Deona Micheli is Rising in the Midst of Adversities

Fresno City College student Deona Micheli’s aspirations are encapsulated by their unorthodox nature.

Most people dream of the day they can leave Fresno, but not Micheli, 22. For her, it was Fresno’s unique geographical location, with access to the Sierra Nevada mountains, deserts, oceans, and lakes that drove her to leave her hometown of Antioch, CA so that she could attend Fresno State.

Instilled with a deeply rooted passion for nature, Micheli is working on developing a location based app inspired by Pokemon Go that would incentivize people to visit and discover their national parks.

“If you are on your phone, I would just be hoping that you would be doing something productive out of it,” Micheli said. ”That’s what the goal of the app is. To learn, and explore, and broaden your horizons.”

This is Micheli’s first year at Fresno City College and she plans on transferring to Fresno State to receive her bachelor’s degree in recreation administration with an emphasis in adventure recreation and tourism. She currently works at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Micheli cites naturalist John Muir “Father of the National Parks” as one of her idols. He advocated the preservation of Yosemite, drew up the proposed boundaries in 1889, and co-founded the Sierra Club in 1892 to protect it.

“I want something like that for myself, and with the new technology that everyone is focusing on, I want to try and make it through there,” said Micheli.

She expounds the benefits of being around nature.

“When you’re in nature, especially in a bigger park around mountains or around a big open ocean or a huge lake, you realize that you are so small but you have such a big impact,” Micheli said. “There are things that are so much greater than you and everyone out there and it just brings that to reality.”

She attributes nature’s psychological benefits and stress free environment to helping alleviate depression, and anxiety — two things she has struggled with throughout her life.

Micheli said her grandpa played a huge role in raising her. He suffered from multiple illnesses, one of which was multiple sclerosis. The disease affects the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, often resulting in balance, muscle control and vision problems.

“He raised me within his wheelchair, and it wasn’t weird to me because that’s just how I always knew him,” she said.

She recalls not knowing how to spell “water” in elementary school, and instead of spelling the word for her, her grandfather sent her on a hunt for objects that could contain the word.

“He helped me learn and not in the conventional way of looking things up,” she said. “He taught me to use my environment.”

Four years ago, her grandfather fell extremely ill and Micheli helped take care of him along with her grandmother, but he eventually passed away.

She struggled with dealing with the grief, but knew she had to better herself.

“I took very little time off of work for mourning and never quit school,” Micheli said.“I knew that I would go crazy if I just stayed in that bad place.”

Micheli said it was her grandfather who kept her going.

“I had to keep him proud of me, because when he was alive he was very proud of me,” Micheli said. “I don’t want to fail him.”

She says the hardest lesson life has taught her is that you have to fight for what you want.

It’s not an easy road, and if it is then you’re probably not doing it right,” Micheli said. “There’s a lot of discomfort in doing new things, it’s like working out.”

“If you’re not feeling a little bit of a struggle, then it’s not life quite yet for you,” she said.

She wants people going through the same thing to know that they are not alone.

“That’s what I thought, that I was alone, I was the only one who’s ever felt this kind of pain before,” she said. “It seems impossible to go through, but you can, you will get through it and there’s a reason for everything.”

She said the biggest lesson her grandfather taught her was to take accountability for her life.

“If you want something you just have to get it yourself, you can’t rely on anybody else to get you anything or get you anywhere,” she says. “At the end of the day, you always have yourself, and you have to realize that and you can’t blame anybody else for the life that you have.”

Five years from now, Micheli hopes to have her own family, and to be working towards running her own park.

“I want to work for some sort of park system, whether it be national parks, state parks, local parks or regional parks,” she said. “I want them to buy land, and with that I want to develop the land into a recreational multi use park and run it.”

Micheli says when she looks in the mirror she sees her past, but also her future, and all the obstacles she has overcome, moving to Fresno being one of them.

“I felt like I could never leave my home,” she said,” I could never leave my family, or my friends, and I could never start over. I’ve moved two and a half hours, over 200 miles away from my hometown to a town that I know nothing about except the college that I want to go to,” she said.

“I still use Google Maps to get around, and it’s a hard task, but I’m really happy I conquered it.”