by Christin Ayers and Jennifer Mistrot
SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- Meal time is family time for Cynthia Orozco. The 19-year-old sophomore at University of California, Merced is spending the holiday weekend cooking pozole with her mom and grandma.
Orozco is grateful for the lesson. It's a simple, yet important family tradition and something she will never take for granted.
"I get emotional thinking about it," said Orozco of the meal preparation. "Because we did come from a very hard time."
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Her parents left Mexico to pursue the American Dream. They settled in San Jose, began working and had five beautiful daughters but living space in the family's one bedroom apartment was tight.
"It was very overwhelming," recalled Orozco. "It was literally people sleeping on top of each other."
Through it all, Orozco kept her grades up and was accepted to a prestigious private school. However, the family was then evicted their home. With no affordable housing available in their San Jose neighborhood, the family relocated to Modesto.
It was then Orozco's parents made a tough, but loving choice. In order to give Orozco and her sisters the best education possible, they would drive the girls 80 miles every day from Modesto to San Jose to go to their private schools. The six-hour round trip took its toll.
"Sleepless nights, not being able to eat well," recalled Orozco. "Many hardships that freshman year kind of consisted of."
Eventually the family found a new home in their old San Jose neighborhood, and Orozco found Students Rising Above.
"SRA came at the right moment in my junior year," explained Orozco. "I needed the guidance. I needed the mentorship. And they provided that for me."
Her mom, Sandra, is proud. And she has a nickname for her girls.
"My mom calls us warriors," said Orozco. "She says 'You are my little warriors.'"
Orozco is planning on becoming a pediatrician. As the oldest daughter she's got lots of experience with kids. And she is incredibly grateful for her family.
"There is security here," said Orozco. "And I know I will be safe with them. And it is really nice that I can come home now and know that there is company around and there's family and I feel united."
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