Mia had a happy, stable childhood in a loving, single-parent household. Then tragedy struck: her 18-year-old brother died in a car accident. She was still grieving the loss of her role model when tragedy hit again: her mother was iagnosed with terminal liver cancer.

At 16, the teenager became her mother’s primary caretaker — feeding her, bathing her, assisting the hospice workers — all while still going to high school. Mia often stayed up until the early morning hours trying to finish her homework.

After several months, her mother passed away. Mia was completely on her own. She tried to keep up with school and struggled to scrape together enough money to make the monthly mortgage payments on the house her mother left behind. Thanks to the YOTO stipend she earned through her stellar grades and attendance, Mia was able to worry less about finances and focus more on her studies. She also graduated from YOTO’s Resale Home Store internship program, which gave her critical work experience and job skills.

Although she had to work extra hard to make up all of her missed credits, Mia persevered and graduated from Tucson High Magnet School in 2016. She will attend the University of Arizona in the spring of 2017 to pursue a career working with children who have experienced drug abuse trauma.