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Immigrant Goes From Troubled Home Life To Unlikely College Student

SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) -- Zipping around on a golf cart on a beautiful campus tucked away in wine country, Carlos Luna Contreras was quite literally at home. Carlos was leading KPIX 5 on a tour of Hanna Boys Center in Santa Rosa. He grew up here. When he came to Hanna, Carlos was an 8th grader with a troubled home life. His father worked 7 days a week and his relationship with his mother was rocky. The young man came to Hanna not knowing what to expect.

"It is like a world within another world," recalled Carlos.

LEARN MORE: Students Rising Above

It was a new world, one where Carlos could do things he had never done before, like take his first trip to Alcatraz. And he made friends with the staff, like his dorm supervisor Trisha Goodwin.

"He was very quiet, very shy," recalled Goodwin. "But for whatever reason pretty quickly on sort of saddled up to me and just seemed to get me. Our personalities matched."

Goodwin became like a second mom to Carlos, helping him get one of his first jobs, managing the basketball team.

"He didn't know what a rebound was," Goodwin recalled with a laugh. "He didn't know anything. But he stuck with it."

And Carlos blossomed, taking on more responsibilities. His junior year, Carlos got nominated to be a Students Rising Above Scholar. For the first generation college student, becoming an SRA scholar was a big deal.

"Both of my parents are undocumented and I was also born in Mexico," explained Carlos. "So I always knew I would probably not have the opportunity to go to college or if I did, it would be really hard."

The process was hard but Carlos stuck with it, along the way becoming a DACA recipient and later a new college bound freshman at Cal State Los Angeles, where he studies Television Production. Carlos is quick to praise those who helped him along the way.

"I don't think I would be where I am," said Carlos. "Without Hanna or SRA."

In his spare time Carlos runs the occasional half marathon. And during his summer breaks, he still comes back to Hanna, where he now works in bookkeeping and calls his former dorm supervisor, Trisha Goodwin his co-worker. For Goodwin seeing Carlos succeed is truly a blessing.

"It's humbling," Goodwin said. "It always makes me emotional especially with {Carlos}. It's a blessing."

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