For one Atlanta teen, the path to being chosen as high school valedictorian did not come easily.
Rebecca Schmitt and her mother Sandra were evicted from their 4,000-square-foot Port St. Lucie, Florida, home in October 2014.
Five years earlier, Sandra Schmitt was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. In 2012 she received a bone marrow transplant.
Sandra Schmitt, a single mother, told ABC News she went from being a top-earning realtor to being broke, forced to stop working because of her treatment.
“The money dwindled,” she added. “After the bone marrow transplant in 2012, my finances were basically almost depleted.”
The loss of their home affected 16-year-old Rebecca Schmitt greatly.
“I went from upper-middle class — amongst attorneys and surgeons, and hosting study sessions — to homelessness, seeking shelter wherever it might be. I also gained a fear for my education,” she told ABC News.
The two eventually moved to Atlanta where they now live in a hotel. There, Sandra Schmitt receives further treatments after her bone cancer metastasized throughout different parts of her body. Meanwhile, Rebecca Schmitt enrolled into Maynard Jackson High School.
Despite their circumstances, Rebecca Schmitt became her school’s valedictorian, earning a 4.2 GPA. She’s also the school’s tennis captain, and was named most valuable player this year.
Sandra Schmitt Rebecca Schmitt, a senior at Maynard Jackson High School in Atlanta, battled homelessness to become the school’s valedictorian.
The teen said she found strength in her mother.
“I was inspired by her positive attitude during our difficult times,” she explained.
“I learned to focus on the positive tools that we have instead of the challenges in life. I began to view the world through a different lens,” Rebecca Schmitt continued. “I realized that I had much to be thankful for, and that I had potential.”
Sandra Schmitt added that she’s “extremely proud of Rebecca for remaining true to her commitment to excellence.”
Although she’s still undecided about which college she’ll attend, Rebecca Schmitt said she’s ready for the experience.
“After graduation, I am looking forward to a new beginning,” she said.