Many people with much less adversity than Granite Hills’ Dell Scholar Jasmine Marie Mejía has dealt with would have given up a long time ago.
Mejía, named after her mother’s favorite flower, is one of Tulare County’s honor students at Granite Hills High School.
Amid studying to one day support her small family with the power of a college degree, Mejía, a 4.3 GPA student with 15 scholarships, has on her shoulders the impending deportation of her father to México, the loss of water in the family’s east Porterville home, the care of her ailing little sister and well-being of her mother, Mary Cruz Mejía.
Jasmine, 17, will march with the Class of 2018 tonight (June 7) in the school’s commencement ceremony. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the ceremony begins at 8 p.m. at the school’s stadium.
She’ll be marching for family.
“I want my sisters to have a good role model and I want to help my family financially. My dad is getting deported, and my mom works part time,” said Mejía, “They haven’t set a date (for the deportation), it’s crazy so like one phone call away.”
A Dell Scholarship – which pays $5,000 a year for college, plus a free laptop and tutoring – is the largest of all her 15 scholarships. That means this family’s oldest daughter will achieve higher education.
Jasmine will use her scholarship money to obtain a degree in political science at Cal State Bakersfield. She hopes to represent people in the Central Valley.
She wants to be the example for a better future for her sister, Julissa Mejía, a freshman at Granite Hills, and younger siblings, Jayleen, 12, and Jiselle, 9.
Julissa had a desire to be in folkloric dance and to play tennis.
“My little sister had rheumatoid arthritis, failing kidneys; she was a preemie, under developed, and she has something wrong with her bladder,” said Jasmine, “ She had metal rods put in her legs. We walk around a lot. We try and make her legs be as strong as she can.”
Jasmine said she’s been inspired to succeed by her mother, a dialysis nurse: “I’ve seen how good she takes take of her patients.”
Jasmine’s father was arrested for drugs, but is on the road to recovery. He’ll soon be away from the family and deported to México. She and her siblings witnessed the harsh arrest of their father on a city sidewalk and eventual search and ransacking of the family home by sheriff’s deputies.
“They were very rough with us. I remember we were going to pick up my mom, and they told him to get out of the car,” she said. “They tackled my dad to the floor; they raided our house and made holes in the walls. They were looking for something and didn’t find it.”
When the state’s historic drought impacted over 300 households in East Porterville, the Mejías were one of the first hit with the loss of water pressure.
“There was some hard things in school, but, like, I didn’t give up: The (expletive) drought. We’re on Cleo Street, the first street to get hit by the drought around 2015. I remember I couldn’t take a shower before my freshman orientation, I was so sad then I went to the church (church parking lot for the portable showers),” she remembers.
The adversity contributed to her maturity, but didn’t break her. And she offers advice to others facing similar situations.
"Try not to be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid. I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to succeed in college, I’m proud that I was able to get through high school; I’m the first, the oldest in my family,” she said.
She’s pushed forward to become a student leader at Granite Hills High. She wants her sisters to see her active involvement in the Z Club, an organization helping women through domestic violence, her good grades to become a lifetime member in CSF (California Scholastic Federation) and EXCEL, a community service organization.
“I’m kind of scared because I want to be the best I can be for my sisters,” said Jasmine, “We went through all this, my family members expect a lot a lot from me. I’m afraid of not meeting up to their expectations.”