SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — It’s only 9 miles from the University of San Diego campus to the intersection of 30th Street and Ocean View Boulevard, where Juan Cedillo grew up in San Diego’s Logan Heights neighborhood.
It may not seem far on a map, but for Cedillo, the university and his neighborhood were a universe apart.
“There’s lots of drugs, gang violence; my buddies and friends growing up, they were in a gang,” Cedillo told Border Report. “I just thought of my world in Logan Heights or Lincoln Park and I thought, ‘I’m never going to get out of here.'”
But Cedillo did make it out, although it was touch-and-go for a while.
He says he wasn’t in a gang but will admit he was not a choirboy either, often getting into trouble and disappointing his parents.
“I definitely failed academically, and it was a disappointment for my parents at the time knowing how much they had sacrificed and for me to be throwing all that away,” he said.
Cedillo, now 26, says his parents — Juan from the state of Guerrero and Margarita from Sinaloa — came to the United States in the early 90s by crossing the border during a driving rainstorm and nearly drowned in a culvert under the fence.
They barely made it out alive by stumbling back to Tijuana, Cedillo said.
They eventually made it north of the border and settled in San Diego, where they opened a taco shop near Lincoln High School, where Cedillo and his sister America would end up attending.
“I almost didn’t make it out of high school,” Cedillo said.
After graduating from Lincoln High, he turned to his sister for advice, who suggested he join the Army like she had.
“It kind of allowed me to reorient myself,” Cedillo said.
Cedillo stated the structure in the military helped him, and after his first tour, he enrolled at Southwestern Community College to pursue his education, something his parents had been suggesting for many years.
“Even throughout all my failures in school, they always told me, ‘We want you and your sister to do something with your lives, get an education,'” said Cedillo. “I was like, ‘OK, Mom and Dad. I’m going to honor your sacrifice, I’m going back to school and I’m going to make an effort.'”
The effort paid off. On Sunday, he will graduate with a degree in electrical engineering from USD, a Roman Catholic research university named one of the most beautiful campuses in the U.S.
“As the son of migrants, and knowing I’m not the only one, this means a lot and I feel for all those people at the border now,” Cedillo said.
Next month, Cedillo will begin working for the Boeing Company, an aircraft manufacturer based in Seattle, Washington.
He continues to serve in the military with the Army Reserves.
“My unit is in San Diego so I’ll be able to come home and see my parents about every month,” he said.