Believe in Me, #RealCollege!
By: Victoria Rocha (she/her/hers), Fresno City College
I have had a long journey through life, one that is characterized by bad choices and former incarceration. Along with this was my battle against a meth addiction. Although these choices were made, I was able to find a way through education to change the course of my life.
The last time I was in jail I was given a drug rehabilitation program by a judge that knew me very well and this place changed my life. It created stability and allowed me a space to blossom and change. I was able to reunite with my children while I attended school and juggled sobriety.
I started at Fresno City College with no high school diploma and no financial assistance, but I made it a point to look for resources in the community that would help me achieve my goals. I planned only to obtain a certificate in Drug and Alcohol Counseling and give back to my community in that helping field.
As I continued my education and saw that I enjoyed school, I asked my counselor what it would take for me to obtain my Associates Degree. Looking at my grades, he advised that I first need my high school diploma or G.E.D. to move forward. I was able to find help through a program called Reading and Beyond to pay for the G.E.D tests. I passed all the tests and was excited to yet again began a new journey now towards my Associates Degree.
Undecided as I was in a major, I knew I wanted to help others. I took an introduction to social work course, and I knew right then and there this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my years. This aligned with my passions, and I felt as though I was walking in my purpose. I was awarded the Social Science Dean’s Medallion and the Tony Cantu President’s Medallion upon graduating. These were the highest honors you could receive at this community college. Never in my wildest dreams, not even as a child, did I see myself back in school, let alone loving it. Now, I am a first-generation college graduate. In Furthering my education and transferring to California State University Fresno. I was accepted into the Social Work Program and will be graduating May 2022 with High Honors.
I tell you all this because just a few years ago I was a homeless drug-addict living in abandon homes on the streets of Fresno, California. I was at the lowest point in my life, and I desperately needed someone to believe in me, but even more — I needed to believe in myself.
It took a village of individuals and resources to get me where I am today. Project Rebound supported me encouraged me and guided me to California State University Fresno. Root and Rebound opened doors for me to clean up my criminal record and clear barriers for my future. The Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce has given me a platform to engage and support the youth of our communities as well as the formerly incarcerated population. I am thankful for all those who have invested time and love into my life. I have just finished a 1-year stint on The Hope Center’s Student Leadership Advisory Council better known as SLAC. This experience and opportunity was life changing for me. I was able to network and bond with passionate individuals who are sincere in their passion to help other college students. I was able to be a part of a project with Stanford University and share my experiences as a non-traditional college student.
I always say you never know who you are helping with your kind words or kind gestures. I see the homeless in our communities and I wonder who they could be if we took the time to believe in them. I was once just like them and I was given another chance at life through the grace of God, hard work, and dedication. I had amazing family who never gave up on me. I had an amazing Pastor who even donated a vehicle to me without me knowing I would truly need it. I can go on and on about all the people who invested in me and continue to invest in me today. I am living proof that change is possible and there are many diamonds in the rough out there today. Perspective is everything, who will you believe in today?
Victoria Rocha — a single mother of five children — is leading by example for her children and for her community. She will be graduating May 2022 with her BASW and has applied for the MSW program at California State University Fresno. She is pursuing her dreams and walking in her purpose. She shares her story to inspire others to be kind and to believe in all people despite their situation.