Two years ago, Cindy Zuniga faced a choice. She could quit college at California State University, Bakersfield and return home to Los Angeles to care for her mother, who had suffered a stroke. Or, she could stay in school and work as many hours as possible to help pay for her mom's medical bills.
Zuniga chose the latter.
"It's better just to fight through it," she said. "I knew if I stopped I would never go back to school."
And her mother couldn't be more proud. Zuniga will graduate in June with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. The road has been tough, but rewarding. During her time in college, Zuniga has worked 20 hours a week as a student assistant in the Admissions office. She fills the rest of her days with classes, then goes to her second job at Home Depot, where she works from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and eight-hour shifts on Saturdays and Sundays.
When does she find time for homework?
"During my lunch hour, my breaks. Then when I get off work I stay up until midnight," she said.
This quarter really put the squeeze on Zuniga, when she had to drop down to four hours per week in Admissions in order to complete a two-month internship at the Kern County Probation Department. Her career goal is in law enforcement and she is looking to apply for a master's program in social work.
Her school and work schedules have been so demanding, that trips to L.A. to visit her ailing mother are short and far between. Her older sister, who works a graveyard shift, cares for their mother during the day.
"I feel sometimes guilty that I'm not there to help her, but I knew if I didn't stay in school there would be no way to go back and my mom would be very disappointed," Zuniga said.
Now the family is hoping Zuniga's mother can make it to the graduation ceremony to celebrate the fruits of her daughter's labor.
"She says she's very proud of me and that I stuck with it. And I fought to stay in school and make sure that it happened," Zuniga said.
For more information:
Media ContactColleen Dillaway, Director of Public Affairs & Communications