Samantha Rodriguez was just 17 years old when she decided to take care of her siblings because she feared the state's foster-care system might separate them.
Blossoming under the nurturing and protective wings of parents is a gift for children. While some of them grow up with their parents' love, pampering, and support at every step of their lives, some aren't so lucky.
Life teaches us lessons and helps us grow along the way as we experience new circumstances. Some tough decisions have to be taken and sometimes, we even surprise ourselves with the strength that we exude. Samantha Rodriguez is the perfect example of this.
She was only 17 years old when her perfect life turned upside down and she was left with nothing but her five siblings as she lost both her parents to cancer. Even while grieving the loss of her parents, her young mind was aware that if she didn't do something immediately, she would be separated from her little siblings by the state's foster-care system.
Nothing and no one could stop her from fulfilling the promise that her father had made to her dying mother, that he'll always keep them all together. With all her determination and strength, the young girl at 17 decided to sacrifice her life for the sake of keeping the family together and happy.
Now 21, Samantha has spent the last few years of her life looking after all the needs of her brother and four sisters. Never did the kids not attend school or starve; she provided them with everything. While talking to Sunny Hostin and Whoopi Goldberg on The View, she revealed how her reality changed at 17.
"My reality [was] I'm 17 but these are my brothers and sisters, and when I looked at them, I knew that they're children," she said. Explaining how she realized that there was no adult in the family to take care of them she added, "They're vulnerable and they need an adult, so I became their adult."
The Rodriguez siblings' mother, Lisa Smith, passed away in 2013 from cervical cancer, reported ABC News. Just a few years later their father, Alexander Rodriguez, who had promised to keep them all together, happy and healthy, fell ill. What they thought was the flu tuned out to be lymphoma and they lost him too.
"I knew what I had to do," Samantha confessed in an interview with CNN and continued, "I learned so much from my mom. I was like her sidekick. I learned what it meant to raise a family." She had set up her mind to raise her five siblings by herself.
After moving to their grandmother's in Orange County, Florida, Samantha dropped out of school and took a full-time job instead. But she soon realized that education wasn't something she could let go of if she wanted to be the role model for the kids.
"I can't tell them to be successful in school if I wasn't. So that's when I decided to go back," she explained and revealed how she went back to school while working part-time as a waitress. "When I [graduated] the kids were very proud of me and they came to my graduation and it was amazing," she added.
Her college and a part-time job is not an excuse for her to not take care of her siblings. She still takes care of providing them meals, taking them to school, sports practices, doctor's appointments, and helping them with homework because that's what she learned from her mother. "I get a lot of that strength from my mother," she said and added, "I admired her so much. When we lost her, I knew that I wanted to be just like her in every way. That's what I wanted to do for the kids."
She revealed that her parents' wisdom has helped her be the role model for her siblings. She said, "They showed us not to take anything for granted. That's something I try to teach the kids. At the end of the day, the material things don't matter. What's given can be taken away so fast. The only thing that really matters is family and love and support." She added, "This is what makes me, me. It makes me so happy to be with them and to be there for them. It's very enjoyable for me."
In 2018, the Orange County Sheriff's Office made the Rodriguez siblings' Christmas really special and just months later in April, anonymous donors pooled together and bought Samantha a car which left her overwhelmed, reported People. A GoFundMe page has also been set up for the family which has raised $180,522 till now. “I am so blown away by the help we’ve received,” she said and continued, “It’s a reminder that everything will be okay.”
The Rodriguez kids lost both parents to cancer in recent years. Samantha, 20, has taken on the role of caregiver to her five younger siblings. The kids thought they were visiting the OCSO Aviation Unit for a tour. Instead, they received a Christmas none of us will ever forget! pic.twitter.com/1Bs4w6PQob— Orange County Sheriff's Office (@OrangeCoSheriff) December 24, 2018
To Destiny (7), Bella (9), Michael (12), Brenda (15), and Milagros (16), Samantha is more than just their sister. She's their mother, father, a teacher and above all, a strong role model. Expressing her gratitude, she said, “Every night we sit down together and say grace. We’ve come a long way, and we have a lot to be thankful for.”