TAMPA (FOX 13) - Kelviyana Walker is about to graduate third in her class at Armwood High School and head to the college of her dreams. "Go Gators!" she said with a beam, laughing a little.
She's worked hard, taking classes nearly non-stop. Summer classes, night classes, during the school year, and all while playing volleyball.
Through Armwood's collegiate program, Kelviyana took classes on the side at Hillsborough Community College. She has enough credits to earn her AA. In fact, she'll have her AA before she graduates from high school.
"I am now going into school as a junior, so that's pretty high up there, if you could say that," she explained to FOX 13's anchor Laura Moody.
She's quick to give credit to her mother, her motivation, and what she calls her test.
"The biggest challenge for me," Kelviyana explained, "I was coming into high school. I was playing volleyball, and I was joining clubs, and in the midst of that, she was diagnosed with malignant breast cancer and that is when it got hard. I was her caretaker."
As she moved through her sophomore and junior years, things got harder.
"A lot of people go through a lot of things," she said. "I feel like me overcoming being able to keep going to school, keep getting my As for her, keep her stress level as low as possible, I felt like that was my test to just keep my motivation up."
She's learning about perseverance, her mom is now in remission, and Kelviyana knows all about adversity from the painful life lessons her mom learned early on. A recovering addict, she went on to run a halfway house that helps women like her. Kelviyana grew up around former addicts, women just out of jail, down on their luck, and struggling to get their children back. Women she now calls family.
"I like to call my mom's job my second home," she said as she smiled, "I would go there and the relationship that I had with the women was more like a mentorship. I helped them and they helped me."
She sees the lives changed by that work, but admiration doesn't even begin to describe what she feels for her mom.
"She's my rock, so I couldn't do it without her," she said, turning a little more serious. "She pushes me everyday. She wakes me up. She's my alarm."
Now, it's time for her to find her own way. Soon it will be time to let go and grow up, and she's ready, with the spirit of her mother always close to her heart.
"My mom is making a mark," she said. "I want to make my own mark now. So, I'm just excited."
Kelviyana heads to the University of Florida in the fall. She recently received a scholarship from the Moffitt Cancer Center. She plans to become an oncologist, maybe a cancer researcher, so that she can help other women just like her mom. Armwood's collegiate program is one of three in the district.