Thousands of city high school seniors are preparing for college in 2015, but few have overcome as many obstacles as homeless, wheelchair-bound teen Johileny Meran Alamonte.
Johileny, 17, of Brooklyn, is an honor student at Juan Morel Campos Secondary School despite having lived in a homeless shelter the last four years.
The inspiring teen, who has cerebral palsy and cannot walk on her own, hopes to start in a pre-medical college program after she graduates in June.
Her academic ambitions and achievements are even more impressive considering that her mother passed away in 2010. Since then, she’s essentially raised herself.
But for Johileny, the promise of medical school and fighting cancer, the disease that took her mother’s life, are all she needs to greet each day in the shelter with a smile.
“From a very early age in life, I was assumed to be less than others,” said the girl, whose good manners and confidence communicate a maturity beyond her years. “Going to college is a way to prove those people wrong.”
Johileny came to New York from the Dominican Republic with her mother in 2008 for an operation to lengthen the tendons in her legs, which had withered with palsy.
But her surgeon damaged a nerve, leaving her with a searing pain in her foot that never goes away. She had to stay in the city to receive more care for the botched surgery.
Her mother cleaned houses for a living but never made quite enough to get by. The pair were in and out of shelters before her mom died in 2010.
As the only English-speaker in the family, Johileny had to tell her mom that she faced a death sentence from the disease.