homes, citing witnessing gentrification as the main reason for wanting to help her community have better living conditions. 

If given the opportunity, she would like to work in New York but explains being her family’s point person must remain near to assist her younger siblings. 

“I need to ensure I’m there for everyone,” assures Sánchez. 

Sánchez concludes by advising students to “lean on their professors, to advocate for themselves, and get out of their comfort zone.” She adds that although she had support, she felt alone because of fear, branching out, and asking for help.

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