Lisa Smith and Alexander Rodriguez looked like they were meant to be together. They loved each other unconditionally, and they created a beautiful big family of eight.Everything was perfect until one day Lisa was diagnosed with cervical cancer, of which she eventually died in 2013.

This was a terrible shock for the family, but Alexander had given his word to his dying wife that he’d do whatever he could in order to keep the kids together, healthy and happy.And he did as long as he was alive and healthy. But this didn’t last long. Only a while later, he fell sick with what the kids thought was the flu, only it wasn’t.

Alexander was diagnosed with lymphoma, and he died three years later leaving the kids alone and desperate.

Samantha, the couple’s oldest daughter was 17 when her dad passed away, and she was faced with a huge dilemma. She would either accept that her siblings would go into foster care, or she would fight to keep the family united as her parents had tried so hard to do.

She went for the latter.

“My reality [was] I’m 17 but these are my brothers and sisters, and when I looked at them, I knew that they’re children,” Rodriguez told The View. “They’re vulnerable and they need an adult, so I became their adult.”

So, Sam and her four sisters and brother moved to Orange County, where their grandmother lives, and started a new life there.

At the beginning, Sam dropped out of school in order to work full time and be able to provide for her siblings. But, soon, she realized she had to combine school with work if she wanted to set an example for the younger kids.

“I can’t tell them to be successful in school if I wasn’t. So that’s when I decided to go back,” she explained. “When I [graduated] the kids were very proud of me and they came to my graduation and it was amazing.”

Samantha, today 21 years old, works as a waitress, while she is a full-time mom and dad for her siblings as well. She makes sure they have food, clean clothes, do their homework, and do various activities as needed for them to grow into the best version of themselves.

Her siblings, who are between 16 and 7 years old, look up to her as a role model. They admire her strength and persistence, and they just adore her for always being there for them. They are grateful that she never gave them up.

Milagros Rodriguez said her older sister “gave up basically her life to take care of us” and that “Sam is a mom and a dad to us.”

The local community has also helped the siblings by buying a brand new car for them, as well as they surprised them with awesome Christmas presents a few years ago.