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Sylmar Resident Honors her Father on Graduation Day PDF Print E-mail
Written by Diana Martinez   
Thursday, 12 June 2014 01:40

D. Martinez / SFVS

Honoring her father on Graduation Day.

For Rosa Orellano, a Sylmar resident, her graduation from California State University, Los Angeles, set for Sunday, June 15, will be an emotional feat.

Preparing for the day, there was no doubt that she had to customize the sash that she'll wear over her cap and gown.

As she carefully lifted the folded sash from it’s plastic case, she read the words that she had chosen to have embroidered” “ 'Daddy's Girl, In loving Memory of Salvador Gonzalez .'

“These words [to honor my father] will be on my left side right next to my heart.” she said. On the right side of her sash are the names of her three daughters; Giselle, Ruby and Maryann, written under the word Motivation which, she said, is the word that best describes the legacy that her father gave to her.

For Orellano, it is a powerful coincidence that she will graduate on Father’s Day and the accomplishment will also be a tribute to him. He was killed in a car accident nearly ten years ago.

“I consider this a blessing and I'll feel like he’s there with me. It couldn’t be a better Father’s Day gift [to honor him],” she said.

"My father was always my biggest motivator and always talked about the day when I would graduate from college. No matter what my circumstances were, he encouraged me and told me that I "could do better.’

Orellano said life wasn’t easy for her or her family. But it’s because of those life experiences that she wants to “make a difference in people’s lives.”

Orellano will receive a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Cal State L.A., and continue on to graduate school. She believes this chosen field will allow her to make a difference for giving understanding to those who need it most.

Her path to success in college was not a simple one. Her younger sister had meningitis and tuberculosis, which left her disabled. The family lived in the projects in Pacoima, but always worked hard. While attending San Fernando High School Math and Science Magnet, she became pregnant.

“When I was a teen mom, he told me that having a child didn't disable me in any way and a lot of people thought my future was over. My father told me it's when you listen to people who say such things, that's when you fail.” Orellano said.

It was as a teen that Orellano learned that her father was not her biological father. “What made me love my father even more was that he wasn’t my biological father and knowing how much he loved and helped me,” she reflected.

“He was afraid when he told me because my biological father is still alive but he raised me since I was a baby and feared that he would lose me. But I told him, ‘you are my Dad, no one is ever able to take your place.’ I was molded by him with compassion and empathy for others.

D. Martinez / SFVS

Holding a family photo of her dad, rosa Orellano will graduate on Father's Day.

"My father had kidney failure for 20 years, but I never once heard him complain,” Orellano continued. “He always had a smile and a kind word for me every day. I read later how difficult dialysis is being attached to that machine, but he held a job and also joined her mother selling items at the San Fernando Swap Meet and even traveled the long distance to sell at another the swap meet in Indio. In 2004, He received a kidney transplant and just as life seemed to give the family a break, it was in Indio at night, following a long day working at the swap meet that a car on the opposite lane rolled over into the lane her parents were traveling in causing them to crash. The trauma to his body was extensive and he died four days later.”

Her father’s death left a big void for Orellano and interrupted her education. She found herself in an abusive marriage and in a cycle of domestic abuse and violence.

She feared for her life when her then husband had chased her through their home with a knife.

Concerned for her life and holding on to her children, with the help of her brother and mother who helped with child care, she got out of that marriage, filed a restraining order and went to Santa Monica City College. She then transferred to Cal State L.A.

A proud mother of three daughters, there continue to be challenges for Orellano. But with support, and early lessons learned, she views them as part of life that can be happily managed.

Two of her daughters have learning disabilities, with auditory and visual processing challenges and ADHD. Orellano works with them on their schooling, and has worked part time at an alternative home care agency in Sherman Oaks.

“I am thankful for the professors at Cal State L.A., such as Roseann Giarrusso and Luis Luis Nuno, who have supported me every step of the way,” Orellano said, adding that she realizes the importance of a college education in providing a better future for her daughters.

“My main goal is to help people. I want to continue my education, get a Masters and eventually receive my Ph.D in sociology so that I can really make an even larger difference in people's lives." she said.

While attending college she volunteered at a men’s correctional prison in Northern California, and said she would like to do more research that could help those in prison.

“I never felt threatened when working there,” she said. “We need programs that could welcome and support them to get an education and encourage them to go to college that could reduce the number of people who return back to prison over and over again.

“Too often they are isolated and keeping them locked up and segregating them doesn’t work. When they get out and they go back to the same conditions, they have few options. They don't have hope if they don't have an alternative. Education gives them a chance.

“Just like my father taught me, I want those who think that there is no hope, to be given hope and to continue no matter what,” Orellano said.

She also makes time to volunteer in her community, supporting patients at Valley Presbyterian Hospital and elementary school students at L.A.’s Best.

“It only takes one person to help someone else. I want my work to matter and I want to give back just like those who have helped me. My goal is to inspire those from disadvantaged backgrounds that they also have an opportunity to pursue a higher education—and to be able to achieve a path to success,” Orellano said.

”My father was there for me and let me know that he was proud of me. I still feel that he is beside me and will be walking next to me when I receive my diploma. I know my father will be there by my side throughout my whole journey.”

She wants to make a difference in the world and help people improve their lives. She wants people to know her story and “know that whatever your circumstances are or what you're going through to believe that you can do more.”

She said there was a time when “I could never imagine that i could be where I am now, with my own apartment and graduating. And especially for women who think that they have to depend on a man, to know that they can live without that person and especially for women who have been abused, for them to understand that they can make it through and bring your children toward a more positive life.

“Just like my father taught me and by accepting the kind support of others, we can find a way to break those barriers and find the proper education to break free. I want to be an example, just as my father was for me.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 June 2014 01:46