Published Sunday, December 25, 2011Updated: Monday, December 26, 2011 - 12:09am
Mia Wilhite — an honor roll student at Clarke Middle School — lives at the Athens Area Homeless Shelter with her older sister and mother.
Twelve-year-old Mia recently was invited to visit Washington, D.C., for a four-day leadership conference in March, because of her hard work, good attitude and excellent grades.
School administrators nominated Mia for a conference last year, too, but the family couldn’t afford to send her.
This year, Mia’s family and the Athens Area Homeless Shelter are reaching out to the community for help in paying the $1,000 in tuition and travel expenses.
Keeping good grades while staying at the shelter is hard, but her location helps remind her of why an education is so important, Mia said.
“It motivates me to work even harder at my schoolwork,” she said. “I don’t even want to consider (living at a homeless shelter) in my future.”
Mia’s mom, Katheryn Wilhite, and her 25-year-old sister, Tiffaney Witcher, have lived in the shelter since the summer, Katheryn Wilhite said.
The family went through a string of catastrophes — including Katheryn’s mother dying and the family car breaking down — which in the end left them homeless, she said.
Asking for help did not come easy.
“We had to get down to eating potted meat sandwiches every night before I would go get food stamps,” Katheryn Wilhite said.
While Mia takes on her seventh-grade curriculum, her mom also is training to receive certification in caring for small children. Katheryn Wilhite would like to work at a day care and save up money for Mia’s college education, she said.
“This child is headed for college, and I’ve got to put some money away for her education,” Katheryn Wilhite said.
Mia wants to become a pediatrician and has thought about learning in Washington, D.C., before, she said.
“I was even looking at going to college (in D.C.) in the future,” she said.
To donate money to help pay for Mia’s trip, visit www.helpathenshomeless.org and click on the people to people button.*
*this is a change from the Athens Banner-Herald article