When Victoria Cuba looks into the view finder of a camera in her media class, she sees her future in filmmaking or in the news business.
"I could tell someone's story and somebody would watch it and be inspired by it," the Waipahu High School senior said.
Her personal story is real and raw. What the 17-year-old writes for the school newspaper pales in comparison.
"My mom told me the first time we were homeless that, 'You could be taken away.' I was afraid that people were going to tease me like what you see on TV. I just shunned everybody. I stayed away from everyone during the seventh grade," she said.
Victoria, her younger brother and their mother lived in a Matson container at a junk yard. Her mom worked them out of that situation, but she lost her job. For the past year they have been back on the street.
"I go home to three stabilized vehicles. We have our car that we use to drive -- a 4Runner. Then we have a white van. The engine is not in there. And then there's a truck one of the neighbors was kindly enough to lend to us. That's where we stay in. We stay in three vehicles," she said.
Victoria won't say where they live out of respect for other homeless families who live nearby. Her bedroom is a truck bed.
"It's actually pretty spacious for the back of a pickup truck. So I try to make due with my space. I have two containers with my clothes, my books," she said.
Victoria said the hardship keeps her focused. She gets her homework done quickly because she has to.
"Sometimes the light goes down at seven. And after seven I can't do anything," she said.
Victoria carries a B+ grade-point average. She plans to go to college. Everything about her says, 'I will do better. I will help my family.'
"I'm working in the cafeteria and sometimes the office. I work as a cashier," she said. "I wanted to do something to help ease that burden for my mom."
There are more than 2,000 students at her school. She isn't the only teenager there who is homeless. But she is one of the few who talk about it. She's not after sympathy. She wants people who look down on the homeless to see the situation through her eyes.
"People you may see, you don't know their story. You don't know why they ended up there in the first place. Don't put some kind of label on them just because they're in that situation," she said. "I always thought about if I was rich, would I be one of those people who are snotty, and they don't care about other people? I wouldn't think so because I've experienced what it's like to not have anything."
Victoria's story is her motivation.
Editor's Note: Anyone who saw Victoria's story on Hawaii News Now and is interested in providing her with some form of support is encouraged to call Keith Hayashi, the principal at Waipahu High School. He can be reached at (808) 528-9555. You can also call vice principal Alvan Fukuhara at 528-9574.
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