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SRA scholar juggles Cal studies with family duties

SRA scholar juggles university studies with family duties
SRA scholar juggles university studies with family duties 03:47

SAN FRANCISCO -- Samir Hooker doesn't take days off. He is constantly fighting a battle with his body and his mind. That battle began when Samir was just nine years old. In 2012, his stepfather was shot and killed in the Western Addition neighborhood in San Francisco.

"It was rough," Hooker recalled. "Prior to that (shooting), my family -- we didn't have it all but we were financially secure with my father providing anything that my mother couldn't. But once he was shot and killed that's when things got financially pretty hard on my mother as well as all of us.  We had to change neighborhoods and kind of live a life with no fatherly figure to protect the house. So that's kind of who I became."

A young boy forced to become a man, Samir grew up in a neighborhood plagued with drug use and violence. His mom was committed to keeping him out of trouble but his mom was fighting her own battle with her health. She struggled with various autoimmune diseases. One night in 2020 she reached a breaking point. Samir was only 16 years old when he had to carry her to the emergency room.

It was during the height of COVID and Hooker wasn't allowed to see his mom in the hospital. He was left alone for weeks and had to take care of himself and his sister. He is forever grateful to his high school, Sacred Heart Cathedral, for stepping in to help them.

"They donated some money to my family and they were able to help provide some of the things that we couldn't get in the time being with my sister," Hooker said.

His mom eventually made it back home but college and planning his future was never on his radar. He grew up watching many of his friends and family die in his neighborhood.

"It's just a paradigm for young men where I'm from that, unfortunately, they didn't get to see college or higher education. Much less any age above 18."

Then, Students Rising Above stepped in to help him navigate the college application process. Hooker had his choice of top schools but knew he needed to stay close to home so he chose UC Berkeley.

"I see my mother almost die throughout the COVID period. I see my sister with a whole bunch of uncertainty and kind of anxiety and that made me stay home."

Samir is a political economics major and one day wants to own his own startup. But his big dreams also bring him back home where he hopes to inspire the next generation by teaching the young people in his neighborhood that it is possible to achieve your dreams, even in the most difficult circumstances. 

You can support Students Rising Above by donating to their fundraising initiative Support Dreams to Degrees. Every donation you make before June 30 will be matched dollar for dollar up to $150,000.

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