After finding herself homeless, Anya Sifuentes chose to rise above, and ran down a college scholarship in the process.

By Meghan Overdeep
May 16, 2019
Gareth Brown/Getty Images

On October 1st, high school senior Anya Sifuentes came home from school to a house that was no longer hers.

"Somebody came in a red car saying 'this is no longer your home. You have to leave. You can't go inside,'" she recalled to KFSM.

Jeff Smith, the head track coach at Northside High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas, recalled getting a phone call from Sifuentes that same day. "She was just distraught," he told the local CBS affiliate. "I said ‘what's the matter?' She goes, ‘I'm homeless. I don't have any clothes. I don't have a place to go.'"

To make matters worse, her mother was acting strangely. She told her teenage daughter that the family would have to separate. "My mom said, 'I'm not gonna stay with y'all,'" Sifuentes recalled to KFSM. "I thought, 'Why'?"

And just like that Sifuentes was left to take care of her two siblings and her nephew. She went from a normal high school student to a provider—picking up extra jobs, finding a new apartment, and paying all the bills.

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"It just slaps you in the face," she said of the moment she was forced to become an adult.

It was also the moment she decided to do everything she could to beat the odds. With the weight of the world on her young shoulders, running became her only release.

"Like they say, running away from your problems. That's what I did," she told KFSM. " I literally ran away from my problems. Even if it meant like ten miles."

And boy did she run. Sifuentes ran so fast that she was offered an athletic scholarship at University of the Ozarks—an offer she accepted just six months after she became homeless.

"To me, I don't know that I've ever met another kid who can do what she's done and endure what she's endured and do it with a smile," coach Smith said.

Even Sifuentes, now a future college athlete, is surprised by what she managed to accomplish. "I just look back and think, 'This is who you are. You're someone strong,'" she told the station. "You don't give up easily. Even though times get rough, you have to keep going. Even though you fall down, you have to keep going."

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