Rina is known among her friend group as “the jokester.” She loves to make people laugh and encourage them to just be in the moment. However, she hasn’t always been so generous with her humor or open to new friendships.

“When I first came to the children’s home, I wasn’t so great with people,” Rina recalls.

Her hesitation came from her home life, where she had to take on more responsibility than other children her age. After her mother left when she was just 11 years old, Rina spent the majority of her time caring for her younger brother, who was 7 years old at the time, often while their father was working.

“My dad was always working double shifts to pay the bills,” Rina said.

For a man who knew his daughter deserved more than what he could give her, Rina’s father was searching for answers to his family’s struggles. When a friend told him about the children’s home, it became clear that it was the best place for Rina to learn, grow and thrive, all while taking on the appropriate amount of responsibility for her age.

“When my dad and I found out what the children’s home would do for me, including paying for my college, we both cried,” Rina said.

Today, four years after coming to the children’s home, Rina has just started her sophomore year of high school. She has a long list of extra-curricular activities, including karate, track and field (where she throws discus, shot put and, starting this upcoming season, javelin) and being a member of her high school’s Mini-THON program, which raises money to aid families affected by pediatric cancer.

“The children’s home taught me to be myself,” Rina says. “If you just focus, you can reach any of your goals.”

When she isn’t being carted all around town by her house parents, Rina enjoys staying in with a favorite book – sometimes it’s historical fiction, other times it’s a fiction book with a little romance. She’s developed a love for reading, another thing she was sure she’d never experience.

“All the tutors here help me study and be interested in things,” Rina said. “Growing up in Philly, I never got that help, and my dad was always so busy trying to support us.”

Soon, Rina will meet with the children’s home’s educational coordinator to discuss options for post-graduation education. She thinks she has her mind set on becoming a registered nurse, but she’s also considering a career as a midwife, where she’d work with expecting mothers during labor and delivery.

“I really love babies and kids. They’re just so cute,” Rina says. “I think it might come from helping to raise my little brother.”

Rina would love to attend Penn State University, but she has a few other choices, too. “I never thought college would be a part of my life, so I’m excited,” Rina said.

At the children’s home, Rina has experienced many “firsts” – first true friendships, first time on a roller coaster, and, most importantly, the first time she’s felt like she has the world in her hands.

“My hope is that other kids get the same opportunities here as I did,” she said. “I appreciate all the people who give money to the children’s home. You saved my life. You made me who I am.”