-- Many people talk about beating the odds, but one awe-inspiring young woman from the Bronx has truly proven what it really means to come out on top with the weight of the world on one's shoulders.
The road toward graduating cum laude on Tuesday with a bachelor's degree in English and a certificate in forensic science was an arduous one for Bianca Jeannot, 22, and not just because of the academic challenges. The College of New Rochelle graduate says she held down four jobs while also helping take care of her two older brothers.
Paul Santons, 34, was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney disease some 11 years ago and is currently on dialysis, while Michael Jeannot, 26, has Down syndrome and requires supervision. The siblings and their mother bounced around homeless shelters and family homes before settling in a government-funded apartment. When their mother died in 2012, Bianca became the family's primary breadwinner at just 18.
So how did she do it?
"I don’t know," Bianca told ABC News. "I can only seek to go forward. I never had the luxury to stop moving.
"It's not much of a burden," she added. "It's a weight that I'm willing to carry and I've learned to adjust."
"She hugged me," a beaming Bianca said. "She told me I was so inspirational.
"Although we’ve suffered, and although we've gone through a lot, it's made me who I am, and I wouldn’t change it for the world," she continued. "If I can do it, it means that it's meant for me."
On campus, no one knew much about Bianca's life unless she spoke about it because she never missed a beat, according to Professor Daniel Smith.
"She is one of the most energetic, creative, vibrant, intelligent students I've ever had...." Smith told ABC-owned station WABC. "She is going to have a really bright and wonderful future."
Bianca found time, somehow, to be involved in student government and several other organizations. She was the founder and president of an anime club that won two awards from the student association for presenting the best events on campus. Bianca also wrote for various campus publications and was the editor-in-chief of a literary and arts magazine called Phoenix.
All of this, she did while maintaining a 3.8 GPA that won her several scholarships, including one that allowed her to study abroad in Europe for three weeks.
Bianca loves animals and hopes to pursue a career in animal welfare.
"I couldn't have done it without the support of my friends and family, and my partner, Amanda," Bianca said.