KPIX 5 Students Rising Above

SAN RAFAEL (KPIX 5) — A Marin County student saddled with responsibilities far beyond other kids her age is not letting her demanding circumstances detract from achieving academic success.

For San Rafael High School student Jessica Tecum, the day doesn’t end when the afternoon school bell rings. It’s when her other tasks begin: cooking dinner is a constant in her after-school routine, as is laundry, washing dishes, and helping her younger brother with his homework.

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By the time Jessica finishes her own homework, it’s midnight or later.  The alarm is set for 6:30 am, then it’s off again to school and the unrelenting demands on her time begin anew.

Even with such responsibilities both at home and at school, Jessica doesn’t allow them to bring her down, but rather the challenges build her up.

As tears streamed down her face, Jessica related, “It’s a challenge for me, I know it’s a challenge and that’s the reason why it’s pushing me to keep going on with my school and college. If I don’t go to college then what would my life be without education?”

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Jessica faced a life-altering change in middle school, when her mother’s vision began to deteriorate.  Next came dialysis and tubes.  And now, Jessica says, her mom needs a kidney transplant. “Well I’m really worried because over time she’s waiting for a kidney, she can get worse,” said Jessica. “She’s that special person in my life, to look up to.”

At school, Jessica doesn’t really talk about her responsibilities at home.  As a teenager, that’s the tough part. Balancing both is something some kids don’t battle. Holding back tears she says, “Other people don’t go through this and it’s hard for me and it’s complicated because I want to do things they do, but can’t.”

Thanks to a support system at school, Jessica has learned to cope as she keeps telling herself she can make it.

“If I keep going, I’m going to get somewhere in life and be successful.”

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Her science teacher, Rachel Kalish, sees Jessica’s determination and applauds her. “Many students who have struggles let their struggles get the better of them, and she just doesn’t let the struggle get the better of her.”