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Ex-homeless teen

Formerly homeless teen inspires community after winning essay contest

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Her powerful essay gained the attention of WFOR’s Miami Proud segment, where her story was featured and then used time and again on social media and holidays specials at the CBS affiliate.  We caught up with Elletlia to see how she was doing in school and what was happening with the non-profit she founded, Beauty Beyond the Streets.

What is new since you won the essay contest in 2019?

Since the essay competition during the end of my 11th grade year, Beauty Beyond The Streets has developed its own name around the community. My organization has transformed into Beauty Beyond The Streets Inc. The Miami community are proud to help with the organization, which has allowed me to increase my following base. Our mission continues to aid and supply women with feminine hygiene products during my senior year, while also handing out hygiene bags to students in my school, spreading awareness and more.

Unfortunately, I did not have the (fundraising) drive I usually do because of the coronavirus. My goal for my senior year was to partner with Junior Council and National Honors Society to plan a drive with Miami Carol City Senior High School and Miami Norland Senior High School to collect feminine hygiene products. I was able to enter Beauty Beyond The Streets Inc. into the National Silver Knights Program this year, unfortunately, we did not win, but we did win the hearts of many community members and more. Beauty Beyond The Streets Inc. continues to receive awards and bring awareness to homelessness.

Currently, I am preparing to attend Valdosta State University and would like to take Beauty Beyond the Streets with me and in doing so I am in process of having a website created for me to continue my efforts of spreading awareness. The site will direct people to helpful spots, homeless shelters and safe areas located in Miami and Broward.

While in college, I would like to extend my services to female college students, recent studies have shown many college students tend to become homeless. I believe Beauty Beyond The Streets can be a support program for many students. My future goal will be to partner with Miami Carol City Senior High School to develop a mentoring program that encourages female youth to gain confidence and to become a leader in their community regardless of their circumstances.

How long has it been since you were homeless?

I have been homeless for ten years; I would like for people to understand my past does not determine my future and neither should yours. Life is something you mess up and with determination continue trying to make it better. Set and accomplish your dreams and don't allow anyone or your circumstances to stop you.

What have you learned about yourself during this time of COVID-19? 

Quarantine has taught me it's ok to slow down and take time for yourself, that you can also help others by being a listening ear. In quarantine thus far, I have learned my words are influential, my thoughts are powerful, and to always make sure to learn more about who you are no matter what.