Hermila Martinez looked into the backseat of her car. Her two young children, piled under five blankets to stay warm, slept in their car seats. The family was spending another frigid night in a roadside rest area, sleeping in the car in which they’d been living for three months since her husband was laid off.

In that moment, Hermila made herself a promise: That she would do whatever it took to make sure her family would always have a home.

In that moment, Hermila decided to step forward.

When she found herself pregnant age 16, Hermila dropped out of school. She never thought going back to school was an option, as she and her husband struggled to provide for their growing family. By the time their fifth child was born, Hermila knew it was time to take that step.

“When our youngest is old enough to enter school,” she promised her husband (and herself), “I’ll go back to school, too.” And she did.

But completing her GED was just the first step. “For the first time in my life, I could dream of something better,” she says. “And my dreams were bigger than that.”

So, despite having five children and multiple jobs—or, more accurately, because of them—she took another step forward.

Hermila enrolled in community college.

But stepping forward is never easy. “It’s tough, getting five kids out the door and getting myself to school. But I want them to see that their mom is not a quitter.”

Hermila’s dream career is to be an animator. But she and her husband have already fulfilled a lifetime dream, and a promise she made in a cold, dark parking lot years ago.

They bought their own home.

“This is our home,” she says, defiant. “And no one can take it away from us. It’s ours.”

Despite all the challenges, Hermila is stepping forward more hopeful than ever. “The future for my children is going to be amazing. I can’t wait to see what they’re going to be.”

And with everything that Hermila has accomplished so far, we have no doubt that the future will be amazing for her and her family.