Celeste, a college student and mother of one in Fresno


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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m 29 years old. I’m a single parent from Fresno, California.


How long have you lived in Fresno?

I’ve been in Fresno for about 12 years. Prior to that, I was living in Modesto, California. That’s where I grew up.


Who are the most important people in your life?

I’ll start off with Jeremiah. He’s my 12-year-old. He’s in the seventh grade. I have my mother, Michelle. I’m an only child, so she and I have a very close relationship. It’s just the three of us here in Fresno. My father lives in Sacramento.

Then there’s Kim, my neighbor, and her children. I really do believe in parenting with the community as the foundation. Also Gloria, who you met last night at the listening session. I’ve known her for the entire 12 years I’ve been here in Fresno. I consider her my sister.


Can you tell me more about parenting as a community? What’s the idea behind that?

It takes a village to really raise children. So Kim, she has three kids. She moved into our building while she was pregnant with her youngest. I’ve been there pretty much his whole life, so you know I feel like he’s part of my family.

We rely on each other. We look out for each other. She will help me with my homework and I’ll babysit for her because she needs a babysitter. She will help my son with homework, I’ll attend her children’s field trips. We both volunteer at each other’s children’s schools.


Are you working right now?

I’m not working right now, but I am a full-time student seeking work. I attend Fresno City College and my major is child development. This will be my last semester and I will have my Associate’s Certificate for young children. So I’m hoping to open my own daycare soon. Children are my passion.


How did you find out that children are your passion?

After having my son, I kind of just knew that’s where my heart was — with children. They rely on you. They’re really innocent and you can give them a chance.

It was really tough for me growing up. I have learning difficulties. Growing up I always had different teachers that weren’t really passionate about me and steered me in the wrong way or yelled at me because I didn’t really understand something. So I feel like I have a lot more patience and I want to make a difference for young children at an early age.


What are some of the resources you use?

Reading and Beyond has been a huge help for me. School was really tough for me. I would give up easily. They have really just motivated me to push forward.

I have an awesome tutor that I’ve built a personal relationship with. I feel like she really cares for me and it’s not just her work — it’s really her passion. They’re just a huge resource. If I have any questions, they get back to me ASAP. I just love it. It’s a place to kind of just have peace of mind. And I feel like I’m really going to get somewhere with their help.

I’m actually now, with the help of Reading and Beyond, going for my Associate of Arts (AA) degree. At first I was just going for my certificate. Now I’m taking the classes and the courses I need to get my AA degree.

I’m looking forward to that. I just enrolled in 12 units as a full-time student. You actually only need 12 units to open up a daycare, but if you’re a parent coming in, it looks better that I took the time to go to school for it. So it looks better on my resume, I can put that down on my flyers, that I have an educational background for it.


Any other resources you use?

My church has been really supportive. Section 8 — eh. My friends are a huge support group for me. And then just my immediate family.


I sensed some hesitancy when you said Section 8.

Section 8 is a great program. I’ve had it now since I was 18 years old. It’s more just like this neighborhood — I’ve been here five years and our neighborhood has been out of control.

The violence is getting worse. Since I’ve been here, there’s been three shootings. One person actually died. A couple doors down from me, my son’s friend got shot while she was asleep, in her leg. An innocent child. So that one was really tough. My son’s having a lot of anxiety about just staying here. He’s kind of pushing me, like, “Why do we have to be here?”

Section 8 requires you to be in a one-bedroom apartment with me and my child. He’s 12 years old — I need my space, he needs his space. That’s why I’ve been here for five years, because luckily my landlord worked with me to get me a two-bedroom apartment. I would have to start over if I moved. And then the area that you would be placed in could be even worse than what I’m in now.


How long have you been going to church?

I’ve been going to this church now for a year. It’s right around the corner. They’re awesome. My son started going there for tutoring. From tutoring we started getting more involved. They do a lot with the community.

My son has done some amazing things this summer, like kayaking. We’re hoping this year he’ll be able to go camping with the young men’s group. We’ve both joined the choir, so I’ve been singing there.

The church offered Jeremiah and I a position working with the young children on Sundays in the children’s group, so I’m looking forward to starting that soon too.


Tell me about singing, is that one of your passions as well?

Growing up, I always wanted to be a singer. I’m actually going to be taking music next semester. I’ve been singing in the church ever since I was little. I’ve always been in the choir in high school, joining in talent shows — that’s kind of where my heart’s been, along with children.


What does singing do for you?

It makes me feel happy and it puts me in another place. I love singing all different types of music. I kind of feel like I’m just in the zone when I’m singing. It lifts my spirit too, depending on what I’m listening to in that moment and how I’m feeling in my life.


Are there things you and your family do together?

We actually have been working out together. Walking occasionally, towards the evenings. We all go to church together on Sundays. Jeremiah and I both like to go skating. We go ice skating a lot. If not, we have neighborhood kids all over the house and they’re keeping us laughing and entertained.


We touched a little bit on politics in the listening session. Do you feel like your family’s voice is being heard by people in power who make decisions?

No, because I’ve never heard of anything where we’re able to attend besides the Community Listening Session. So that’s why I was really excited to attend this meeting. Because I feel like we don’t get to be heard, and when you do, you’re kind of let down.

Like when I told the lady at Section 8 what was going on with the violence in my neighborhood, to try to find a new place, she was just kind of rude to me. I was really in my feelings, it was really emotional for me, and to me she just didn’t feel like she cared. And that was me speaking out, speaking from my heart and I was just shut down.

Also with Medi-Cal, they limit you. I have Medi-Cal. I receive Medi-Cal through my son. Before, you could go to doctor visits, dental visits, and prescriptions would be free. Now, prescriptions aren’t free, so I’m having to pay out of pocket.

Right now I’m paying an expensive bill. And I feel like that’s money that I could put into my household. And by them taking that away from me — I don’t even know who decided that. We didn’t have a voice to be heard. There’s holidays coming up, school clothes, just unexpected expenses.

They don’t care that you have a car, they don’t care that you have insurance, they don’t care if you have a death in the family — any situation, they do not care. They’re supposed to be helping you, but it’s so limited. And then for those of us who are really trying to get ahead and to get off the system, when you are getting ahead and working, they raise your rent up high and lower your food stamps. So I feel like regardless, I’m just stuck.


If you could say something to the government, what would you say to them? How would you want them to see you?

I would want them to see me as if I was their child. If I was their child, would they want their child to go through this or their grandson to go through this? Would they want their grandson to live in fear? How is that going to impact his life later on? More empathy for me, not just me, other women.

Not everybody wants to be stuck on the system. I do not want to be stuck on the system. I want to do better, but you’re not allowing us to get ahead. Now I don’t even like going to the doctor, because I’m going to have to pay for the prescriptions.

So I end up doing natural remedies to take care of myself naturally because otherwise I’m going to end up having to pay for the medicine and I can’t afford it. So I end up doing what I can now to prevent that.


Are there other ways you’re making your voice heard?

Actually this year would be my first time ever voting. Because before I kind of felt like I didn’t know what was going on, so why should I vote? Now as of this year forward I am going to vote.


Why vote now?

I wanted my voice to be heard. I feel a little bit more confidence in myself now. I just said I was going to give it a try. Even if I had to sit there for an hour trying to figure out what was going on, I was going to do it. 

So I feel really comfortable now with being able to vote — I felt proud and I felt like hopefully my vote will really mean something. Now I can tell my friends, “Well I voted,” and hopefully they will do the same thing. Because it’s a lot of people that don’t vote. And that’s also because they don’t know exactly what they’re voting for.


How did you find out who to vote for?

I Googled. I did my own research on different issues that were going on. This year has been crazy, so you hear a lot from other people — I’ve been jotting down names. And taking other people's’ voices into consideration too.


If you could invest money to make positive change in the community, how would you do it?

I would put it towards my own schooling so that way I could build a better future for my son. I would put it towards children’s programs. I feel like some of the children’s programs are kind of lacking. They need more computers, more different activities they can do with the children. Maybe have a martial arts class or a cooking class, some stuff they’re not getting at home. I would put it towards that.


What’s your plan for the future?

I am going to open up a daycare center and I’m going to allow my family members to work for me. I am going to be a foster parent. I’m looking into that now. I want to help a child in need. I want to also give my son a sibling and add to my family.


What else do you do when you have spare time?

I have been taking yoga. I needed some relax time, some time where I could just zone out from everybody else. So I’ve been going to a yoga center. That’s where I find my relaxation, try to get my thoughts together for my next step on what I’m going to do.

Building my relationship with God. Just taking the time for me. Because sometimes we lack taking time for ourselves. This has been something that I’ve been trying to work on, because I kind of tend to care about everyone else’s feelings instead of worrying about how can I better myself so that I can better others as well.