Defying the odds
To say Nevaeh Landeros is beyond her years is an apt description. Homelessness at an early age, and facing adversity few can understand, the spunky 17-year-old defied the odds and is aiming for a career helping families.
Now in a stable home and clutching her high school diploma, Landeros is a poster child for the adage "the little engine that could."
Landeros was born and raised in Berryville, Arkansas. After the 2009 death of her father, Robert Lowri, Landeros' mother moved the family to Gresham in 2014. Shortly after she started middle school at Reynolds Middle School, trouble befell her family.
"The first day I came home from middle school, I saw my sister standing outside of our home with all our stuff," Landeros recalled. Her family had been asked to leave their home when the landlords needed the space for their own family.
With nowhere to go, Landeros, her mom, two older sisters, and younger brother spent 18 months living in a van.
Dealing with a difficult home life where she didn't have much to call her own, Landeros struggled socially and academically.
"Middle school was super hard for me, I didn't understand much," she said. "No one really wanted to help me and considering what was going on at home, I just wasn't interested."
A turning point arrived when she was accepted to Open School East, a nonprofit school dedicated to helping students who struggle in the traditional school environment.
While Open School was more welcoming, the middle-schooler still struggled to find her place. She skipped school, showed little interest in classes, and began hanging out with the wrong crowd.
Her poor behavior resulted in Open School asking her to leave.
But after spending eighth grade at Clear Creek Middle School, Landeros returned to Open School with a new outlook and determination.
ON A MISSION
"During the summer of eighth grade, I decided I would take on summer school," Landeros said. "At that point, I had it set in my head that I was going to graduate early and make something with my life."
In the afternoons, Landeros rode a bus to Mt. Hood Community College where she enrolled in undergraduate level classes. She stockpiled extra credit assignments and attended summer school each year.
The intense workload didn't faze Landeros. She even discovered a new appreciation for learning. With the help of devoted teachers and counselors Landeros thrived.
That attitude wasn't a surprise for Matt Ross, former principal at Open School, who witnessed the unbridled enthusiam Landeros had for academics.
"I could tell she was smart and a really driven person," Ross said. "She just didn't have the opportunity to tap into these qualities."
Landeros turned her focus to career aspirations and a college major.
"I always thought I wanted to be a neurosurgeon," Landeros said. "But I started asking, 'what would be something I would want to do every day.'"
Landeros was reminded of her sister, who had difficulties delivering her child. She remembered the pain those complications caused and wanted to make sure that wouldn't happen to anyone else. So Landeros has decided she would devote her focus to becoming an obstetrician-gynecologist.
"I started researching being an OB/GYN and I just got so interested in it," she said.
With her mom Lori McBride being a caregiver at a nursing home, Landeros said she's witnessed the impact she could have on her community in the medical field.
"She is committed to make the world a better place," former Open School principal Ross said.
When Landeros graduated on June 22, at age 16, she didn't regret finishing high school early. She believes it was the best decision for her.
Going through homelessness and then focusing on graduating early, Landeros said her classmates didn't share her priories.
Living in a home in Gresham, and the struggles of homelessness long behind her, Landeros' mind was set on one thing: college.
With a solid grade-point average of 3.8, a strong work ethic and support network, Landeros was accepted at every college to which she applied. Eventually, she settled on Linfield University in McMinnville.
This summer, Landeros has shifted her focus to paying for her freshman year. Although Linfield provided a financial-aid package, the remaining sum was substantial.
Not wanting to leave her mom with the bill, Landeros rolled up her sleeves and went to work. She has two jobs — leaving her day job at one fast food resturuant just in time to start her evening shift at another.
Landeros said she won't try to speed through college. She wants to take in the entire experience, and maybe, even join a sorority.
Though college life interests her, Landeros said she is most excited to get into a classroom again.
"I am really looking forward to the psychology courses, the smaller class sizes and just the experience of going and getting an education," Landeros said.
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