By Michelle Griego and Jennifer Mistrot

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Like many high school seniors, San Francisco student Samir Hooker is finishing his last year virtually, studying at home due to COVID-19, while applying to colleges.

“My long dream, my dad’s dream, my mother’s dream for me and my younger sister is to go to college. And I’m going to have the opportunity to go,” explained the Students Rising Above scholar.

But while Hooker is excited about the opportunity to further his education, the 17-year-old Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory student is only looking at California schools. That’s because Hooker’s mother is battling two autoimmune disorders.

The family — which includes Hooker’s ten-year-old sister — has been practicing social distancing, hunkered down in their San Francisco apartment since the pandemic began. It’s a practice Hooker says will continue for the foreseeable future.

“Coronavirus definitely wasn’t expected by me,” said Hooker. “[And it] definitely impacted my family specifically, heavily.”

Their small family of three is extremely close because they have been through a lot.

“My mother is sick. We live low-income. I think when you’re forced [to live] with nothing, you have to make something,” explained Hooker of their close bonds. “I had to think differently to get out of my reality.”

That reality included losing his birth father to an overdose and his beloved step-father to gun violence. Hooker was just nine years old when the man who raised him was murdered.

“He passed away in 2012, September 1st, from the gun violence in the Fillmore area,” said Hooker. “So I couldn’t just go about school or life the same way….as you know, anybody else would.”

Hooker has definitely made his own way and what he’s accomplished is impressive. He taught himself to code by watching YouTube videos and developed his own app designed to help low-income users access better healthcare. And he’s launching his own non-profit next year that will be geared towards children who’ve lost parents tragically to violence, accidents and addiction.

“I feel like helping kids out, helping families out. It is really what’s going to help my community out and in other communities, hopefully across the country,” said Hooker.

But while he hopes his future non-profit helps kids everywhere, Hooker is staying local. He is applying only to California colleges so he can be close to those who matter the most: his family.

“I think it was really important in my decision to pick only California schools; to stay over here,” declared Hooker. “Helping my mother, hopefully to get a job, send money her way, send money my sister’s way. That was definitely a very big factor to me.”

Hooker tells us he should hear back from at least one school he has applied to in December. He says if he gets in, that will be the best Christmas present he’ll get this year.

He will also give a virtual TEDtalk next year, focusing on personal journey and achievements.

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