February 19, 2018 11:40 PM
(ABC 6 News) - A Rochester student embodies what it means to have grit and determination. That's why Gina Dos's teacher at the Alternative Learning Center nominated her for the "Beat the Odds" scholarship.
It’s an obvious friendship between teacher and student at the Alternative Learning Center in Rochester.
"Richinna – Gina she goes by with us - was a night school student and she was in the math class that I was in,” said Julie Still.
Julie said right off the bat, she still knew there was something special about Gina. “She just has this sparkle about her that lights up a room, and a smile that just goes on and on.”
A smile that has returned after the worst of heartbreaks. Gina has faced more struggles than most. Her whole family has.
“My mom had 8 kids,” said Gina’s mother, Noeum Dos. “[And of that] there’s only three left. They were only born like one year, two years. They died because there was not medicine, not enough food.”
Gina’s parents were born in Cambodia. Both suffered during the infamous Khmer Rouge regime, losing countless family either to genocide or famine.
“I have heard a lot of stories about how they were starving,” said Gina. “They had to deal with a lot of bombing and mines. My dad tells me stories about how he has lost family members who he has never met, or he hasn't seen again, he just knew about them. He lost his father.”
America brought a new start, and her family's history brought Gina a sense of determination.
“I was always on the honor roll,” she said. “I had really good grades. I was surrounded by good teachers, good students.”
The youngest of six children, Gina was on track to graduate High School at 17. Then, things took a turn. “I started falling down the hill because I was dealing with family stuff,” she said.
Gina spent High School bouncing around. From Rochester to Waconia to multiple other stops in Texas, and her grades took a hit.
Soon after, her heart took a hit. In August 2017, her brother John passed away. He was 32.
“How he passed away was really personal,” said Gina.
She holds tight to his memory. “Growing up he was always the person who knew how to make me laugh and smile. He was always speaking wise words. He was just so kind and so smart and so loving that he was honestly my best friend.”
It’s for John, Gina searched for a way back. “I started at ALC. I was just more motivated. We expected more for our family. We are trying to raise the bar.”
Surrounded by teachers, like Julie, supporting and pushing her, Gina’s grades are up.
She is on track to graduate this year. Scholarship in hand, Gina will start classes at Rochester Community and Technical College in the fall.
Further down the road, “I want to get into the medical field,” she said.
A first generation immigrant going as far as she can for herself and her family.
Created: February 19, 2018 11:40 PM
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