A San Jose High School is rallying behind one of their students, an 18-year-old who despite spending most of his life homeless got accepted into his dream college.
Valentino Khaksarian spent his life in and out of the foster system and on the streets. With his school's support, he's making his dream a reality. Not many people thought he would.
At Leadership Public School in San Jose Thursday night, a group is finalizing graduation plans. For one student, getting to this point hasn't been easy.
“There were times when I was by myself,” said Khaksarian. “It just felt so much easier to give up.”
At a young age, Khaksarian was put in foster care because of an abusive father and a mother addicted to drugs. In his teens, he was reunited with his mother only to become homeless.
Khaksarian said he often slept in a tent behind San Jose City Hall.
His brother became involved in gangs. Two years ago, Khaksarian decided he needed a change and found a home living with friends.
“A lot of people had doubts just because they thought I was going to end up like my mom and brother,” said Khaksrian. “They guessed it just runs in the genes. I didn't want to be like that.”
His teachers encouraged him to apply to Ithaca College in New York. He didn't think he had a chance until he got an acceptance letter.
“I started jumping, 'oh my god it's amazing,'” said Khaksarian.
It was a proud moment for him and his teachers.
“It’s his ticket, it's his proof,” said Principal Jessica Diaz. “It's his justification. It means everything he went through is worth it.”
Khaksarian is now facing a new hurdle. Even with student loans, scholarships and grants, he estimates he will still need tens of thousands of dollars to attend college with no parent loans to help fill the gap.
His school family is stepping up to raise money. It’s uplifting for Khaksarian who is determined to prove life's circumstances won't define him and his achievements.
“It’s just really important for people to know that you can't give up on something just because someone says you can't do it,” said Khaksarian “You have to keep trying.”