It seems that every time Central Valley High School senior Alisaundre “Laticia” Gingras puts down roots, something happens to uproot her.
She was born in Honduras and lived there in foster care until she was adopted by a single mother when she was 2. “We don’t know what happened to my parents,” she said.
Mother and daughter lived in Alaska for the rest of Gingras’ childhood. Then came the biggest bombshell of them all – midway through Gingras’ freshman year, her mother told her she had been diagnosed with colon cancer after she went to see the doctor because she was tired all the time. “She was just sick,” Gingras said. “She was losing a lot of weight.”
Her mother had surgery and Gingras came to Spokane Valley to live with her mother’s nephew for a month or so while her mother recovered. Gingras arrived here on a Friday; her mother died that Sunday. “She died two weeks after she told me she had cancer,” Gingras said.
The day after her mother’s death, Gingras started school. She had just registered and not going didn’t occur to her. “I think it was a lot of denial,” she said. “I didn’t really believe it happened.”
Before her arrival, she had only known her mother’s nephew and his wife, Brian and Johanne Gingras, through annual Christmas cards and one visit. She is grateful that they were willing to extend what was to be a short-term visit into a long-term living arrangement. She also gives them credit for helping her through her grief. “They had a big part in it,” she said. “They were never pushy. They were always supportive.”
Gingras counts their two daughters as her younger sisters. She had always wanted a younger sister and had begged her mother to adopt again. Now she gets to play the older sister. “I’ve never had that. It’s cool.”
She realizes that her life here is better for her future than her life in Juneau, where she grew up. In Juneau there are drugs and poverty and not many students go on to college, she said. “There’s not a lot of positive influence there,” she said. “I wasn’t doing well at all, grade-wise.”
At CVHS, people achieve things and there is leadership, Gingras said. After some culture shock, Gingras found herself thriving. But she wasn’t doing it only for herself. She was doing it for her mother. “I never showed her how I could strive academically,” she said. “I did it all for her, hoping she was watching me.”
Her grade-point average went from a 2.6 to a 3.2. “I never thought I could get good grades before,” she said.
This year she is taking a full schedule of Running Start classes at Spokane Community College. To do it she gave up her years on the school dance team and color guard. “I really wanted to branch out and see a new environment,” she said.
She plans to attend Pacific Lutheran University and wants to become a criminal defense lawyer. She’s been interested in law since becoming a fan of the television show “Matlock” at age 5. “I’ve always been one to investigate the situation,” she said.
“I like strategy.”
She seems to have her own strategy worked out just fine.