TAMPA — Angela Mizell had a newly issued high school diploma and the desire to achieve more. She had a story and a voice that inspired others. What she didn't have was a ride.
Mizell, a 19 year-old Hillsborough Community College student and subject of a previous Tampa Bay Times feature, relied on public transportation to get from her home near Copeland Park to school and work, but that often left her running late.
"I went to Dale Mabry (an HCC campus), and I had to take two buses to get there, so that meant I had to leave almost two hours early," Mizell said.
Mizell's limited transportation prevented her from enrolling in evening classes. She worked part-time at McDonald's, but she found it so difficult to get there on time that she lost her job.
As Mizell told Lafe Thomas, a youth adviser at the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, "There's always something."
Mizell would know. She survived cancer, suffered verbal and physical abuse from her mother's boyfriend, witnessed numerous violent crimes and saw older siblings sent to prison — all before leaving elementary school.
But even as she struggled to get to her classes at HCC, advisers at the CDC pointed to Mizell as an example of what disadvantaged students could achieve. In October, she gave a speech at the annual CDC luncheon, where she shared her life story with a rapt crowd. Other speaking engagements and the feature in the Times followed.
After a local member of Alpha Kappa Alpha read her story, the sorority reached out to Mizell and offered her a scholarship to help her finish her education.
In January, Pastor Gee Thompson of Greater LIFE Christian Church told Mizell the church would provide her with a car of her own. It took several months for that pledge to come to fruition, but on June 12, Mizell picked up the keys to a burnt orange Pontiac.
Thomas said the effort to aid Mizell is remarkable for the number of players involved and the dedication of all those who promised help.
"So many people promise things," Thomas said. "They say they're going to do it, but we get wrapped up in our own lives."
Mizell proves that pledges, when followed through, have visible results. She will attend Alpha Kappa Alpha's international conference in Charlotte, N.C., in July and is thinking of becoming a nurse. She was rehired by McDonald's and secured a spot in their corporate transition program. She now attends HCC classes at the Ybor campus, and with a car of her own the trip to class is just 10 to 15 minutes.
Mizell smiled when asked how it felt to have her own transportation.
"Worth the wait," she said.
Victoria Jacobsen can be reached at email@example.com.