A student’s choice to lead rather than follow inspires

By Justin Leutz / Asst. Features Editor

By Justin Leutz / Asst. Features Editor

Maria ‘Chayo’ Cerda, 17, had a choice to make: be a follower or be a leader.

Choosing to follow others would have lead her toward drug and alcohol abuse.

While being an individual might ostracize her.

Cerda entered high school with a three-point-four grade point average.

As she progressed through high school, her grade point average dropped to a dangerous level.

Deciding she could do better, she made a choice to improve.

She now maintains a four-point-zero grade point average.

Cerda is currently enrolled in Gateway to College, early College High School.

This program allows students who have dropped out of high school to obtain a diploma and gain college credits simultaneously.

“I could have chosen to become a druggie and a high school drop-out, but I did the exact opposite,”  Cerda said.

She chose to be a leader. At the age of 15, she decided to enlist as a U.S. Naval Sea Cadet.

She enjoyed the opportunity and the people the program had to offer.

The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps  charter states “…through organization and cooperation with the Department of the Navy, to encourage and aid American youth to develop, train them in seagoing skills, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance and kindred virtues.”

With that being said, Cerda had to make a decision.

“There was a time when a lot of things were going wrong for me” Cerda said.

But despite all odds she still wanted to succeed.

 “I knew that I didn’t want to just die a nobody, I wanted to be someone and die as somebody,” Cerda said.

Her father also plays a major role in her success. He’s her main inspiration.

“I absolutely fell in love with the people and the opportunities it offered.” Cerda said.

Later, she enlisted in the United States Navy with plans to serve four years, if not more.

Despite the ever-growing war effort in the middle east, young adults are being attracted to the military for a chance to serve their country while obtaining one of a kind training.

Cerda is getting the best of both worlds.

With success in mind, Cerda currently attends RCC to complete her general education needed to transfer to Humboldt State University.

She plans to study marine biology.

Having support from friends and family means the world to Cerda.

“I like to think that my little brother is looking down at me, proud of who I’ve become”  Cerda said.

She says her father is also extremely proud of her.

Accomplishing goals can be a tiring feat. Looking back at her accomplishments, Cerda wonders how she was able to achieve as much as she did.

“Whether it‘s going to school and learning something new or spending time with my shipmates on Saturdays, it makes me realize how much closer I am to accomplishing my dreams,” Cerda said.

She hopes other students will follow in her footsteps.