A fireman, an artist and an NBA player were what some custodians at Fresno State hoped they would be when they grew up, but life dealt them a different hand.
Larry Jones, a custodian at Fresno State for 15 years, was only 16 years old when his life changed and he was forced to fend for himself.
“I was playing basketball against Clovis West, when the call came in,” Jones said. “My coach got the call, and then my family rushed into the game.”
Jones received a call during the game stating his mother was passing away.
“I walked off the court and drove off to San Francisco,” Jones said. “When I got there I had a couple of minutes with her before she died.”
Jones said he was left to be on his own from that moment on.
“Pretty much that’s the moment I began taking care of myself,” Jones said.
Custodian Gabriela Mejia decided to begin her journey to the United States from her homeland of Mexicali, Mexico in 1985.
“I came from Mexico in search of a better future,” Mejia said. “At first I was not sure about what I was doing or why I was even doing it.”
Mejia came first with her husband to the United States, and then their two daughters came afterward.
Angel Melendez, a custodian at Fresno State for 14 years, was born in Puerto Rico. He migrated to New York City soon after where he was raised.
Melendez decided to enlist in the United States Army and left New York in 1976. During his career in the army, Melendez was stationed in Germany for seven years, 13 months in Korea, and around the United States.
“I got out of the army in 1991 and moved here to Fresno,” Melendez said.
Melendez always imagined himself as a fireman, or a law enforcement officer when he was a child. He stopped imagining this when he enlisted and his focus was put on other things.
“I left my dream behind when I enlisted for service,” Melendez said. “I just started to put my focus on other things in life — like family.”
Mejia said she dreamed of being an artist one day. She said her dream fell apart due to her having to take care of her family.
“I don’t blame them for it, but life just takes different turns when least expected,” Mejia said. “And I don’t really see it ever becoming true.”
Mejia wishes she could go back to school, but time does not permit. She said that her daughter being an artist on her free time makes her feel better.
Jones expected to be a NBA player one day, especially when he began receiving letters from different universities that wanted him to play basketball for them.
“I thought I was going to be an NBA star,” Jones said. “I was an athlete until my mother passed.”
Jones added that his dream was to pursue basketball and to attend college.
“I had all kinds of letters from colleges who wanted me to play for them, but I kind of quit because my mom passed,” Jones said.
After Jones’ mother died he had to learn to survive on his own, as an only child. “I was 16 and I just was bad after her death.
“I had to learn to find myself again,” Jones said. “I thought I was going to be a professional athlete up until that point in my life — I guess I missed my calling.”
Jones said he did have a father, but he had established a new marriage and family after his parents separated.
These three individuals have one thing in common — they all cherish and live for the betterment of their families.
“The one thing that I want most in this world is for my children to succeed and that’s why I work today because I want to help them in all I can,” Mejia said.
Jones feels that family is the most important thing.
“I enjoy spending time with my family and two daughters,” Jones said.
Melendez said she always looks forward to family gatherings and helping one another when needed.
“I just want the students to know that custodians do appreciate their jobs here,” Jones said. “I do my best to keep this university clean for their success.”