Even as she mourned the death of her parents, the teen was vividly aware of the fact that without an adult to look after them, her siblings were in danger of heading to the state's foster-care system.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 10, 2020. It has since been updated.
Samantha Rodriguez was only 17 years old when she and her five younger siblings lost both their parents to cancer. Even as she mourned them, the teen was vividly aware of the fact that without an adult to look after them, her siblings were in danger of heading to the state's foster-care system. Determined not to break her dad's promise to her mother, the young woman decided to do everything in her power to keep the family together. Even if it meant putting her life on hold to be the adult in the family.
Meet Samantha Rodriguez, the Florida 21-year-old who stepped up to raise her five siblings after both their parents died. https://t.co/4ndMjVMS8j— Inside Edition (@InsideEdition) March 2, 2020
Rodriguez, who's now 21, has spent the last few years providing for her four little sisters and brother. She kept them fed, clothed and attending school regularly, almost entirely by herself as no one else in the family has the means to take them in. "My reality [was] I'm 17 but these are my brothers and sisters, and when I looked at them, I knew that they're children," the inspiring young woman told The View. "They're vulnerable and they need an adult, so I became their adult." Rodgriguez's younger siblings, Destiny (7), Bella (9), Michael (12), Brenda (15), and Milagros (16) found in her a parent, sister and role model in the way she's held the family together after tragedy threatened to tear them apart.
21-year-old Samantha Rodriguez opened up to the co-hosts about taking on the roles of mom and dad to her five siblings after both parents died from cancer. https://t.co/Xyvw8TSDUx— The View (@TheView) December 9, 2019
According to ABC News, the Rodriguez siblings' mother, Lisa Smith, died from cervical cancer in 2013. Although their father, Alexander Rodriguez, promised to keep the kids together, happy, and healthy, a few years after the family matriarch's death, he too fell ill with what turned out to be lymphoma. He died three years later. "I knew what I had to do," Rodriquez told CNN about her decision to raise her brothers and sisters. "I learned so much from my mom. I was like her sidekick. I learned what it meant to raise a family."
The Rodriguez kids lost both parents to cancer in recent years. Samantha, 20, has taken on the role of caregiver to her five younger siblings. The kids thought they were visiting the OCSO Aviation Unit for a tour. Instead, they received a Christmas none of us will ever forget! pic.twitter.com/1Bs4w6PQob— Orange County Sheriff's Office (@OrangeCoSheriff) December 24, 2018
She moved with her siblings to Orange County, Florida, where their grandmother lived and dropped out of school to take care of her siblings. A little while after getting the family settled into their new home and life, Rodriguez decided to return to school and juggle her studies with her part-time job as a waitress to set an example for her sisters and brother. "I can't tell them to be successful in school if I wasn't. So that's when I decided to go back," she explained. "When I [graduated] the kids were very proud of me and they came to my graduation and it was amazing."
ICYMI: Here's the story on the anonymous donors who stepped up to buy a new car for Samantha Rodriguez, who at 20 is raising her five younger siblings after her parents' death. Nice story here, too:https://t.co/iNCmq7vSh7 pic.twitter.com/m6B0rCEJcy— Orange County Sheriff's Office (@OrangeCoSheriff) April 8, 2019
Even now, as she goes to college part-time and waitresses, Rodriguez takes care of all daily tasks, including providing meals, taking her siblings to school, doctor's appointments, sports practices and helping with homework. "I get a lot of that strength from my mother," she said. "I spent a lot of time with her and I admired her so much. When we lost her, I knew that I wanted to be just like her in every way. That's what I wanted to do for the kids."
Samantha Rodriguez has been raising her five younger siblings between the ages 5 and 16 ever since their parents died.— ABC 7 News - WJLA (@ABC7News) April 9, 2019
Anonymous donors just surprised her with a brand new car. https://t.co/awtCZkDpoY pic.twitter.com/BVLQ0ByQRW
The young woman explained that she tries to set the best example possible for her siblings by following the lessons she learned from her parents. "They showed us not to take anything for granted. That's something I try to teach the kids. At the end of the day, the material things don't matter. What's given can be taken away so fast. The only thing that really matters is family and love and support," she said. "This is what makes me, me," Rodriguez said of caring for her siblings at such a young age, "It makes me so happy to be with them and to be there for them. It's very enjoyable for me."