Putting Three Kids Through College by Redeeming Cans and Bottles

"I just love reading about space travel, so I would say astronauts were my role models and how did they get there? Well they had their engineering degrees," he said.

So Rogelio pushed for an engineering degree and went for the best. In 2002, he earned a degree in aerospace engineering from prestigious MIT with help from scholarships.

Filmmakers James D. Scurlock and David Baum followed the family on their first trip to Boston for their son's graduation and turned their story into the documentary "Parents of the Year," which screened two years ago at the Los Angeles Film Festival. (Click here to view a clip of the documentary: www.trueworks.us/parents_of_the_year)

Dreaming of a Vacation

Now out of school, Rogelio is doing some collecting of his own.

He said he still can't throw a soda can away, and holds on to them for his family. "I don't throw them out. It's basically a sin around here. It's like throwing out money. You don't do that here," said Rogelio.

As for Cal State Riverside graduate Adriana, the image of her mother pulling on rubber gloves before dawn is in her mind as she pulls on her suit jacket each day for her management training.

"I love my job," said Adriana. "I am not washing dishes … and I am not, you know … having to wake up early in the morning to go somewhere dangerous."

The Garcias' life on the streets of Los Angeles is nearly over. The older kids now contribute financially and the youngest, Angel, is now a college sophomore. He comes home for holidays knowing that every A grade he earns brings a smile to a tired mother's face.

When he graduates, she looks forward to some rest.

"I go to my bed, and I sleep maybe one week," said Yolanda.

But until then aluminum remains the currency of the Garcia family, who moved up from nothing, one can at a time.

"They put aside what people thought of them," said son Rogelio. "They put aside the long hours … their tired bodies, because they had one goal in mind -- just to get us an opportunity. And it means a lot to me."

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