By the time she was sixteen, Destiny Sausedo had lived through the death of her brother in a drive-by shooting and the loss of her mother to a drug overdose. Before she died, her mom was often incapacitated by drugs and Destiny was her primary caregiver. “I was a little girl taking care of my mom when it was supposed to be my mom taking care of me,” she says. “I would have to feed her, bathe her, change her. She was there, but she wasn’t all there.”
Destiny grew up in a Salinas neighborhood where shootings were commonplace and death was a constant threat. After she lost her mom, she was sent to live with a relative. “She would treat me horribly bad. She wouldn’t feed me, she would keep me in the house and would treat me like a slave. I was always in my room, I was depressed and I had anxiety, it was really bad.”
It was so bad, Destiny attempted suicide. Finally, when she couldn’t take it anymore, she ran away. Later, when a social worker recommended she go to a group home in Ventura, she agreed. She was soon placed with a local foster family and enrolled at Ventura High School.
She took advantage of a state program that eases the path to graduation for foster youth and is now on track to receive her high school diploma. She credits Principal Carlos Cohen and her counselor Ena De La Cruz with helping her stay focused on completing high school. She says one of her biggest motivators has been the memory of her beloved brother. “He was street smart, he was book smart and he would always tell me that school was the way to go. He would say don’t ever be like us, you can change the cycle. And I’m going to be the first one to graduate in my family.”
Destiny now has her own apartment and a job at a Ventura nursing home. It’s a high-risk environment due to the coronavirus pandemic, but she says it’s inspiring and gratifying to care for senior citizens. “I love the elders. I love hearing their stories because they’ve already lived life and I can learn from them and try to figure out my next move.”
Destiny’s next move is to further her education by attending Ventura College. Her goal is become a therapist so she can help kids like her. “I want to be a voice that this world doesn’t have,” she says. “I want to be somebody people can come to and depend on as a hero, as a motivator, as a supporter. I want them to know they’re not alone, that they have somebody to lean on.” She admits she sometimes feels the pull of family and friends urging her to return to the world she fled. But she’s not going back because she knows destiny has a better life in store for her.