Meet Riverside High School’s Severin Yao

As if working full time while maintaining good grades wasn’t hard enough, Riverside High School senior Severin Yao is pushing the limits of what a high school student can do.

Severin, 20, emigrated to the U.S. from Togo, a West African nation, in 2014 to be with his father. He now works more than 65 hours a week at four different jobs to pay for his living expenses, all while attending Riverside full time.

Throughout week, Severin is busy either going to school, working or doing homework.

“I don’t have time at all,” he said.

The majority of Severin’s work is at Walmart, where he has been an overnight stocker for two and a half years. He works there from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. five days a week. When he gets a one-hour break at 2 a.m. he does his homework.

“That’s the toughest hours that I work,” he said.

Severin’s other jobs include working at Chick-fil-A two days a week, as a tollbooth operator on the weekends and as an Uber driver three days a week.

When the staff at Riverside became aware of Severin’s schedule, they were quick to help out.

“We were able to provide him with some resources and modify his class schedule,” said Riverside guidance counselor Amy Burgess.

Now focused on attending Northern Virginia Community College in the fall, Severin will have to scale back his workload to 40 hours per week so he can work toward an associate’s degree. His goal is to study aerospace engineering and work as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

He’s already eager to get started. “I think the Air Force is a good one for me,” he said.

—Patrick Szabo

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