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Rome High senior shares experience of balancing academics, family responsibility

Having 194 absences over four years typically doesn’t signify that a student is set to receive a high school diploma. But in the case of Rome High senior Sasini DeSilva, things aren’t typical.

“I know some people who miss that many days and drop out,” she said, adding that she missed so many days in high school to tend to her mother and father, who both have been battling medical issues since 2015.

Sasini DeSilva came to America from Sri Lanka when she was 8 years old for the better education her grandmother, who was already living in the U.S., wished for her, and to also flee her war-torn country. She landed in Rome — where her mom’s sisters and brother were living — and she said it took time for her to adjust to a new language and culture.

Her parents’ health issues came up during her junior year, with her mom, Romani DeSilva, having a triple-bypass surgery in December 2015. Then, from January to June 2016, her mom had three stents put in.

Following her mother’s surgery, Sasini DeSilva’s father, Lokusatu DeSilva, was diagnosed with Stage 4 chronic kidney failure. At the end of 2016, her father went on dialysis, putting further stress on the body of a man who was already working two jobs — one of them as a maintenance specialist at Main Elementary — Sasini DeSilva said.

During all of this, Sasini DeSilva was attending her parents’ appointments and interpreting for them, while working a job of her own, becoming a certified nursing assistant through Rome High’s career program and earning a 3.5 GPA.

Lokusatu DeSilva’s eyes filled with tears as he shared his pride in his daughter’s achievements.

She plans to attend Shorter in the fall and major in biology, while starting on a pre-med track that may eventually lead her to a career as a nephrologist — a kidney specialist.

Rome High’s commencement ceremony will be at the Forum River Center on Saturday at 10 a.m.

Sasini DeSilva’s father needs a new kidney, and she hopes someone will come forward to help “so my dad doesn’t have to suffer.” She can be reached by emailing sasinid@yahoo.com.