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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Homeless Teen who worked to pay her school fees finally wins scholarship, bags bachelors degree at US university

 A homeless teen named Josie McMahon who worked three different jobs to afford her school fees and also get a place to live, finally won a scholarship which enabled her bagged a bachelors degree at Whitworth University in the United States.

Josie obtained her bachelor’s degree in Sociology at Whitworth University through the volunteers of America scholarship. Earning the degree came with a lot of challenges including being homeless according to the foundation’s website.

Josie mentioned that she grew up in a foster home and she never believed she was going to attend college especially when her foster mother would remind her of how she would never fit into an elite society. 

”Growing up I never thought that college was an option for me I didn’t believe I would get very far in college but I also didn’t want to become the homeless failure my foster mom told me I would be. Her words still echo in my mind to this day, “Josephine you’ll never fit into society or a family because you’re a foster child,” she said.

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However, Josie said she enrolled at Spokane Falls Community College but unfortunately, tragedy struck her foster family and friends. She said a close friend of mine and her foster mom died in a house fire right down the street from where they lived. 

Josie said the day after the fire,  she came into the kitchen to try to talk to her foster mom about the death of their friend, but she was shut down adding that instead of bringing them closer together it had the opposite effect.

”With no emotion in her voice and her back turned to me she said coldly, “I don’t care about you. I don’t care what happens to you. I don’t care if you become homeless. I don’t love you. I just want you to leave.” I became a homeless college student that week,” she said.


Sophie mentioned that it was fear of becoming another statistic that got her to try college in the first place and that same fear pushed her to stay in college and get three jobs in a bid to climb her way out of homelessness.

”Giving up and dropping out wasn’t an option for me because, even though my heart was broken and numb, I had a burning desire to become someone and succeed. And I wasn’t going down without a fight,” Sophie said.

”I remember, one day when I was at Spokane Falls Community College, there was a speaker in one of my classes, a Native American professional violinist. He grew up in foster care most of his life,” she added.

Sophie said the speaker told her he got through his struggles and hardships because of his hero; the person he looks up to, who truly cared about him, was there for him and supported him.

She stated she got through her struggles because Volunteers of America of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho‘s Independent Living case managers and SETuP staff were her heroes.

”I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Volunteers of America of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho’s Trent-Gillespie scholarship and them taking me under their wing. They changed my life,” Sophie said.

”Each time I fell (and I fell several times), they were there to bandage me back up and help me get back on my feet. They believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. They told me I could succeed in college and life,” she added.

Sophie said the foundation had her back and taught her the skills she needed to become independent. 

She graduated from Whitworth University, United States with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology making her one of the 2% of foster youth who graduate from college in the United States.

Looking forward, Sophie wants to pursue a master’s degree and make a career using her education and experiences to help other foster alumni.  She loves to volunteer her time in the community and at her church. “My mission in life is to serve others through love, grace, and passion,” Josey said.


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