Her godmother, Inocencia "Cenci" Ramos, who works three jobs to help raise Lismarie and her younger siblings, has been prodding her along.
Get a good education, Ramos urges the shy 18-year-old. So you don't have to struggle in life. Give back to your community. Because that's the right thing to do.
Lismarie, a senior at University High School in Orlando, hopes to someday become an occupational therapist so she can help disabled children.
It's a job she knows requires a college degree.
For a while, though, she worried that higher education was out of her reach. How would she afford tuition? How could she manage college classes without tutoring — the tutoring she gets in high school to help her overcome a learning disability?
Then she learned about a summer program at Valencia College that's designed to help low-income and other at-risk high-school students learn how to get into college and what to expect when they get there. Each year, dozens of students are invited to Valencia for a week of activities through the school's Transition's Summer Academy.
The program, launched in 2010, is one of the dozens of nonprofit efforts that are supported by the Orlando Sentinel Family Fund Holiday campaign.
Through the academy, college advisers help teenagers learn to navigate the college admissions process, pick majors and search for grants and scholarships — topics that parents who did not go to college might have trouble explaining.
Kids also get to visit college classes, tour Valencia campuses and work on fun projects with college students, said La'Tasha Graham, a transitions coordinator at Valencia.
Advisers teach them about critical issues related to things such as finances — for example, how to develop and maintain a personal budget. They encourage kids to imagine what their lives could be like if they go to college and complete a degree and what their lives might be like if they don't.
"They visualize so they don't settle for where they are right now in their present life," Graham said.
Ramos was thrilled to hear about the things Lismarie was learning when she got home each day of her Transition's Academy experience in 2011.
Ramos saw the excitement growing on the girl's face.
"I was hoping she would come home and tell me: 'Yep — I'm going to college,' '' said Ramos, who has completed some college.
Lismarie's mother, who lives with Ramos, Lismarie and two other children in an apartment in Orlando, has not gone to college. Neither has Lismarie's father, who lives in Puerto Rico.
"She was all excited," Ramos added.
Lismarie learned she could get free tutoring in college, which made all the difference.
Today, she plans to attend Valencia after graduating high school and then, hopefully, to transfer to her dream school, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.