A senior at a Florida high school who’s been on her own since age 14 was surprised on Wednesday with a brand new car donated by members of her community.
Asria Canada, who’s now 18, told Yahoo Lifestyle that she was born into poverty, and her family “struggled to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads.” Canada said that she decided to live independently at 14 with her parents’ knowledge.
“It has been extremely hard due to not being able to have a job until I was 16 years old,” she said. “I at first lived with family friends, but I felt like I wasn’t being independent enough, so I left and spent some nights on friends’ couches. I would either do some chores or, once I turned 16, I would start paying very cheap rent to whoever would rent me a room.”
Canada got a job as soon as she turned 16, she told ABC 10, and has been working ever since toward getting her own apartment and being self-sufficient, which includes graduating River Ridge High School in New Port Richey this year. She told Yahoo Lifestyle she hopes to attend nearby Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC), but paying tuition could present another obstacle.
So Canada decided to turn to Marjorie’s Hope, a charitable organization that works to build a strong foundation for children in the community by helping to provide tangible things that are necessary for success. The nonprofit, which Canada learned about from her career specialist Mrs. Peterson, decided that a means of transportation for the college-bound teen would be crucial — but they kept their plan a secret from Canada.
“I wrote in my essay to Marjorie’s Hope how I struggled getting to school at times, how living as independently as possible has made it hard for me to achieve in school,” Canada told Yahoo Lifestyle. Unbeknownst to the teen, a few of her teachers were recruited to carry out the surprise. “Mrs. Peterson was in on it asking me how I get to school everyday,” she said. “Mrs. McConnell asked my class if we had our IDs or driver’s licenses to see if I would even be able to drive the car.”
When they knew the plan was viable, Marjorie’s Hope teamed up with George’s Wholesale Tire Pros and Friendly Kia to donate a new car to Canada. They presented the surprise to the teen with red ribbons attached — as well as a free six months of auto insurance and oil changes, according to ABC 10.
“I was shocked and really emotional,” Canada said of being presented with the gift. “I tried getting a car before but it broke down on me before I was able to register it in my name, so it really meant a lot to me.”
“She has overcome a lot of stuff already in her life. I remember when I got my first car. It was $250,” said John Gilliss of Friendly Kia to ABC 10.
“Her story just touched our hearts, and to have that much tenacity and perseverance,” added Debi Shackowsky of Marjorie’s Hope. “She’s been on her own since the age of 14 and couch hopped and sometimes didn’t know how she was even going to get to school.” She said that the organization also gave Canada a scholarship worth $2,000.
Canada will be able to drive her brand new wheels to her new job at McDonald’s, she told Yahoo Lifestyle. After getting her Associate’s degree at PHSC, she also plans to drive to a 4-year college to complete her degree in atmospheric science and eventually become a meteorologist.
“You will be able to succeed,” the teen said, “as long as you try.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: