(ABC 6 News) – Tonight we continue our series on the OAKS Program at RCTC. Oaks stands for Overcoming Adversity and Keeping Strong, it’s a scholarship fund that has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to RCTC students in recognition of their hard work.

We here at ABC six News have spent the last week sharing those student stories. Tonight, we hear from Tiana Aleman. Robin Wolfram had the pleasure of sitting down with this young lady.

OAKS Series: Tiana Aleman

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Childhood memories often hold a special place in someone’s heart. But for Tiana Ellman, that isn’t the case.

“I get nightmares sometimes. But then also, like, just like my depression, depressive episodes and stuff like that, just stress and anxiety,” said Tiana.

Tiana is the oldest of five kids and pretty early on she knew her childhood was different.

“I laugh because it’s, like, just so, like, kind of unreal, you know, but like he was a drug dealer. So like he had people in and out of the house or we go on like drug deals at like midnight.”

The only thing certain in her life was uncertainty.

“I just thought that’s how parents were until I saw other friends with their parents. I was like, oh, both parents are always around and they don’t disappear.”

Because of his trouble with the law, Tiana’s dad was deported back to Canada. He eventually lost his battle with fentanyl, leaving Tiana without a dad.

And Gina Boose, a single mom.

“I was 19 when I had her. I still remember coming home to our house being raided. That itself was just like. I don’t think anybody should or wants to go through that.”

After a number of moves, new schools, bad choices and mental health struggles, Tiana decided it was time to change.

She credits her friends sharing the same struggles she says has helped them get through the tough times together. One of whom was an OAKS scholarship winner last year.

“She, she saw us go into school because we both started last year,” said Jordan Goetz. “I think she just like, needed to be able to like, make that choice for herself and see like that, if, like, we can do it then, so can she.”

“Well, for a while there, I didn’t think I would make it, you know, like that’s why I had no plan,” said Tiana. “I was just like, oh, I’m just living every day and we’ll see what happens.”

Despite her past, or perhaps because of it, Tiana now knows what she wants.

“Because I just love kids. But I’ve always wanted to do foster care, you know, having childhood trauma, you just wanna like, take that kid and just make sure they’re like, kept safe and like, have the happiest memories because it really affects you as a person. You know?

This future foster mom is taking classes to become a midwife, but it’s not just about the financial help. For Tiana, the scholarship means so much more.

“It makes me feel more empowered and more motivated to go on and like try harder in school and just do better something,” said Tiana. Her mom and friends are witnessing it firsthand.

“She’s come a long way in the last like two years. Like a long way.”

OAKS scholarships help pay for tuition textbooks and class fees. Each award is based on a variety of criteria such as demographics, financial need, GPA and other things. Scholarship applications are accepted three times a year, you can apply here.