By Linda Ha
Cathedral City High School senior Jonathan Rojas was a border away from his family Tuesday night at graduation. His family was in Mexico, his father having been deported three years ago, and his mother and siblings following his father back to Mexico two years later.
There were no family members at his graduation.
But there was a very special friend.
His name is Tony Marchese, co-owner of the Trio restaurant. Tony had seen a video Rojas had made about his life at DigiCom in May. Rojas had made a video about his life as a senior at CCHS, working at McDonald’s to support himself while living in a small apartment in Cathedral City.
“I saw Jonathan’s video on the screen, and what he’d gone through, so I told my partner, ‘He’s gotta work for us. He’s gonna come work at Trio,’ ” said Marchese.
“I introduced myself to him at DigiCom, and asked him ‘Are you working?’ he said ‘No.’ and I said ‘Come to Trio tomorrow and we’ll give you a job,’ and then he did.”
The fact that Rojas was working alone and committed to finishing high school touched Marchese because he admires people who work hard and want to get some place.
“When I see an opportunity to help somebody, I try to do that for them,” said Marchese, who himself had several mentors when he younger.
Before working at Trio, Rojas was $750 in debt. After working at the Palm Springs restaurant, he was able to pay it all off and save up money for tuition for College of the Desert where he wants to study mechanics and musical education. It has been a great experience for him, and he appreciates that Trio does not take advantage of him like a local pizza parlor did in the past and treats every staff member like family and equally.
Tuesday night, Rojas said he was thankful for the support of Marchese, Digital Arts Technology Academy (DATA) mentor David Vogel and DATA Coordinator Matt Hamilton.
His motivation for graduating and furthering his education is his family. Although they could not be there on graduation night, Jonathan said, “I want to set the example and let them know that I can do it. I want my little brother to be able to say ‘Hey look, my brother can do it, so can I.’
“I’m excited and I feel sad, but at the same time, I have Tony, Mr. Vogel, and Mr. Hamilton supporting me, which I cannot replace because they’re so valuable and I cherish our relationship. I’m very excited to graduate, and show them that I was able to do it.”