<bt>Life is no movie, but Alini Goncalves, 21 of Reston, is making it work.
Goncalves, who graduated with a 3.6 grade point average from Pimmit Hills last week, works for an orthodontist in Reston and earned scholarship money to attend dentistry school at Howard University.
"There are more opportunities for work and study," Goncalves said. "In Brazil, I didn't have a good life. I wasn't from a wealthy family, and I had to work when I was young."
Her family helped her get the money she needed to move to the United States when she was 17. "First when I come here, I think, 'Oh, good. I'm going to get a job and I'm going to be rich and then I'll go back to Brazil,' because I have seen movies that people come to the United States and go back to their country with money."
But Goncalves found out life doesn't always follow the Hollywood script. When she moved to America, Goncalves moved in with a friend she knew from Brazil. Although her friend had promised to help her look for a job and a place to attend high school, instead she demanded that Goncalves take care of her baby, clean her house and pay $400 to live in her home. Goncalves said she didn't know at first that she was being exploited. She quickly ran out of money and worked at a Chinese restaurant and handed her salary to her friend.
"It was terrible. I was close to going back to Brazil. I was praying, 'God, please tell me what to do.’ I was crying, I was reading the Bible because I didn't know what else to do," Goncalves said.
"My dream of education seemed to be dying, and my prayer came in the answer of my husband," she said, in a valedictorian speech at her graduation ceremony last week.
Ricardo, Goncalves' husband, who flew to Brazil to ask her father's permission to marry Goncalves, helped her obtain her green card, helped her enroll at Pimmit Hills and has made her life more like the one she envisioned before she arrived in the United States.
At her graduation on June 15, Goncalves thanked her father for helping her get to the United States and for traveling all the way from Brazil to watch her graduate from high school. She ended her speech, saying, "I thank my husband for his unwavering support, and his support to allow me to achieve my dream."