Queens teenager left homeless by fire wins college scholarship

ELMHURST, Queens (WABC) -- It's been one year since a fire in Queens left a teenager and her family without a home.

But 16-year-old Maritza Campoverde was determined to maintain her excellent grades, and now, her perseverance in the face of adversity is being rewarded with a prestigious college scholarship.

Last May 27, fire gutted the Elmhurst home of Maritza and her family.

"We were left in the street, and my mom just looked around and asked herself, 'Where we going to go?'" she said.

For the next year, Maritza, her siblings and her mom were essentially homeless, drifting from couch to couch and floor to floor.

But Maritza never stopped doing her school work.

"It was hard, but I always had to make sure to prioritize my education because I've always been a person that wants to succeed," she said. "And the only way for me to succeed is to make sure I actually go to college."

All huddled into one room, often one bed, the family made do.

"I remember sometimes I would be up late doing my homework, and we weren't able to shut off the lights because I needed the light," Maritza said.

While she is a little shy and extremely modest, Maritza had no problem telling us about her grades.

"My grades?" she said. "Right now, I have a 101 average...(I'm an) overachiever."

She is one of 15 New York City public school students to receive a college scholarship this year from the law firm O'Melveny and Myers.

"When they win the scholarship, they also get connected with an attorney or staff member and we will continue to mentor them," said Jeffrey Kohn, of O'Melveny and Myers. "And in many cases, we will see them later on."

Maritza may be one of those. Since the fire, she's grateful for everything.

"I'm pretty thankful because it showed me to be a resilient person and to always be appreciate of what you have, whether it be little or small," she said. "For instance, now everything I have around me, I take it as a blessing because before I didn't have anything."

Maritza says she wants to go to NYU and become a doctor.

O'Melveny's New York Scholarship Program awards $80,000 in college scholarships each year to three 11th-graders from each borough.

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