Thia Watkins doesn’t see what she did as that big of a deal.
She had a baby at 15 and went into foster care 1 1/2 hours away from Cincinnati with her newborn daughter, Leiyah. She stayed in school, raised her little girl, earned all As and Bs, ran track and graduated. Oh, and she has also earned nine college credits already.
Thia, short for Orlethiae, shrugs off praise. Graduation was her only choice, she says: “I want a job and I want to make money, so dropping out of school wasn’t an option.”
There’s a bit more to it, her supporters say.
“She’s just a very strong person,” says her caseworker, Kamala Renick. “She works hard.”
And, says foster mom Dawn Abney: “She’s just a good kid. And she’s a good mom.”
More than 50 Hamilton County foster kids graduated from high school this year. That’s quite a big deal when you consider how much stress most foster kids are under just because they’re in the system. They miss their families. Maybe they’ve had to change schools. They don’t have the same family support other kids do.
Still, a big group made it this year. Some plan to go to college. Some, like Johnathan Henson, already are working. Henson got a job through school at Collins Automotive in Green Township and the shop is keeping him on.
Some got close to graduation but didn’t make it. A couple were just a few credits short. Several ended up in jail.
Watkins’ struggle now is a big one: Where to go next. Should she stay in Sidney where the Abneys are happy to keep helping her, or should she return to Cincinnati to be closer to her biological family?
“That’s hard,” she says. “Maybe I’ll live in the middle.