OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- The mousetrap car is one of those cool classroom projects in physics. It's a science lesson in energy and movement, one Khephra Shaw-Meredith finds familiar in her own life.
During childhood, she and her mother were on their own. Khephra said they moved a number of times from San Francisco to Oakland to Antioch - living with her grandparents and later her auntie.
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"[My mother] did a really good job of making sure I didn't know how hard it was for her, but I could tell that it wasn't easy," she said.
Because they moved frequently, switching schools was pretty common.
"Every time I went to a new school, I was like, 'I'm probably not going to be here for long,'" said Khephra. "So I always had this idea, don't really try to make friends, don't really try to build relationships because you're really not going to be here for that long."
Khephra especially remembers the grueling morning-to-night commute when they lived in Antioch, but worked and attended school in San Francisco.
"I would barely get any sleep, sometimes I'd fall asleep in class and my teachers - not so much get mad at me, but like, 'You're really doing anything, you don't do your homework, you're asleep in class.' They wouldn't try to understand what was happening with the situation."
While Khephra learned how to adapt to different situations quickly, moving took its toll on her.
After at least 10 different schools, by her count, she finally planted roots during her sophomore year at Lighthouse Community Charter in Oakland.
Joshua Weintraub, the College Counselor at Lighthouse, says Khephra has taken on a leadership role at school. She has high hopes and goals for herself.
"Her vibrance and optimism and sense of hopefulness and aspirations are beyond what you see in almost any student," said Weintraub. "The fact that she's coming to school with a smile on her face everyday and asking what can I do to better myself and what can I do to better my community is an example for all of us."
Khephra's family life changed for the better, too - with a stepdad and four younger siblings. Now both parents are cheering her on to college. Dad especially, constantly reminds her with his words, "where you live there's nothing here that's going to help you, you need to go to college and get away in order to be really successful."
When Khephra filled out her first college application, she cried. The time has arrived and college is finally a reality.
"I have no idea what I'm going into, and I think that's what excites me also, there's so much to see and so much to learn, and I will."
Khephra told her parents that when the college letters arrive, she wants them to open it first. It's an experience she wants them to be part of because college is not just for her, but for the entire family.
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