WAIPAHU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Rovy Anne Dipaysa, a senior at Waipahu High School, didn't speak English when her family emigrated to Hawaii from the Philippines.
"That's when I had a really low self-esteem and I chose not to speak in any of my classes," Dipaysa said.
Her shyness gave way to gritty determination, and she threw herself into school work.
"I realized that education is really important and that it's the only way for us to get a better life," she said.
Throughout high school Rovy took college courses with Leeward Community College, and by December, she had earned an associate's degree.
She is the first student in Hawaii to complete the Early College program that allows a high school student to earn dual credits for courses.
"If they were to take English 100 they're fulfilling their high school requirement, at the same time they're earning college credit," Waipahu High School principal Keith Hayashi said.
Rovy's said that although the road was challenging, it wasn't impossible. She got the degree while holding down two jobs, earning straight A's in her high school classes, and raising her young son, Marvy.
"When I see my son, that's when I realize that I cannot give up now, especially now that I have him," she said.
This month, 12 Waipahu High School seniors will receive associate's degrees. Because the classes are free, Early College works especially well for kids facing financial hardship.
"Perhaps they don't even dream about going to college because of the financial barriers. Those are the people we're trying to reach," said Mark Silliman, program director for Waipahu's Early College program.
Rovy is proud of her accomplishment, and will pursue a nursing degree at Chaminade University. Her ultimate goal is to become a doctor.
"You can get through all the obstacles and barriers if you strive high," Dipaysa said.