From 1 to 100: Girl Given 1% Chance to Live is Now Ready to Graduate 100%

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California Connections Academy @ Ripon Offers Education Without Limitations

Elk Grove resident Zoe Deibel, 18, is used to beating the odds. After all, she was given a one percent survival chance at birth. She has a rare condition called systemic lymphatic malformation. Much like cystic fibrosis, it causes the lungs to swell making it difficult to breathe over time, but Zoe’s condition is much rarer.  

Before she was born, her mother Christine found out about Zoe’s condition during a routine check-up at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. Despite her daughter being given only one percent chance to live, Christine felt Zoe moving and kicking and decided that if Zoe was alive and willing to fight then she was too. At 33 weeks, Zoe was delivered during an emergency cesarean section.

Since that day, Zoe has grown into an incredible 18-year-old woman ready to graduate high school with her diploma next year and pursue a culinary college education. To get where she is today, it took dedication, patience and flexibility.

A Balancing Act
As she grew up, Zoe tried to attend her local public school but often encountered limitations with her education. She frequently visited UC Davis Children’s Hospital, sometimes for short stays and other times for extended procedures. She would usually stay for the holidays too.

When it came time to attend high school, Zoe’s condition did not allow her to attend a brick-and-mortar school. Her mother feared she would miss out on a quality education and wouldn’t be able to enjoy all the aspects of attending a public school. That all changed when her mother stumbled upon online public school.

Finding the Right Fit
Zoe enrolled in California Connections Academy @ Ripon, a tuition-free, virtual public school serving K-12 students in the Sacramento county area. The school offers a fully-accredited, rigorous curriculum for students who need a learning environment that offers flexibility and independence.  

While enrolled in California Connections Academy during her junior year, Zoe underwent femur reconstruction surgery right before final exams. Her teachers were able to accommodate her surgery schedule by rearranging assignment deadlines and granting extensions if needed, so she was able to complete her tests and work on time and still focus on healing.

“There are different things that work for different people,” Christine Deibel said. “I’m confident that when families put Connections Academy against any school, they’re going to find this is a fit for them. This is a system that gives you the freedom to excel, and that’s hard to do.”

Between schoolwork and medical appointments, Zoe loves to cook, sing and practice playing her ukulele in her spare time. She is also working on videos for her YouTube channel so other young kids fighting illnesses can feel encouraged to achieve their dreams.

Ready to Soar
As she prepares for graduation, Zoe’s not sure what the future holds for her. “I’m excited to graduate, but also nervous,” she said. “It’s a new chapter and I finally started getting used to this one, but I’m ready.”

Zoe currently plans to attend a culinary program at the local community college or at a culinary institute. She’s inspired by foods from all around the world, often exploring Asian fusion cuisine. Her favorite and hardest dish to cook is Italian risotto. When it came time to choose her wish for Make-A-Wish, she decided to go to Italy to learn traditional ways to cook Italian cuisine with her mother, godmother and grandmother.

“I’m so thankful for all the ways Connections Academy and my teachers have enabled me to continue my education without limitations,” Zoe said.

California Connections Academy @ Ripon | 580 N Wilma Ave G, Ripon, CA | (209) 253-1208


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