Once Homeless, Student Is Youth of the Year

By Nancy Ramsey

Oct 27, 2010 11:14am

 ABC News on Campus reporter Natalie Podgorski blogs:
Walking around campus at Arizona State University, 17-year-old Ramonia Dixon from Tempe appears to be a typical freshman.  She's busy learning how to manage her time, study for class and explore all the clubs the school has to offer.  But Dixon is not your average freshman.  The Boys and Girls Club, a nonprofit group that creates safe places for children to go and operates in all 50 states, has chosen her their Youth of the Year. She wasn’t always this fortunate. Growing up, Dixon was homeless. During elementary school, she slept in shelters or on the streets of San Diego. Yet she excelled at school. "I was told if I worked hard I could do anything, and I believed it," Dixon said. Her family moved into government housing when she was 12.  Then they moved from California to Arizona. Dixon graduated third in her class from Tempe High School. And her story captivated the Boys and Girls Club. During the competition final, in Washington, D.C., she met President Obama, Vice President Biden — and Denzel Washington, her favorite actor.
"When Denzel Washington heard I won, he said, Watch out, Oprah,” recalls Dixon, smiling.  Dixon doesn't have any plans to take over Oprah's job — yet — but she does plan to share her story.  She used to be embarrassed to tell people she was homeless. But now she’s realized she can make a difference. "I can help inspire other people, so why not tell my story?" she said.  Aside from the title, the award provides more than $130,000 in scholarships.  That may be the biggest adjustment for Dixon. She’s accustomed to bargain shopping. “If I see a calculator that is this much, and I see a calculator that is three times as much, I’m going to get the one that is three times less,” Dixon said.  But if she’s going to use all her scholarship money before she graduates in 2014, she’ll need to start buying the more expensive calculators. “I’m just not used to that, I’m used to saving my money.”  She admits that her money problems aren’t the same as most college students. “So many people struggle with the fact that they don’t have enough money.  I struggle with the fact that I have enough and I don’t know how to use it.” With all of her scholarships, Dixon says she'll be able to pay tuition for at least four years — and then some.  She plans to graduate from ASU with a double major in Supply Chain Management and Business Management. Photo courtesy of Boys and Girls Clubs of America

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