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Team Tina helps teen mom with college funds

Andrea Poulos is well on her way to turning her life around, two years after giving birth to her son at 16. She graduated from continuation high school in June and currently is enrolled at Sierra College.

On Saturday, she got a much-needed boost from the Tina Knight Foundation, in the form of a $1,500 scholarship.

“I’m just really grateful I was chosen,” Poulos said. “It’s really important — otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to get my classes in time. I wouldn’t have been able to start.”



Poulos was the 2012 recipient of the money raised by Team Tina 2012 in memory of Tina Knight, daughter of Debbie and Jim Knight of Penn Valley.

The Tina Knight Foundation is a nonprofit foundation created by the Knight family to honor Tina, who died in 2009, a few weeks before her 18th birthday from a drug overdose.




“Tina spent a good part of the last three years of her life in and out of juvenile hall, including dealing with juvenile drug court, probation, random drug testing,” Debbie Knight wrote on the foundation’s website. “I believe that if this evil can scoop down and consume my daughter, then nobody is safe from it. Tina had every resource, every ounce of support, and it still found her and sucked her in.

“I miss my daughter so terribly. I had to do something to keep her here with me, her name known, talked about, not forgotten,” Debbie Knight continued.

The Knight family’s goal is to support drug awareness in and around western Nevada County, with the ultimate goal of preventing other families and teens from experiencing the same kind of tragedy. Team Tina works to provide scholarship grants to young adults who have had difficulties in their teen years, especially the at-risk population at the alternative high schools in western Nevada County. Young adults are invited to apply for scholarships, which are paid directly to the trade or vocational school on behalf of the recipient.

The foundation initially was the brainchild of family friend Brenda Clinite, Debbie Knight said.

“I took it over, and it has been a healing source for me,” she said.

The whole intent of the scholarships was not to target “mainstream” students but those attending continuation high schools, Debbie Knight said.

“Before Tina, I thought of those kids as toss-aways, until it became real in my life,” she said. “My goal is to help these kids who otherwise wouldn’t have another chance, who just need the extra boost or support.”

Poulos is an example of a teen who needed a little help to kick-start her future. She was a two-time high school dropout when she found she was pregnant at 15.

“My son was the entire reason I got back into school,” Poulos said. “I wanted to be able to give him the best life I could possibly give him.”

Poulos gave birth two months after she turned 16 and moved back to Grass Valley last summer, she said.

“It has been a struggle,” she acknowledged. “I don’t have any help from his father.”

Poulos said she hopes to get her associate’s degree from Sierra, then transfer to a four-year school with the ultimate goal of earning her teaching credential and teaching at a continuation school.

“I just want to help other kids who are having problems, that don’t do so well in regular high school,” Poulos said.

Go online at http://www.tinaknightfoundation.com for more information.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4229.


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