Editor’s note: This story was featured in the commencement edition of City Times.
Life in California is expensive, even in a rural place like Fresno where Maria Zedukes was born and raised.
Zedukes’ family relocated to Tijuana, Mexico when she was a sophomore in High School due to the high cost of living in the golden state and she was hit with a “huge culture shock.”
“It was scary crossing the border,” said Zedukes, who admitted to not knowing what crossing an international border entailed. All she knew of the Mexico-U.S. border was that her mother, a Michoacan, Mexico native, once crossed it and that her father was born on the American side of the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez border.
“There was nothing like this where I’m from. I literally grew up in between two strawberry fields,” she said.
Zedukes, who is better known as “Mia,” struggled with six to seven months out of school while she dealt with the depression and adjustment to her new surroundings. Having to cross the border on a daily basis to finish high school, spending up to seven hours in line once, forced her to research non-traditional schools.
She landed at Diego Hills Charter School where she was not required to show up on a day-to-day basis. She was able to pick up worksheet packets and do them at home.
Zedukes knew she was on her own following high school. She lived on her grandmother’s couch for a while in a section 8 San Ysidro apartment.
Craigslist, Facebook groups and word of mouth tips led her to the multiple rooms she has rented since.
Zedukes, who is part of the San Diego Community College Honors Program and will be graduating San Diego City College with an associate degree in English and another in Psychology, signed up for as many scholarships and financial aid grants as possible.
“CalFresh has been a huge help,” she said. “Not having to worry about paying for food, so that I can use that money for gas or insurance (has been helpful).”
She will transfer to UC Berkeley where she will work toward a bachelor’s degree in Ethnic Studies with a minor in Education.
Zedukes, who is grateful for all of the support she has found at City College, wants to build a career in education where she can offer the same help she received.
“Maria (Zedukes) can relate to the struggles of her students,” said Edwidge Dupar, who supervised Zedukes in the First Year Services office. “She gets excited about the opportunities her students can receive.”
Two weeks in Rosarito, Mexico with her family are in the plans following her City College graduation. She will then return to work in the on campus FYS office before moving to Berkeley for the fall semester.