MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Before officially clocking out as Miami-Dade’s Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho is recognizing some incredible students.
Five were honored Thursday, one with a very special surprise that will hopefully help drive her toward future success.
Jassmin Barrientos is a senior at Miami Lakes Educational Center, excelling in school while working five nights to survive on her own.
“I don’t live at home anymore. I’m on my own,” she explained. “I had to get away because of different circumstances. It was not the place for me. Mentally, I was not ok.”
Jassmin, a native of Guatemala, was one of five Miami-Dade students honored among 73 nominees for their incredible work ethic and perseverance despite the odds stacked against them.
“They are far smarter than I’ve ever been. If i made it, they will make it,” Alberto Carvalho said of the finalists.
Ashley Adirika of Miami Beach High School, Jayquan Mcallister of South Miami Senior High School, Andres Velasquez from the School for Advanced Studies and Lauren Davis from American Senior High School each received a certificate and $1,000.
“I do this because these are deserving students. But I also do it because they are a reflection of my own life story. Immigrant, poor, unaccompanied, some dealing with homelessness or abuse,” Carvalho said.
For Carvalho, it feels as though he’s walked in Jassmin’s shoes, shoes that walk home late at night after a day of school and work. She’s tired and often in fear for her safety. But now that commute, is a bit easier.
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“You get a vehicle,” Carvalho told her on Thursday. “Pull that car around!”
A brand new, 2022 red Toyota Corolla from Toyota of North Miami.
A longtime goal is now a reality for a young lady who has worked so hard in the face of so many challenges.
“When I did have enough money, I couldn’t get it because I’m just 18 and I didn’t have the credit,” Jassmin said. “I wasn’t qualified enough. I’ve been working so hard. I Uber every day to work and everywhere I go. It’s really difficult.”
While she’s still undecided about her major and future career plans, she knows exactly who she wants to set an example for.
“I want to go to college and graduate for my sisters. Because I want them to see they can do it,” Jassmin said.
Jassmin’s new car has a three-year lease, which Carvalho offered to co-sign for.
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If she doesn’t want to keep the car, she can get $6,000 instead.