Honored High School Student Homeless - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Honored High School Student Homeless

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- When Janelle Tonge was asked about her life thus far, she says, "I have not had the average teenagers life."

For 17-year- old Tonge struggle has had a tremendous meaning.

She had a lot of accomplishments, but also her fair share of disappointments. Many began when her parents separated.

Her mother moved to Nashville for business purposes, leaving her in Chattanooga with her father and a strained relationship.

"I didn't have anywhere to go and no one to go to. I was scared and I have never been scared," says Tonge.

While her father worked to keep a place to stay, she began living in with friend after friend.

One was on E. 12th street. Two months later, another home in Ridgewood Acres. Altogether, about half a dozen different places and friends since August 2010.

"That was a time when I was like, I don't know if I can make it. I don't know if I can do this," says Tonge.

What gave her strength was working with Girls Inc., Chattanooga. While building personal relationships, she also took on leadership roles at her school, Brainerd High School.

After seeing a school in Brooklyn, NY do it, she helped implement a nursing program for her own primarily black school.

"I said, wow. Why don't we have this in Chattanooga? Why don't we have this at Brainerd," she said.

The program eventually earned her a "Woman of Distinction" award, but at the end of the day, her problems would come back to haunt her.

"Going to school and looking off at the buses like where am I going? They are going home, but where am I going?," says Tonge.

So far, she knows she's going to college, but with limited scholarship money.

She made honors after graduating in May, and says through the heartache, the words of her mother, always motivate her.

"She told me God is taking you through some things and it will have a happy ending," says Tonge.

Tonge plans to attend Oakwood University in Tuscaloosa, AL in the fall, but still needs help with money for college.

If you would like to help, you can call Girls Inc., Chattanooga at 423-624-4757 for more details. 

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