Santa Maria High School alumnus Jorge Camacho-Zepeda this week motivated Advancement Via Individual Determination students in Karen Draper and Rick Hebert’s classes with the message “Your pathway to success is not always your first pathway.”
During Monday’s talk, Mr. Camacho-Zepeda described himself as a non-traditional student who initially entered a technical school to pursue an automotive career. His story details a personal journey to the successful family custody mediator that he is today.
Mr. Camacho-Zepeda, one of Mrs. Draper’s former students, came from a low-income family, started working at 11 and grew up in an abusive household. His description of his childhood on the verge of adulthood also hit home with a lot of students as he described himself as a “cholo, lost in disfunction.” He also labeled himself a “lost” high school student who was told he would end up in jail or dead in the future.
But Mr. Camacho-Zepeda never lost sight of his goal, despite several setbacks along the way. He ended up attending Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria with the idea of pursuing mechanical engineering and working full time.
Part of his general education classes included some social sciences course work, which ended up being the beginning of a healing pathway for him as he discovered and developed his organizational leadership skills, took psychology and sociology, and later graduated from Brandman University in 2019.
He also explained how this pathway led him to the career he absolutely loves, a court mediator. Presently, he is working on becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist.
“A lot of students related to some of the home situations he described,’’student Suleima Martinez-Espinoza said in a news release. “He was the best speaker in AVID that we have had as he described what so many of us have come from. His story was encouraging.”
Student Alyssa Vazquez Valenzuela said: “I felt an emotional connection with his message.”
“I could relate to him more than any other speaker we have had,’’ student Rene Lopez said,