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Student Overcomes Homelessness, Domestic Violence To Become Overachiever

by Sherry Hu and Christina Arce

(KPIX 5) -- Edylwise Romero would love to travel the world. Yet this summer, her feet were firmly planted in Oakland.

The students who are accepted into the Students Rising Above program are encouraged to make the most of their summers by spending it doing meaningful, productive work, whether that be volunteering, taking classes, or getting a jumpstart on their career through an internship.

For Edylwise, a college sophomore, her summer internship at the Port of Oakland was not only productive in her path towards a career in Human Resources, but it turns out, she also made quite an impression on her supervisor, Gishela Portugal.

Among the 200 applications for 16 positions at Port of Oakland, Portugal said Edylwise stood out for many reasons; most notably that, even at a young age, she already knew she had a passion for working in HR.

"When she first interviewed she really wowed us, you could see she was an overachiever", Portugal told us.

After hearing that, it was no surprise to learn that Edylwise had a second job on top of this internship and has made money as a babysitter and tutor throughout high school. Of course, there's a good reason behind this work ethic. Edylwise shared that her mother is a single mom who had to raise 4 kids.

"I feel like I'm a survivor and that was one of the things I had to do, be responsible."

This responsibility started at an early age for her. By her professional-looking demeanor, you'd never guess she survived childhood challenges that could be enough to make an adult lose hope.

These challenges included domestic violence and homelessness. She spoke of times when her mother wasn't present because of safety reasons. This left the task of caring for and feeding her brothers up to Edylwise.

"I just care about my brothers and my family a lot and I don't want to crumble, because if I crumble they'll crumble with me."

Edylwise has been continuing to set this example for her brothers as she made honor roll in high school, attended early college classes, and founded a student club to give back to the community through projects like backpack drives and food basket giveaways.

She shares, "I just know I want to graduate from college so I can have a career of my own interest and I'm in a position where I am able to help out my family more than I am now."

Her supervisor spoke to the particularly meaningful connection she has with Edylwise and her struggle. "For me, as a woman and part of a minority ... it makes me feel really good that we can help her and guide her through her decision making and what she wants to do for her future and help her get that practical experience and opening up her aspirations," Portugal said.

Edylwise sees that a lot of people believe in her. And in return, she's determined to make them proud.

"Setbacks have shown me, I can get back up, no matter what, and my setbacks in life have taught me that it's OK to be in a situation that's unfamiliar and isn't what you were hoping for."

And true to that, for Edylwise, the world is just opening up!

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