“I think people are increasingly conscious that they have the power to decrease the risk of metabolic and cardiac-respiratory diseases. They are talking the necessary steps to improve their lives.”
By NANCY OY
EL NUEVO SOL
Ángela Cedillo’s grandparents were an instrumental part of her upbringing, especially her grandmother. Cedillo, 26, grew up in a single-parent home where she was often in the care of her disabled grandmother while her mother worked.
Her grandmother’s brain tumor, ovarian cysts and other health related issues limited her ability to work and at times caused her to fall. On most days it was only Cedillo at home with her grandmother.
Her grandmother had a stroke and couldn’t move after falling for the third time.
“I felt impotent,” Cedillo said. “Not only because I was very young, but because I felt, in that moment, that she had already fallen before so I should have been prepared.”
Her grandmother stayed in the hospital for a while before being able to return home. Her mobility and functions became more limited after the incident. Thereafter, Cedillo was responsible of taking care of her grandmother every evening after school.
“My grandmother would get angry. She would say, ‘I can do whatever I want,’ but she couldn’t function well. She could barely walk and that frustrated her. My mother treated her like a baby. In that moment, I realized my grandmother’s health had a lot to do with the quality of her life,” Cedillo said.
After a while, her grandmother began to attend physical therapy. Cedillo had no one to take care of her so she would accompany her grandmother to the therapy sessions.
“[The therapist] was impressive,” Cedillo said. “She was gentle with my grandmother, but she asked more of her. She knew my grandmother was strong. She found a way to relate to my grandmother’s personality. At the end of the therapy sessions, my grandmother was able to wash her own clothes, again. When I saw [my grandmother] I thought ‘Wow! She would have never been able to do this alone.’ She needed someone to motivate her.”
Cedillo’s grandmother died a year later, but Cedillo was happy her grandmother, in her last year, was able to do things on her own. She remembers the smile her grandmother had when she washed her own clothes.
“It sounds simple, but that has always resonated with me,” she said.
This was the first time she thought about how the work of a therapist helps others.
Years later, after graduating high school, Cedillo went directly to work to make money. That was her goal at first. However, in one of her jobs she had an accident in her hand that involved the need to see a physical therapist.
“When I was there the therapist was incredible!” she said. “She was a white woman but spoke Spanish well. She reminded me of the therapist that helped my grandmother. She would tell me ‘Let’s go, don’t tell me you can’t do it.’ She reminded me of something I hadn’t thought about in a long time.”
Cedillo decided to study kinesiology because of this experience.
She selected geriatrics as her specialty because of the close relationship she had with her grandmother. She wanted to focus on older people who have been victims of stroke and heart attacks.
Cedillo joined the 100 Citizens program as a student-trainer to gain more experience working with the elderly. The 100 Citizens program helps the elderly participants improve their way of living with diabetes prevention and exercise classes.
In the program, Cedillo works with other student-trainers that help in leading the elderly and other participants in group exercises.
“I think Ángela, as a student-trainer, has a lot of strengths,” said Leslie Moreno, director of the program. “Ángela does an excellent job explaining the exercises to the participants. She relates it in a way that they understand.”
Steven Loy, a professor of kinesiology at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) began the 100 Citizens program three years ago. The program is coordinated by students from the kinesiology department at CSUN in the San Fernando Recreational Park.
“I like the 100 Citizens program because I am working with the grandmothers and grandfathers of people,” Cedillo said. “I don’t have a connection with adults or children. With adults, I feel bad to tell them to hurry up. With children, I feel bad telling them to run in circles. With the elderly, I feel something special. I like it. I have compassion. I see my grandparents in them. My grandfather is still alive. He’s survived two heart attacks. I see him in them.”
“She makes an effort to talk to each participant individually to get to know them better,” Moreno said. “She is a great instructor because she goes beyond what she is asked to do. She has great enthusiasm and she creates a fun and motivating environment for the participants. They truly enjoy having her there.”
Leonor Pacheco, 70, resident of Pacoima and a member of the program said Cedillo is marvelous.
“She makes us feel good and she helps the elderly like me. She’s a good person and very happy. She has a good vibe and is sweet,” Pacheco said.
Cedillo was born and raised in the City of San Fernando. She is the only of four children to attend college. She grew up in a religious family, attending church two to three times a week until she was 16.
Two of her favorite pastimes are traveling and listening to music.
“I can drive many hours without needing a break,” she said. “I’ve driven all the way to the motherland, Mexico, and to Nevada for an event called ‘Burning Man.'”
She has also traveled to Washington, Hawaii and plans to visits Switzerland in 2015. Cedillo said the love of traveling long distances by car, singing and dancing in the car made her love traveling by road. However, she also loves to fly. Her boyfriend gave her flying lessons for their four-year anniversary.
Aside from traveling, she loves listening to music. Since graduating high school, she wants to attend as many concerts as possible. So far she has attended 50, including one where she went to see ACDC.
Before attending CSUN, she attended Los Angeles Valley Community College. There she took few classes per semester. She said those were her rebellious years, but the classes she did take prepared her for CSUN. Now, she is in her last year and plans to graduate in fall 2014.
Volunteering at 100 Citizens has opened her eyes.
“I have good grades in my classes,” she said, “but, I’m not as fast as I thought in modifying the exercise to be in the level of the participants. [The program] has motivated me to be more active and to practice my Spanish. It has been good to meet the elderly and to collaborate with my classmates in a comfortable setting.”
In March 2013, the White House recognized the program. Recently, a diabetes prevention program has been implemented to help reduce the number of people with diabetes in the City of San Fernando. Professor Loy is trying to improve and sustain the program.
Students at CSUN are applying to participates in the program at high numbers. Cedillo believes the program is a success and it will continue to grow.
“[The program] is necessary in the community. Luckily the participants and the students are receptive and they like the process,” she said. “I think people are increasingly conscious that they have the power to decrease the risk of metabolic and cardiac-respiratory diseases. They are talking the necessary steps to improve their lives.”
Cedillo’s mother received her degree from Mount St. Mary’s University. She was offered a scholarship to complete her master’s degree, but she turned it down because she wanted to start a family. Cedillo said she wants to follow her mother’s footsteps and study at Mount St. Mary’s because the university has a doctorate program for physical therapy. She wants to finish what her mother started.
“I think it would be fascinating to study at my mother’s alma mater,” she said.