By Tony Aguilar, Coachella Unincorporated
MECCA, Calif. — This summer was unlike any other for 17-year-old Alejandro Ortega.
For the first time in six years, Ortega’s summer job was in the air-conditioned indoors and not in the fields of the Eastern Coachella Valley in triple-digit heat. This summer, with the help of the Mecca Boys and Girls Club, Ortega is working at the local Starbucks.
“I’ll never go back (to the fields),” Ortega said, after finding out he got the job earlier this summer.
This opportunity means more to Ortega than to most teens. He helps support a household of eight. Although he hated spending his summers picking fruits and vegetables, it was necessary in order to supplement the family’s income. His diabetic mother is unable to work and stays home to care for his two younger special-needs siblings. Ortega’s father is also unable to work due to a shoulder injury. The burden of providing for the family falls on Alejandro and his sibling.
Like many local farm workers, Ortega followed the crops up to Bakersfield every summer after the local harvests were over.
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