A Former “Drop Out” Urges Belief in Education and Transformation
Sandi Redenbach’s comfortable home in Davis is filled with the art of a father she never knew. “He died when I was 2,” she explained as she wistfully gazed at the paintings depicting women of various ages and ethnicities. “I really love his work.”
It’s hard not to connect the multiple portraits with the many dramatic lives Redenbach has led over the years. After the artistic father who adopted her died, her mother married a mercurial husband who had rigid ideas of parenting. A toxic family environment resulted in her being on her own when she was just 13. “I was dropped off at my sister’s house. My mother and stepfather never came back to get me,” she recalled.
From there, Redenbach left high school, and life on the streets provided tough, memorable lessons. She was a pieceworker in a factory, a waitress who shared a single pair of shoes with a co-worker and a lounge singer for various bands. There are other, darker aspects that she endured as she struggled to get by. “I did a lot of difficult things in order to survive,” she said quietly.
Today, Redenbach can look back on a life of “multiple portraits.” She graduated from Solano Community College and later earned her bachelor’s degree in Humanities: English and Fine Arts from UC Davis. She also holds an MA in Educational Leadership from Saint Mary’s College. She is a well-known educational consultant, philanthropist, community leader, motivational speaker and author. She has received many awards for her generosity to the communities she serves and the work she has done on educational and human rights issues.
“I was a drop out and thought I was stupid back then. In my late 20’s, I finally graduated from high school and spent three years at Solano Community College. It was there that I began to realize I could achieve things. It started when one of my professors told me I would become a gifted teacher. I told him he was nuts. A few years later I was asked what I wanted to do in life. I felt that professor on my shoulder. I knew I wanted to teach young people who had the same struggles in life that I had.”
Part of her work has involved helping people overcome obstacles and work with what she says are gifts inherent to all who resolve to be resilient. “I think the most important thing in life is to define what you are meant to do. I am meant to work with students who are called “high risk.” I call them “high promise.” I try to instill in them an awareness that nobody can take your knowledge from you, and that knowledge will advance your place in the world. I worry about those who never find their niche because they are too busy processing the feeling that they are not worthy. But they are.”
Known for her love of learning, she has generously donated to educational institutions including UC Davis and, most recently, Solano Community College.
I really wanted to do something for Solano because that’s where it all began for me. I never would have realized my full potential had I not gotten my start there.”
“We are so grateful for Sandi’s generosity and applaud her for sharing the story of her transformation here,” said Curt Johnston of the Solano Community College Foundation. “Her encouragement of students to pursue their educational dreams is inspiring.”
Recently retiring from the UCD, School of Education, Dean’s Advisory Council, Redenbach continues her efforts to instill a sense of self-esteem and hope to those who are grappling with educational challenges. She travels throughout the country to promote the power of self-esteem and hope.
“What if you woke up tomorrow and said to yourself that you were intelligent? What if you decided to deal with every problem you have with the belief that you were smart and worthwhile? I advise everyone to come into the higher self they already possess and find their purpose in the world.”
Sandi Redenbach’s books include Autobiography of a Dropout, Self-Esteem and Emotional Intelligence, the Necessary Ingredients for Success and The Road to Consulting.