Community rallies around survivor of abuse and homelessness

From the office of Kennesaw State University President Dan Papp, you can see the sun setting…

Georgia (Aug 20, 2015) — From the office of Kennesaw State University President Dan Papp, you can see the sun setting over Kennesaw Mountain, its rays stretching out from the horizon as another day is done.  In the distance, you can also see a neon Waffle House sign.


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A few years ago, a young teen mom and her baby were living in a car parked in that Waffle House parking lot, with a jacket and baby blanket to keep them warm at night. When the sun rose, the teen’s mom – a Waffle House waitress who worked the overnight shift – would drive her to school and keep the baby during the day.

That was Felicia Villegas’ life as a Marietta High School sophomore.

Today, Felicia is 20, working full time and hoping to attend Kennesaw State University soon. She shared the story of the harrowing sexual abuse she endured as a child and homelessness she endured as an adolescent in a recent AJC Personal Journey feature. She became pregnant at 13 as a result of the abuse; her abuser is now serving a life sentence.

A number of readers have responded since the story ran. A Marietta resident provided a backpack full of school supplies and a lunchbox for Felicia’s now 6-year-old daughter, who is in the first grade. Others have contributed to a fund set up for Felicia at First Landmark Bank, at 307 N. Marietta Parkway, Marietta, GA 30060. (Banking officer Whitney Freaney is the contact if you’re interested in helping. Whitney’s direct line is 770-799-7960 and email is

A team from Kennesaw State University invited Felicia on a campus tour. President Papp personally invited her to his office and chatted with her for a few minutes.

“Are you ready to start college?” the genial Papp asked. Felicia, usually outgoing, confident and bubbly, was too nervous to say much. She nodded and said, “Yes.”

“We’ll do everything we can to help you,” Papp said, “but guess who’s got to do all the studying?”

Felicia lit up at that point.

“That’s OK,” she said. “I love school!”

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit