CENTRAL FALLS — Life hasn’t always been easy for Aallexie Gomes. Only 18 years old, she’s already witnessed her share of tragedy, but she’s also achieved great triumph, inspired along the way to take care of those she loves.
A Central Falls resident, Gomes earlier this week graduated from Rhode Island Nurses Institute Middle College Charter School in Providence as its class valedictorian.
Her interest in nursing started at a very early age, saying she grew up with great-grandparents who were regularly sick and in need of assistance from nurses who’d visit their home.
“That motivated me because of how caring they were and how helpful they were,” she said.
But two years ago, the motivation to help others grew significantly in the wake of tragedy. Her older brother, Raheem DeJesus Alves, was murdered on June 5, 2017. According to media reports from the time, Alves was fatally shot in the parking lot of a Burger King in Providence’s Olneyville neighborhood having just left a nearby nightclub when someone opened fire on the vehicle he and a friend were in.
“When my brother was killed, that put me into the nursing field,” Gomes said with the heavy weight of emotion in her voice. “That interested me in taking care of those I love.”
“He was the only male figure in my life…” she later said. “I know he’d want me to continue pursuing my dreams. I see it as what would I be doing if he were here? Make him proud. He’s looking over me.”
Alves died when Gomes was a junior in high school. At that point, she had to take on a role as a leader in the family, looking after her sisters Allayah Gomes, Samaya Santos, and Marysol Da Cruz.
During her graduation speech on Wednesday night, Gomes said her older brother was “one of the most important male figures in my life.”
“It is supposed to be one of my happiest days but it is also a challenge … The only male figure I grew up with couldn’t be here to physically share one of my greatest accomplishments. I dedicated this year to Raheem…” she said during her remarks. “I stand here knowing that this man would be delighted of what became of this journey and I continue to remain inspired by him.”
“Raheem was my savior and is now my guardian angel,” she said.
Gomes graduated on Wednesday as the valedictorian of the class of approximately 70 students at the charter school. Being named the top student in the class, she explained, did not come as a significant surprise.
“I had a feeling it was me but it was definitely an honor because I always push myself, education has always been my priority, it was an honor to have that award,” she said. “It gives my sisters a role model. It was a great award because I know how much work I put into school.”
“They definitely get us prepared,” she said of her education at the Providence school. “We take typical high school courses, but to pass this institute, we have to pass two nursing – CNA or EMT.”
Ever the high achiever, Gomes took both and was able to graduate with 24 college credits. She’ll be continuing her education at the University of Rhode Island this fall, majoring in nursing.
“I think that it’s good that it’s different than any typical public school, you’re able to get EMT and CNA,” she explained. “If you take that outside of school, it’s expensive. But at 16 years old, I had my CNA license and I was able to finish my EMT course at 18. Not a lot of people have that advantage to have that.”
When she wasn’t in class or studying to become valedictorian, Gomes could be found putting her CNA license to use at Capitol Ridge at Providence or Highlands on the East Side, both based in Providence. She also received an internship at Rhode Island Hospital and plans to continuing further working at the hospital through the summer.
Gomes knows that life can present its share of challenges. But she says that she’d tell those looking to follow in her footsteps to push themselves beyond their own expectations, that any goal is attainable.
“Even though life can be a challenge, we never know what’s thrown at us, we succeed,” she said. “We’re doing this for ourselves. We have people to push ourselves, but we have to look at it like this is for us and we have to work hard at it. In order to be successful in life you have to work hard, you only have one life, it’s a blessing to continue to do what’s best for you.”