by Sherry Hu and Christina Arce
OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- Tragedy and heartache have frequently been a part of an Oakland student's upbringing, but it hasn't stopped him from becoming a scholar on his way to a college degree.
When it comes to school, Gerry Gonzalez is focused. "I was always good in school. I was making good grades," he said.
But life outside campus though is quite different. "It's kind of like a double life."
READ MORE: Students Rising Above
Gang violence was the reality in the Oakland neighborhood where Gerry grew up. He witnessed his first shooting when he was nine years old.
"Experiencing that event, it made me immune to future events that would be similar to that," he shared.
A close friend would also be murdered years later. Gerry's mother did her best; working long, hard days to raise four sons.
"She never gave up," he said. "She's always taught us to be strong and leading us to the right path, teaching us right from wrong …"
While Gerry admitted he may not have always listened when he was younger, attending middle school at Coliseum College Prep Academy (CCPA) became the game changer.
"They expose a lot to us, like college, college, college, college, and college," he laughed.
CCPA Director of Student Support Robert Campbell has known Gerry's family for years and wrote his letter of recommendation for the Students Rising Above program.
"Gerry's obviously made choices in his life that have already saved his life in a lot of ways," said Campbell. "College is another one of those choices moving him forward."
However, Gerry's studies hit a roadblock earlier this year. After losing his father at the end of 2016, Gerry was devastated when his older brother died in January.
"I was used to losing people," he said. "But when I found out it was my brother, it was different."
Gerry recalls one memory with his late brother. "He was telling me there's no future being in the streets, that's what he told me. And he was sad in a way because he wanted to go to school."
He's still healing, but more than ever now, Gerry's determined to get his college degree.
"Whatever has happened, negative things that have happened, will have just prepared me for what's next in life."
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