WKMG-TV executive producer helps homeless teen land full college scholarship


At the start of Savohn Thomas' senior year of high school, the Orange County, Florida teen found himself homeless and moving from one place to another. At times, he even spent nights at a bus stop.

"Honestly, I didn't want to feel like anybody's burden," Thomas said. "It was a lot of times I wanted to give up. It was a lot of times I wanted to drop out."

But he didn't. Thomas used his passion for poetry, acting and being on stage as an outlet. And he's talented: his craft earned him some pretty big honors.

WKMG-TV learned about Thomas and his story, and wanted to help. Specifically, executive producer Tara Evans wanted to help. But it's safe to say, she had no idea just how much she could lend a hand.

For a station that works hard every day to "get results," Evans certainly delivered.

"Savohn is pretty extraordinary," Evans said. "I attended AMDA -- the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. And I knew that a girl that I graduated with still worked there. So I got in touch with her and I was like, 'Hey, you know, I've got this kid. He's going there, he's been accepted. So is it possible that maybe you could consider him for a work-study program? I think that would be really great. ... A few weeks later, his scholarship had been upped to what's called a director scholarship."

And the scholarship had increased from $40,000 to nearly $150,000.

Thomas came on News 6's morning show to do a live interview with the anchors and talk about his future, based on the life-changing news he had just received.

"So, we were super excited, and I didn't really realize at the time, like, exactly why they decided to do that," Evans said of the massive scholarship increase. "And I was like, 'Oh, by the way, why'd you decide to give him the extra money?' And they were like, 'Oh, because of you. Because you sent us the story.'"

At first, Evans said, she didn't want any of the spotlight or attention for what had transpired.

"I was just doing something nice as a human," she said with a laugh. She had no idea the school would step up and cover four years of Thomas' schooling.

Added Thomas, "This is everything to me -- literally everything. And I'm not going to let this slip away."

"Not every day is always fun," Evans said of the job. "(But) this day -- those days, are what make what we do here worth it."

Now, Thomas will go from walking nearly 20 miles to high school, to New York City.

The musical "In the Heights" brought out his talent. It was on June 2 when Thomas' theater class performed at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts -- a night Thomas said he'll never forget.

"It was a total surprise," he said. "I did not know anything that was going on that night that I got it."

Thomas is referring to becoming the first Applause Awards student recipient of the Pursuit of the Arts OCPS scholarship. Although Evans helped with the scholarship, Thomas got into AMDA on his own.

"Even though I am scared, even though I am afraid -- because I've never been out of where I grew up, this means more to me because it gives me those dreams that I had as a kid," he said.