'No such thing as impossible': 3 teenagers who live alone at Haven for Hope shelter graduate from high school

Instead of dropping out, they pushed forward, are headed to college

SAN ANTONIO - – Three teens in three exceptionally tough situations have risen above.

The students separately ended up at Haven for Hope alone this past year, without family members to accompany them.

“Just had difficult times with family and just want to have my permanent place instead of being house to house,” said 18-year-old Jeremy De Anda.

In February, De Anda left his family behind and moved to Haven for Hope on his own.

“It was hard at first, but you tend to get used to it and somehow you got to find a way to make it easy,” De Anda said.

That was the same mindset for Annabelle Rodriguez and Loriliza Soliz, who also each came to Haven for Hope alone.

“It was kind of scary. Yeah, but then I got used to it,” said 19-year-old Soliz.

“I usually wake up in the middle of the night, not able to sleep, but it got better,” said 19-year-old Rodriguez.

Despite the fear, they all pushed forward, utilized the shelter’s resources, and made it to high school classes every single day.

“I would wake up at five in the morning to get ready. The bus and left to go at 6:30 in and I’d get to school by 7:45,” Rodriguez said.

They said it was comforting having each other to lean on, knowing they weren’t the only teenagers in their situation.

“That made me kind of think, ‘Okay, so if they could do it, I could do it too.’ I’m proud of everybody doing it. I know it’s hard,” De Anda said.

In May, De Anda graduated from John F. Kennedy High School. Soliz graduated from Sydney Lanier High School, and Rodriguez graduated from Oliver Wendell Holmes High School.

When they finally crossed those stages, their Haven for Hope support system lifted them up.

“They were just congratulating me. My friend, she got me this bracelet,” Rodriguez said, holding up her wrist. “It has a cross on it. They gave me some cards too.”

The staff didn’t let them miss milestones, including De Anda’s dream of going to prom.

“So I could still, you know, blend in life. I wouldn’t say normal life, you know, but still blending. No matter how much I was going through, I still want to go. It was so fun,” he said, beaming.

After graduation, staff members got each teen a gift of their choice.

The girls wanted manicures.

“I’ve always wanted to get my nails done, but never in my family. We could never afford anything,” Rodriguez said.

All De Anda wanted was a pair of Vans shoes.

“You know, I’m not picky, but they’re like, one of the best gifts I got,” he said, showing them off to the camera.

All three will each receive a class ring from their high schools, courtesy of Haven staff.

The graduates want other teens in crisis to know their hardship can be temporary.

“There’s no such thing as impossible. You’ve got to put your mind to it,” De Anda said. “You just got to maintain it, manifest it.”

They’ll all miss the comfort high school brought them, but they’re ready for college.

“I want to be in medical,” Soliz said, who is going to San Antonio College.

“I want to help people with traumas because I’ve been through that myself,” Rodriguez said, who is also going to SAC.

“I want to help others, so I want to study social working,” De Anda said, who will soon be at Palo Alto College.

Those are all fields of work that benefit others, creating a true circle of giving.

Shelter staff members are helping each teen individually with their needs as they transition to college. De Anda is getting help with housing and the girls are getting help setting up college classes and resources.

Haven for Hope is in the process of creating a young adult dorm on campus for situations just like this.

They will have a separate sleeping area for young adults 18-24 years old, as well as common areas for them to do homework, hang out, and access the resources they need.

The goal is to have it set up by the end of the summer.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.