SAN ANTONIO – Here are five things to know about Maya Hammer of Stevens High School:
1. Hammer has faced obstacles that most students will probably never experience.
"We were left to start over -- without any money, without a house -- three separate times. And it was this weird, cyclical occurrence that kept us out of a home for a very long time," she said.
Despite the circumstances, Hammer didn't let it stop her from success.
"I don't think I've been through anything more difficult than those few years, but when things do come up, I have to remember it's all temporary; things will be better," Hammer said.
2. Until this year, some of Hammer's closest friends and teachers didn't know about the hardships she and her family were going through.
"She came in every day with a smile on her face, ready to go, did the assignments, excelled at whatever she did, and when I heard about that for the very first time, I wanted to cry and I did," said Maria Cisneros, Gifted and Talented program specialist at Stevens High School.
3. Hammer finishes her high school experience as the salutatorian in her class. Her teachers say she always gives 110 percent and achieves anything she puts her mind to. She's considered an inspiration to her fellow classmates.
"They want to model and be like her and excel like her. 'I am going to take it to the next level.' She brings out the best in not only me and the people around her, but she also brings out the best in the students, as well," Cisneros said.
4. Hammer not only excels in the classroom, she has leadership positions in extracurricular programs like the dance team, National Honor Society and the theater program.
"She is my top officer, so I do lean on her," said dance team director Katherine Causey. "She has more responsibility, she leads it, she is my right-hand man for everything, really."
Hammer said she dived into extracurricular programs while her family was going through its struggles. She looked at school as a second home and her classmates and friends as family.
5. California Dreaming
Since eighth grade, Hammer has dreamed of going to college in California, and those dreams are coming true.
Thanks to tireless efforts in applying for scholarship applications and hard work, Hammer plans to attend Pepperdine University in the fall. She plans to study sports medicine in the predental program.
Hammer said she wants to eventually attend dental and orthodontic school after graduating from college.