Single mother overcame addiction, homelessness—wants to inspire


Desiree Erdmann

Ana Zepeda (right), her daughter Lia Velazquez and her infant son Luke together as a family on Oct. 14 on West Campus at City College in Santa Barbara, Calif. Zepeda said she is thankful for the experiences and opportunities that City College provided her. She is looking forward to graduating and making a bigger impact in the community than she already has.

Paula Rodenas, Staff Writer

Facing a life of addiction, homelessness, and raising a child on her own, Ana Zepeda wants to motivate single-mothers to overcome fear and challenges by sharing her personal experiences.

“I was so young that I didn’t know how to help myself,” Zepeda said.

She is a City College alumni currently majoring in sociology at UCSB while working as co-president of Freedom4Youth, a community program centered on helping at-risk youth.

This year, she was one of 52 students to receive a scholarship from the California Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation to aid her in continuing her academic career.

But her journey there started at 17 when she moved from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles for a year with two friends.

She was unable to get a job since she was underage, which made her always late in her bills, she said.

“They tried their best to help me,” Zepeda said. “They didn’t know the extent of the trouble that I was in at that time.”

She moved back to Santa Barbara and got pregnant with her first child at 19.

She got a job at Sephora for a few months and later at a telephone company.

“It was really difficult because all my money was going for daycare,” Zepeda said.

She soon was able to go to the Transition House, where she received help finding her first apartment and attended parenting classes.

The Transition House is an organization that helps homeless families build life skills like money management and provides stable housing. 

“I didn’t even know how to change a diaper, they had to teach me,” Zepeda said.

At the Transition House, they asked about her future academic plans, but she said she was “barely trying to say clean.”

“I have a long life of addiction, but that’s not who I am,” Zepeda said.

Despite her struggles with depression and addiction, she persevered because she wanted to be a better mom to her children.

“My only goal was to provide for my daughter,” Zepeda said. “To make sure that she had everything she needed.”

Zepeda said that school was secondary for her and didn’t realize that if she went to school  earlier, “it would have totally changed everything.”

She was pregnant with her second child, who was born in 2018.

“My son was a reason why I wanted to go back to school,” Zepeda said. “So let me keep going.”

She attended City College and tried to use every resource provided by the college to become a better student and person.

EOPS gave her financial resources and motivated her to continue school. She took advantage of tutoring and office hours. 

“Everything I learned from Santa Barbara City College I’ve been able to take to UCSB,” Zepeda said.

She has plans to go to law school or graduate school to become a lawyer.

Zepeda has been involved with community activism through Child Abuse Prevention Council, Freedom to Choose Project, and Just Communities while attending City College.

She wants to prove to herself that she is able to accomplish anything she sets her mind to.

“I know I have a gift, and I know that I can do it, and I’m going to do it,” Zepeda said.