Downtown Miami

Homeless students receive laptops to help them succeed

(Left to right) Jurmelle, 17, Davona, 14, Dayna Steele, Bodactious, 17, and Tabitha, 16, after Dayna Steele gave them Google Chromebooks in Miami on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014.
(Left to right) Jurmelle, 17, Davona, 14, Dayna Steele, Bodactious, 17, and Tabitha, 16, after Dayna Steele gave them Google Chromebooks in Miami on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014. Miami Herald Staff

Four high school girls who are currently homeless and have high career aspirations in nutrition, computer engineering, the culinary arts and fashion merchandising got a helping hand on Friday.

Dayna Steele, a motivational business speaker and founder of, gave each girl a new Google Chromebook laptop while in town for Thanksgiving.

“I don’t understand how far you have gotten without them,” she said. “All you have to do now is go out and be great.”

Jurmelle, Tabitha, Davona and Bodatious, who live in a shelter managed by Chapman Partnership, a nonprofit, are all honors students at their respective schools and are determined to become successful and the future — starting with college.

“I am motivated by the fact that I want to do well in life, live in the nice houses and be successful,” said Jurmelle, 17, who attends Miami Northwestern Senior High School.

Steele began giving laptops to students a year ago, after she read a Miami Herald Wish Book article while visiting her in-laws for Thanksgiving.

“My goal was to give one a week,” she said. “With these inexpensive Google Chromebooks they are given the key to the outside world.”

Google Chromebooks generally sell for $200 to $300.

Steele surpassed her goal, giving out 54 near her home in Houston and a couple in Atlanta during business speeches. On Friday Nov. 28, the tally went up to 60 with the four laptops she gave at Chapman Partnership and two at the Jewish Adoption and Family Care Options center in Sunrise.

At the Family Resource Center inside Chapman Partnership on 1550 N. Miami Ave., Steele handed letters to the four girls, who thought they were getting Thanksgiving cupcakes. Their mouths opened wide as they gasped in surprise, as they read how someone has noticed their efforts and they earned a computer for it.

“That one tiny moment where they realize what the letter says is what I wait for each and every time,” Steele said.

The laptops will help the girls do their homework, write essays and apply to colleges and for scholarships.

Tabitha, 16, who goes to Booker T. Washington High School, will be using her new laptop to apply to Brown University, where her uncle attended.

“I like Rhode Island and it’s a good school,” Tabitha said. “My mom has always pushed me. I don’t want to be in this situation again.”

Before, they either had to stay after school, go to the library or wait their turn to use a computer at the shelter.

“Now we don’t have to wait,” said Davona, 14, who also attends Booker T. Washington. “Sometimes you forget about [the assignment] and can get an F.”

Davona, the youngest of the group, is inspired to achieve her goals because of her mother’s encouragement.

“I’ve always wanted to do what she never got a chance to do,” she said.

Despite setbacks in their lives, each one has managed to excel in school, maintaining good attendance and a grade point average of more than 3.2.

Bodatious, 17, who goes to Miami Carol City Senior High School, also works as a teacher’s aide, helping faculty with filing paperwork and grading assignments.

Earlier on Friday, Steele and her 13-year-old niece, Madyson Gold, donated two Chromebooks to two students at JAFCO in Sunrise. Gold used part of her Bat Mitzvah money to purchase a laptop to donate like her aunt.

Steele hopes that her own initiative inspires others to help in their communities as well.

“Quit waiting for a nonprofit,” Steele said. “I am one person who has found a way to help one student at a time. Anybody can do this.”