Below is an excerpt from a larger story in CSUN Today. Roxxette is featured as an outstanding student from the College of Health and Human Development. Meet honored graduating students from each academic college at CSUN and read the full story in CSUN Today.
In a life of so many closed doors, it was a CSUN recruiter who opened a window for Roxxette Lezly Zepeda. The 17-year-old was late to class, running down the hallway of Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School in Los Angeles, one day during her senior year.
Joel Monroy, a recruiter for the university’s Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP), stopped her in the hallway and asked, “‘What are your plans after high school graduation?’” Zepeda recounted recently. “I said, ‘I’m getting married, in an arranged marriage to an older man in Mexico.’ He asked me, ‘Do you want to?’ And I said, ‘No! I want to be a nurse.’ He invited me to apply to CSUN’s nursing program, through EOP.”
Zepeda’s first visit to CSUN was for her interview, on her 18th birthday. She was accepted through the EOP Residential Bridge Program, which gave Zepeda and gives other low-income, first-generation college students a summer home in the freshman dorms on campus and support transitioning to university life.
Five years later, Zepeda is completing her Bachelor of Science in public health through the Department of Health Sciences in CSUN’s College of Health and Human Development. This fall, she begins a graduate program at the UCLA School of Nursing. She plans to pursue a master’s and Ph.D. in clinical practice and neonatal research.
She defied her family and an arranged marriage to pursue a college degree. She has finished college on her own — at times overcoming homelessness, hunger and wrenching family upheaval. But her maternal grandparents and other relatives, Zepeda said, have come around to support her because they see how far she has come.
Though she was born in LA, Zepeda was raised by her maternal grandparents at their ranch near Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, until the age of 11 because her teenaged parents were unable to care for her. When her father won full custody, he brought her back to LA. Her mother has been in and out of jail due to a drug addiction, Zepeda said.
“When I graduated from high school, my father expected me to find full-time employment and a husband. I had a different agenda,” she said. “When I was accepted to CSUN, my father gave me an ultimatum: him or college. … Even though I have known hunger and did not always have a place to stay, I took challenging classes, volunteered, mentored and conducted research. I kept moving forward with my education because I knew that was my future.”
In 2015, Zepeda was accepted into CSUN’s BUILD PODER research training program, which aims to increase diversity in biomedical research fields and prepare participants for Ph.D. programs. As part of her research, Zepeda volunteered at several area hospitals. She also worked as a peer mentor and EOP student office assistant, where she often mentored freshmen.
Zepeda will be taking part in the commencement ceremony at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 20, on the lawn in front of the Oviatt Library.
Above is an excerpt from a larger story in CSUN Today. Roxxette is the featured here as an outstanding student from the College of Health and Human Development. Meet honored graduating students from each academic college at CSUN and read the full story in CSUN Today.
Carmen Ramos Chandler/CSUN Today