SANTA ANA, Calif. – Not being able to walk on stage to receive her high school diploma isn’t something Melody Garcia considers a loss.

What You Need To Know

  • Melody Garcia lost her mom when she was a baby

  • Raised by her grandmother in Santa Ana

  • Graduating from the Santa Ana Unified School District's independent studies program

  • Juggled school and working 30 to 40 hours a week as a barista

“I don’t have parents to take care of me. I don’t have a mommy and daddy to depend on. I have to work on myself and make sure I strive for the best,” said 19-year-old Melody Garcia.

Garcia was a 3-month-old baby when her mother passed away and she was taken in by her grandmother.

“I call her ‘ma’ because she raised me, so she feels like a mother. She’s always gone above and beyond for me,” said Garcia.

Life hasn’t been easy for Garcia, but it did seem to improve after the Santa Ana Unified School District transferred her out of a traditional high school where she was failing her classes and into an independent studies program for her senior year.

“I talked to my therapist about it and she thought it would be a better idea if I joined the independent studies program just so I won’t be around so many people and I won’t get as irritated as much,” said Garcia.

The student says she was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. Being surrounded by so many different types of personalities and being in a busy high school environment made it hard for her focus on her studies. In her program, she can learn at her own pace and make time to work 30 to 40 hours a week as a barista to help her grandmother make ends meet.

“I’m usually get off around 8. So after 8 is when I have to study. I have to get this stuff done,” said Garcia.

The high school senior says she was able to pay her own bills and help her grandmother out until the coronavirus pandemic shut down the cafe' she was working in. Her loss of income in the last few months allowed her to devote more time to finishing her senior year.

When asked why Garcia didn’t give up with all of the odds stacked up against her, she says one of the reasons why she didn’t give up on her education was because her parents did.

After losing so much in her life, Garcia is finally winning. She said she is going to use her high school diploma to get out of her difficult circumstances and into a community college where she believes no one will be able to take her education away from her.

Garcia will be attending Santa Ana Community College in the fall to pursue a career in criminal justice.