OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — For many incoming college freshman this summer will be their last at home before heading off to campus, where most will experience freedom and independence for the first time. But for Grace Chu, both are already second nature as self-reliance is a skill she learned early on.

Currently the Oakland native is savoring her summer break because her next step – college at the University of California, Santa Barbara – will be a game changer.

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“It’s, like, bittersweet,” said Chu of her new educational opportunity. “I feel like I have a lot of pressure on my back. I feel like I have to make a name for myself, and like prove everyone wrong.”

Everyone in Chu’s case could be anyone betting against the potential success of this young woman. She’s the daughter of immigrants. She grew up in East Oakland and she is the first in her family to go to college. This past year’s social justice movement inspired her passion for education.

“It really hit hard,” said Chu. “Because it just made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough.”

That could be seen as an ironic statement since Chu has done so much. She served as communication’s chair at Oakland High School, and ran its social media channels.

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The experience taught her how to write stories, make deadlines and interact with others. She also finished her senior year with straight As.

But it’s her role as daughter and sister in a family rocked by parental separation and financial struggle that has brought Chu to a place of independence many of her age group peers will never know. She helped take care of her little brother as her mother Lan worked full time.

“I think it has prepared me a lot for college,” said Chu of her role at home. “I know how to handle a lot on my plate.”

All life experiences Chu says have prepared her to give back to family, friends and her community. The 18-year-old will study Political Science at UC Santa Barbara with an eye towards law school. She’s already signed up for some campus activities, and she’ll head to college when her living arrangements are finalized. It’s part of a future Chu says she sees in serving others.

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“It was really important to me because I always just think about, like … if that one person just opened their heart more or did a little something extra, then it could have changed so many people’s lives,” said Chu. “I could be that person. Why wait for someone else to do it when I could be that?”