Karelis Garcia

Karelis Garcia, 18, rolls silverware at work Jan. 26 at La Campesina Restaurant in Jerome.

DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS

JEROME — Homeless students aren’t always displaced with their families.

Sometimes, they’re on their own.

That’s what happened to 18-year-old Karelis Garcia. She recently graduated from Jerome High School a semester early, thanks to taking online and summer classes.

She qualified as homeless and had the option of getting extra help through the Jerome School District. But she has a roof over her head and a job to support herself.

‘Gotta grow up’

About five years ago, her mother and brother moved to Mexico. Karelis stayed behind and was going to school in Gooding but “just wanted to try something new,” she said.

She spent her freshman year at Jerome High, went back to Gooding High School for her sophomore year and returned to Jerome for junior year.

With her dad’s approval, she lived with an aunt in Jerome. But on Aug. 26, her dad died — just a couple of days into Karelis’ senior year.

“Things got difficult,” she said.

“Sometimes you’ve gotta grow up sooner than you—,” she added later, her voice trailing off.

The Jerome School District constantly offered help, Karelis said, such as counseling and connections with community resources for food and clothing.

“They were really good about that,” she said. “I didn’t really take it because I felt other people might be more in need than I am.”

Karelis got a job as a waitress at La Campesina Restaurant and moved in with her boyfriend in a neighborhood off Tiger Drive.

During fall semester, she went to school for three classes, then headed off to work. Now, she works a full schedule.

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With a job, she said, “I can pay things off.” Her boyfriend helps out, too.

‘Kind of like in-between’

On a chilly afternoon Jan. 26, Karelis was at La Campesina on South Lincoln Avenue, wearing all black and her hair pulled back into a long braid.

At 4 p.m., there were a few full tables as recorded mariachi music played. Between serving customers, Karelis sat in a booth and rolled clean silverware into paper napkins.

She’s sending money to her mother and brother in Mexico — something her father did before he died.

And her future?

“Right now, I’m kind of like in-between with what’s going to happen,” Karelis said.

She hopes to enroll at the College of Southern Idaho within the next year and wants to become a certified nursing assistant.

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