Michigan Teen Disqualified from Receiving College Scholarship After Family Becomes Homeless

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A Michigan teen had her sights set on college, but a technicality on a state-funded scholarship she was sure she would win has put her plans in jeopardy.

Zaviona Woodruff, 18, graduated with high honors and was an all-star on the bowling team. She delivered the address at graduation and “tried to do as much as I could to make myself look like a great student,” she told FOX 17 Michigan.

Woodruff received crushing news the week before graduation, however, news that would leave her plans of attending college hanging it the balance. It turned out she wouldn’t be receiving the Kalamazoo Promise, a scholarship guaranteed to any student who remains in the Kalamazoo Public School System from kindergarten until 12th grade.

Zaviona Woodruff
Zaviona Woodruff lived in the Kalamazzo school district until 2016, when her family became homeless and was forced to move. (FOX 17 / video screenshot)

It’s been a week since Woodruff visited the Oakland University campus and “fell in love.” The recent grad said she initially wanted to study criminal justice but now wants to major in mechanical engineering. She even took an aviation tech class in high school, studying different parts of an airplane, the station reported.

Her plans of continuing her education are now literally up in the air after learning she wouldn’t receive the scholarship because, for a brief time, she didn’t live in KPS district.

“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.”

Before 2016, Woodruff did reside in the school district. Her family fell on hard times, however, and became homeless.

“We were in a shelter for a good three, maybe six months,” she explained. “We were all in the same room: three girls and a dad.”

Woodruff’s father, Cecil, eventually moved his family to a nearby apartment complex, which he thought was still in the KPS district. He was assured that a KPS school bus would arrive every morning to pick up his girls and take them to school. The single father soon learned they actually lived in Comstock Township, across the street from the KPS district line. KPS had offered the bus service because the family was displaced.

“ … I had to fill out forms to request that they be allowed to go to the Kalamazoo Schools,” Cecil told the station. “With that, I had to transport them myself. For the last year and half, I drove them back and forth every day for the Kalamazoo Promise.”

His daughter was still ineligible, however.

After learning she wouldn’t get the scholarship, Woodruff penned an appeal to the scholarship committee.

“My dad is a single parent,” she remembered writing in the letter. “ … He doesn’t have a steady job all the time. And he’s trying to do things to make ends meet to even just keep a house, a roof over our head, food on the table.”

Her teachers, current and former, also wrote letters to the committee, asking them to reconsider. In an interview with FOX 17, Kalamazoo Promise Executive Director Bob Jorth said the committee looks at each appeal on a case-by-case basis, examining the situation as a whole before making a decision.

“They work really really hard to find a way to give the awards,” Jorth said of the committee, which is comprised of community members. “We also try to help students who aren’t successful with the appeal understand there are other options for financing their education, you know, help them identify other scholarship opportunities.”

Despite her efforts, Woodruff was still denied the scholarship. She’s since taken on two jobs and still plans on attending OU in the fall.

In the meantime, a GoFundMe campaign was launched to help the teen cover her college expenses. So far, the page has collected over $6,000 in donations.

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