This story originally aired on October 26, 2019.
A good way to picture Autumn Adams is in her crimson cap and gown. This was last spring, as she graduated from Central Washington University in Ellensburg.
By her side were two people: her 14-year-old brother John and her 10-year-old sister Kaya. Nothing unusual about family showing up for a big milestone like this.
But, Adams’ family is a little different from the other young grads there that day with their moms and uncles and grandmas. Autumn’s younger siblings have been there with her, on campus, for most of her college education.
You see, back in 2015, when Adams started living on this campus of green lawns and quiet study halls, she knew she had achieved something that had been missing from her life for a long time.
“I was thinking about stability,” Adams said. At 19, Autumn became the legal guardian of her 7-year-old sister, Kaya.
When this family of two first started living together in the dorms, Autumn scheduled her classes to mirror Kaya’s school hours. But one day, Autumn had a class and Kaya didn’t. Autumn went to her professor who had a strict attendance policy to tell him she wasn’t going to be there that day.
“Well what else can I do? And he was like, ‘well bring her with you,’" Adams recalled. "And that was kind of when it changed, and I was like maybe this won’t be so hard."
A few months later, Autumn also became the guardian of her 10-year-old brother John.
How this family of three came to be is one of struggle and hardship. But, it’s also about incredible resilience, not forgetting where you come from and having a heart that is still open enough to accept love and help from friends who’ve become family.