PITTSBURG (KPIX) — While many Students Rising Above scholars are high achievers and always on the go, Rodaisha James discovered that slowing down and self-care are also paths to success after experiencing a major loss.

James is headed to the historically Black college or university (HBCU), attending school at Alabama State for her last semester of college. James says it is a choice that will provide her with an educational and generational link to her extended family and community in the Deep South.

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“There’s a lot of value can come from knowing who you are and where your people come from,” explained James of her desire to attend an HBCU. “I’m still grasping the depth of it all: what is means to be going to an HBCU, and to be learning more about my ancestry, my history as a black woman. And so for me, like, all I can do is go back. Currently with both of my parents being deceased, it’s like I have to jump back a generation, and use my grandparents as much as I can from they remember.”

The relocation to Alabama will be a big jump for a young woman who has lost so much. James’ father passed away when she was in elementary school. When she was just 15 years old, she lost her beloved mother Pamela to breast cancer.

“The glue. I like to call her the glue,” said James of her mother. “Always smiling, independent, but very caring, stern and just a light.”

Pamela’s daughter is a light too. James made the honor roll at Pittsburg High School. She has interned every summer during college in such fields as tech, healthcare and human resources. And she studied abroad in China as a double major in Business Administration and Asian Studies. James says her success at times concealed a deep grief.

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“It was something I felt like I had to do, striving towards the life that my mom was preparing us to reach for and to access,” said James of her success. “My resiliency I think was really part of my grief. I even find myself like breaking out in tears sometimes because I didn’t use those years, like the past to really let the emotions out.”

The tears were a release for James. Letting her emotions out — along with self-care and a commitment to therapy — renewed her peace and drive. She’s headed to Alabama State soon. Her semester there is part of a program offered by Chico State where she is enrolled. The credits she earns in Alabama will be applied to her degree at Chico.

“The HBCU aspect of it is I think it can give me some leverage and give me a sense of community too,” said James. “It’s more about challenging myself and seeing what can come from that as well.”

James will graduate from Chico State in the fall of 2021. She hopes more career opportunities and travel will soon follow. All goals she wants to accomplish for her family and herself.

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“Life is short,” said James. “And I have to take advantage of the time that I have.”