Responsibilities are a big part of life. Sometimes, we choose to take them up. But there are also those we take up because the situation demands it of us. And in some extreme cases, these responsibilities come at an unexpectedly early age, and all that can be done is to accept it and try the best to do a good job.
Samantha Rodriguez from Orlando, Florida was only 17 years old when she and her five younger siblings lost both their parents to cancer. According to ABC News, their mom, Lisa Smith, died from cervical cancer in 2013. Their father Alexander Rodriguez took care of the family from then on. Sadly, he, too, fell ill and died of lymphoma three years later.
Meet Samantha Rodriguez, the Florida 21-year-old who stepped up to raise her five siblings after both their parents died. https://t.co/4ndMjVMS8j
— Inside Edition (@InsideEdition) March 2, 2020
Though devastated, Samantha was very aware that she was the eldest to her brothers and sisters.
“My reality [was] I’m 17 but these are my brothers and sisters, and when I looked at them, I knew that they’re children,” Samantha told The View. “They’re vulnerable and they need an adult, so I became their adult.”
She was very aware that her siblings could be sent to the state’s foster-care system. But she was determined not to break her dad’s promise to her mother. So, she decided that she would try and do everything possible to keep the family together.
21-year-old Samantha Rodriguez opened up to the co-hosts about taking on the roles of mom and dad to her five siblings after both parents died from cancer. https://t.co/Xyvw8TSDUx
— The View (@TheView) December 9, 2019
“I knew what I had to do,” Samantha said about her decision to CNN. “I learned so much from my mom. I was like her sidekick. I learned what it meant to raise a family.” Going on, she said, “When we lost her, I knew that I wanted to be just like her in every way. That’s what I wanted to do for the kids.”
So, the now 21-year-old spent the last few years providing for Destiny, 7; Bella, 9; Michael, 12; Brenda, 15; and Milagros, 16. She kept them fed, clothed, and attending school regularly, almost entirely by herself.
The Rodriguez kids lost both parents to cancer in recent years. Samantha, 20, has taken on the role of caregiver to her five younger siblings. The kids thought they were visiting the OCSO Aviation Unit for a tour. Instead, they received a Christmas none of us will ever forget! pic.twitter.com/1Bs4w6PQob
— Orange County Sheriff's Office (@OrangeCoSheriff) December 24, 2018
She also goes to college part-time and has a job as a waitress. According to The View, there is a reason why she decided to go back to school.
“I can’t tell them to be successful in school if I wasn’t. So that’s when I decided to go back,” she explained. “When I [graduated] the kids were very proud of me and they came to my graduation and it was amazing.” It was important to her that they understood the value of education. “I didn’t know people who graduated high school or went college, and I didn’t have that direction so it was hard for me,” Samantha said. “When I realized that I wanted the kids to finish and that I wanted them to be successful, I was like I need to give them that example and show them.”
Talking about what seems to be an impossible schedule and her strength to actually do it, she said, “I get a lot of that strength from my mother. I spent a lot of time with her and I admired her so much.”
While on The View, Whoopi Goldberg asked Samantha what was the one thing that she cherishes that her parents taught them, she responded saying, “They showed us not to take anything for granted. That’s something I try to teach the kids. At the end of the day, the material things don’t matter. What’s given can be taken away so fast. The only thing that really matters is family and love and support,” she said.
Milagros Rodriguez said her older sister “gave up basically her life to take care of us” and that “Sam is a mom and a dad to us.”
“I try to give them the love that they need and the support they need, and I try to do it for two,” said Samantha. For her, taking care of her siblings is “is what makes me, me. It makes me so happy to be with them and to be there for them. It’s very enjoyable for me.”