(KPIX 5) — With a big time love for rock music, Antonio Santeliz is teaching himself how to the electric guitar, a gift he received only six months ago.
Antonio has had to learn a lot on his own for a long time. His father died when he was only six years old.
LEARN MORE: Students Rising Above
He remembers coming home from the hospital and talking to his mother later that night. “I asked when was my dad coming home, I asked my mom that question. She said, ‘He’s not coming back, he’s gone, he’s in heaven,’ and that’s when I started crying.”
Within five years Antonio’s heart was broken yet again. His mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer not long after his father died. Her cancer spread and soon Antonio had lost both parents.
“I felt like I grew up in that instant,” said Antonio. “I had a goal that I wanted to complete, to make my parents proud of who I am and to live a life that would be successful.”
After his mother died, Antonio’s older sister, Maritza, became his legal guardian. It was a decision mom and daughter made together. Martiza said their mom didn’t leave them empty-handed, she prepared and cared for them before she died.
“We knew she was going and we both love my brother and we wanted him to be with someone who cares and loves him,” she said.
Antonio says Maritza is “like my mom because she’s always been there since I was little, she’s raised me.”
Without their parents, Antonio and Maritza have stayed by each other’s side, year after year.
“After everything we’ve gone through, we’re not stuck,” said Maritza. “We’re strong enough to get out of a bad situation.”
Maritza is thrilled that Antonio wants to go to college, without any prodding from her. His motivation is what makes her so proud of him.
As a student at Middle College High in San Pablo, Antonio takes both high school and community college classes, as he prepares for the next academic step.
“Our struggle was coming back from all those bad events and I think that’s something me and my sister have done,” he said. “I don’t think you can get anywhere without putting a little effort into what you do.”
Maritza, too, remains positive in her outlook about their future.
“After everything we’ve gone through, it was tough and I want him to do better. I don’t want him to be, like, ‘Oh, ok, now that our parents are gone this is the end of us and we have no life,'” said Maritza. “No, this means let’s do better and mom and dad can watch us while we try to do better things and go farther.”
Antonio is already envisioning a better life – for himself and his sister.
“I also want to bring my sister along while I rise up and support her,” he said. “She’s done so much.”