Sandra Hamada ’09 arrived at Pomona College from Highland Park, Los Angeles, as “an embodiment of the American dream” with a “dual consciousness,” she says.
Hamada’s mother came to the U.S. from Ensenada, Mexico, at the age of 18. She ingrained in Hamada a belief in the American dream. Recognizing the discrimination that existed, her mom’s answer for Hamada was to work hard, take advantage of every opportunity and look out for herself.
Hamada’s father, a fourth-generation Japanese American, grew up feeling like “a second-class citizen” as a result of his parents’ incarceration in concentration camps during World War II. Movies and TV became his escape from trauma. “I grew up with a giant TV in our house that we worshipped,” she says.
When she arrived at Pomona in 2005, however, her vision of the American dream “came crashing down.” She struggled with culture shock at Pomona. “I didn’t feel like I belonged,” she says. “I felt like I had left my community behind.”
Finding Her Voice
It was in this state that she found community organizing. Community organizing became Hamada’s passion and purpose.
“I discovered that I had a voice that I didn't know I had,” Hamada says. “And I discovered this intense urgency to help other people.”
Hamada joined forces with Asian American and Latino activists on campus. Organizing the 2006 May Day immigration march “completely changed my life,” she says. She also interned at the Asian American Resource Center and was a head mentor for the Asian American Mentor Program.
Her work as an activist on campus set her trajectory for her post-graduate life. After Pomona, Hamada immediately started working at Community Coalition in South Los Angeles. She proudly shares that during her seven years there, they won several public policy campaigns.
A Second Awakening
Then her father passed away from cancer. “It was another big moment in my life that rocked my world,” Hamada says.
Hamada realized that she had spent so much time as an organizer helping other people tell their stories and that she had her own stories to tell. Additionally, her father had been an artist but had to give up his art to take care of their family. Hamada thought, “What better way to honor my father’s life then to pursue this other passion that I have?”
She quit her job and started taking multiple classes in screenwriting. “Then I just started hustling my way into the industry,” she says.
She went from interning at actress Gina Rodriguez’s production company to working as a production assistant for filmmaker and screenwriter Alex Kurtzman’s company to becoming an assistant.
In 2021, Hamada got her big break. She was in a writers’ room for the first time as a writers’ assistant for Disney Channel’s first Latinx superhero show, Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion. The show is about “a Mexican American girl who discovers a magical luchador mask and gets superpowers and discovers that her uncle also has a magical mask with superpowers, and they become this dynamic duo,” she says. She was offered a freelance script, which allowed her to write her first episode of television.
The successes have continued for Hamada. This year, she was awarded a spot in the CAPE New Writers Fellowship, a program that “makes sure there’s a pipeline for Asian American writers in television,” she says.
Currently, Hamada works on the support staff for Grey’s Anatomy as director of medical research. She supports the medical team to make sure all the medicine on the show is as accurate as possible.
Pomona in the Credits
Hamada credits Pomona for preparing her for both of her careers.
Through her work as an organizer on campus, she learned, “How do you break down complicated concepts and make it digestible and accessible to the average person so that the average person can not only become aware of it and build that consciousness but feels moved and passionate to action?”
“As a writer, you’re constantly researching and trying to figure out how to tell the most authentic story possible,” Hamada says.
“You have to be able to put yourself in every point of view of a character in your scene,” Hamada adds. “It requires a lot of empathy.”
But more than anything, she says Pomona provided “a worldview, a point of view, a strong sense of my values that I carry on with me.”