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A Black high school graduate was moving forward in pursuing higher education despite losing out on a sought-after scholarship because she was homeless.

Zaviona Woodruff, 18, has set her sights on Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan, after a disappointing setback. She worked so hard in school to win the Kalamazoo Promise, a scholarship guaranteed to any city student who remained in the Kalamazoo Public School system from kindergarten through 12th grade, also in Michigan.

She managed to remain working diligently as a student in the district up until 2016, when she and her family had to move into a shelter for six months, she told Fox affiliate WXMI.

After her family regained their residential footing, Woodruff went on to earn a 3.57 GPA and graduated with high honors in hopes to study mechanical engineering in college. However, she learned a week before her graduation in May that the Kalamazoo Promise had not been kept to her. The news was hard to swallow, she said.

“My whole life, I’m like, okay, I get the Promise, I’m good,” Woodruff said. “[To] just have that chair ripped from under me, like last second, [in] May, last second, it’s just really really hard.”

Why had the student who worked so hard been denied the needed funding? The scholarship committee made their decision after the family found a home just outside of the Kalamazoo district line. Woodruff’s father, Cecil, initially thought their apartment was within the district but later learned it was in a neighboring district. The move outside the district had rendered Woodruff ineligible for the scholarship.

Woodruff’s father found himself having to then drive his daughter to her Kalamazoo school for the last year-and-a-half. The teen recounted her father’s labors of love in her letter to the scholarship appeals committee. She has also won support from her teachers who advocated on her behalf in her appeal.

Now, Woodruff, who’s been working two jobs, was awaiting the committee’s decision. Made up of community members, the committee has a case-by-case system when it comes to the appeals presented to them, Kalamazoo Promise Executive Director Bob Jorth said. If they are not inclined to give an award, they try to help students identify other scholarship opportunities, Jorth said.

A GoFundMe has been started to help Woodruff get to Oakland University.


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