By Angela Ingram, WKRC
Like most seniors, Cassidi Macaraniag's graduation will be out of the ordinary. It'll be a drive-thru ceremony.
"It didn't really go how I planned, you know, with the big, old stage and hearing my friends and my family finally seeing me walk across the stage after all the hard work," Macaraniag said.
What's also out of the ordinary are some of Macaraniag's childhood experiences.
"We went from sleeping in cars to sleeping with friends and family. Like my junior year, I actually didn't live with my parents at all," Macaraniag said.
The 19-year-old has seen huge life challenges. Still, Macaraniag was to get good grades and an internship in the health field. She also has a career path.
She's going to UC Blue Ash to major in pre-health professions. Macaraniag will also work full-time as a phlebotomist at TriHealth while getting tuition reimbursement.
Macaraniag credits "Project Connect" with helping her.
"Project Connect is a federally mandated program that requires school districts to remove barriers for students who are experiencing homelessness," project manager Rebeka Beach said.
The program helps with everything, like basic life necessities like food, as well as school-related needs.
"They have helped me get my cap and gown, help me register for colleges," Macaraniag said.
"To see Cassidi conquer all of the barriers that she’s had and be able to graduate and to be so — to have such a good perspective and have such big dreams is really — it was really a beautiful thing for me to see," Beach said.
Some unclear days have come into focus for Macaraniag.
"Now, I don’t say, 'Why me?' I say, 'Try me,'" she said.
Challenges that could've weakened her made her more powerful.
"The pain doesn't last forever. Pain is temporary. It doesn't rain forever," Macaraniag said.
Project Connect has helped more than 3,100 students experiencing homelessness this school year.