Survivor of child abuse and homelessness dreams of going to college

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Photo: Brant Sanderlin



Felicia Villegas endured unspeakable abuse as a child and homelessness as a teen, but her struggles never broke her spirit.

“God chooses His strongest warriors to fight His biggest battles,” said Felicia, the subject of Sunday’s Personal Journey feature. (Read it online at personaljourneys.myajc.com/strong-survivor).

As a result of the abuse she became pregnant as a young teenager. Her abuser is serving a life sentence, but Felicia’s struggles didn’t end when the trial did. For a time she and her baby lived in a car in the parking lot of a Kennesaw Waffle House – during her sophomore year at Marietta High School. No one knew.

Felicia wants to attend Kennesaw State University and study criminal psychology, in hopes of helping other young abuse victims. Photo: Jennifer Brett

Felicia wants to attend Kennesaw State University and study criminal psychology, in hopes of helping other young abuse victims. Photo: Jennifer Brett

“I didn’t want to be a charity case. I didn’t tell anybody what was going on,” Felicia said. Her attentive principal Leigh Colburn learned the truth and contacted the YWCA of Northwest Georgia, which operates an emergency shelter and transitional housing program. The staff took Felicia and her baby in.

“That was one of the highlights of high school, knowing I had somewhere to go,” Felicia said. An International Baccalaureate student despite her challenges, she graduated in 2013 and lives in northeast Cobb County today. One day, when she has the money, she’d like to attend Kennesaw State University and study criminal psychology in hopes of helping other young victims. For now she is working at the Zaxby’s near WellStar Kennestone Hospital, on Church Street Extension in Marietta.

“I like my job,” she said. “Eventually, I want to go to school.”

A teen mom as a result of abuse, Felicia and her baby moved into the YWCA's shelter after her principal learned she was living in a car in a Waffle House parking lot. Photo: Courtesy of the YWCA of Northwest Georgia

A teen mom as a result of abuse, Felicia and her baby moved into the YWCA’s shelter after her principal learned she was living in a car in a Waffle House parking lot. Photo: Courtesy of the YWCA of Northwest Georgia

After Felicia’s story ran we heard from several people who want to help her achieve her dream of attending college. A fund has been set up at First Landmark Bank. Donations can be sent there at 307 N. Marietta Parkway, Marietta, 30060. Banking officer Whitney Freaney is the contact. Her direct line is 770-799-7960 and email is wfreaney@firstlandmarkonline.com.

To help via the YWCA of Northwest Georgia contact executive director Holly Tuchman at 770-427-2902 or htuchman@ywcanwga.com or see the web site. There’s a “donate now” button on the home page.

Colburn, who is now director of the new Graduate Marietta Success Center, continues to serve as Felicia’s mentor.

“When you invest the time to get to know Felicia, it isn’t her suffering that will leave the greatest impression on your heart,” she said. “Instead, Felicia will inspire within you a profound sense of hope as you become fully aware of her incredible potential.”


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