Marietta High School alum shares story of success despite homelessness
by Lindsay Field
July 21, 2013 10:55 PM | 5119 views | 11 11 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tianna Quiller, 19, introduces keynote speakers during the 2013 International Baccalaureate Conference of Americas event Sunday in New Orleans. The 2012 Marietta High School graduate told her story to almost 1,500 attendees from 500 IB schools and 30 countries about how she overcame being homeless her senior year to earn a high-achieving IB diploma and go on to attend college.<br>Special/Julie Dermansky©2013
Tianna Quiller, 19, introduces keynote speakers during the 2013 International Baccalaureate Conference of Americas event Sunday in New Orleans. The 2012 Marietta High School graduate told her story to almost 1,500 attendees from 500 IB schools and 30 countries about how she overcame being homeless her senior year to earn a high-achieving IB diploma and go on to attend college.
Special/Julie Dermansky©2013
A Marietta High graduate was in the national spotlight Sunday as she told a crowd of almost 1,500 people the story of how even while homeless her senior year, she didn’t shy away from being a high-achieving International Baccalaureate student.

Tianna Quiller, a 19-year-old college student who graduated from Marietta with her IB diploma in 2012, talked about her challenges in earning the diploma at the 2013 IB Conference of Americas in New Orleans.

She also introduced Ruby Payne, a 30-year American educator and author of “A Framework for Understanding Poverty.”

“This was an amazing opportunity, being there at the conference, meeting so many different people from all over the world, and it was my first ride on an airplane,” Quiller said Sunday after her speech.

The multi-day conference, which began Thursday morning, is an annual gathering of an estimated 1,500 attendees, who represent 500 IB schools from more than 30 countries worldwide.

Quiller was one of only four students from North and South America who were invited to speak.

Paul Campbell with IB Americas personally invited Quiller to speak and introduce Payne.

“I chose Tianna because of her extraordinary persistence and passion,” he said. “I want her to tell her story.”

Quiller told the crowd that during the spring semester of her senior year at Marietta High her family found themselves homeless.

“My mother lost her job as a waitress, which already doesn’t pay very well, then was unable to keep any new jobs because she couldn’t afford child care for my (then 4-year-old) brother,” Quiller said.

Her family bounced around from hotel to hotel for months, all while Quiller was attempting to stay on track and earn an IB diploma.

She considered moving back to her family’s hometown in Thomaston, just southwest of Atlanta, many times, but decided against it.

“Home had (a bed and a next meal) but what it didn’t have was IB,” Quiller told the audience. “The community I found in IB could not be recreated. … I also comprehended that the only way out of poverty was education. Where else could I receive a global education for free? Where else could I receive an education so elite that only 3,632 schools offer it worldwide?”

Quiller said she knew that IB would offer her a strong start after high school.

“No one knew (that I was homeless), not my closest friends, not my teachers and certainly not my IB coordinator,” she said. “And if I had not missed my exams, my story never would have been revealed. A girl has to have her pride, or so I thought, but a girl also has to know when to ask for help.”

And help she did receive.

The IB coordinator, Debbie Woolard, and others helped Quiller sort out financial aid for college, get a cap and gown for graduation and appeal to the IB on her behalf because she had missed some required work in the program.

“Thankfully the IB gods answered by prayers and I was able to receive my diploma,” Quiller said.

“My IB story is not that I was homeless or that I missed two papers and my exams, or even that my first time on an airplane was Thursday morning, but my true IB story is that IB works,” she said. “No matter where you sleep, where you come from, no matter the color of your skin, no matter your religion, language, the size pants you wear or if you’re Team Edward or Team Jacob (from the “Twilight” book series), anybody who is willing to work hard and have the wherewithal to succeed can succeed. After all, who works harder than anybody associated with IB?”

The teenager received a round of applause after her speech, and Woolard, who also attended the conference, said she was proud that her former student was willing to tell her very personal story.

“She inspired and moved the audience, and afterwards people wanted to meet her, touch her and thank her for the new perspective they gained through her experience,” she said. “Tianna truly represents all that is good within Marietta City Schools and the international sisterhood of IB World Schools.”

The IB Diploma Program at Marietta High was authorized in 1995. It offers an academically challenging and balanced program that prepares students for success in universities worldwide and life beyond.

Quiller just completed her freshman year at Mississippi State University. She will be returning to her home state this fall to attend Georgia Southern University, where she will major in early childhood education with plans to graduate in spring 2016.

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August 02, 2013
And it always amuses me when people that have no idea of a situation are quick to make ill-informed, off-base remarks. Despite facing adverse conditions, this young lady committed herself to undertaking and finishing one of the most rigorous academic programs offered at the high school level. She could have very easily bailed out of IB and "coasted" her senior year with much easier classes, internships, etc. She did not get any special breaks based on her race or socio-economic status. The same appeal put forth for her has been done for others that have encountered extreme circumstances. Bottom-line, she stayed focused and took care of business. And I have to chuckle at the lame attempts to throw race and Obama into the discussion. So sad. Right, Lisa?
August 01, 2013
Lisa from Long Island (aka truth about IB) - you need to stick to your own neighborhood. Lord knows that there tons of problems and issues on Long Island. No need to mess with a good program here in our town.
Think B4 You Write
July 23, 2013
TruthABoutIB, you need to shut your mouth.

I taught this student in 6th grade, and she deserves (and works for) everything she gets. Your raw ignorance and lack of compassion is astonishing. You let your prejudice against the program blind you to the story if this girl who overcame things you probably can't imagine.

The IB program is not close to perfect, but you have missed the point entirely and made this an issue of race instead of human spirit. Shame on you.
July 23, 2013
You, sir or madam, are rude and confused. Please do the students of Marietta a favor and surrender your teaching license.
July 23, 2013
Human spirit? Does Harvard decide who it admits based on their "human spirit"? Give me a break!

I guess from now on, the College Board should "curve" SAT results for any students who are black and homeless .... to be compassionate. Also, they should all automatically get into the National Honor Society show we are a compassionate society.

So let's call this what it is .... an Affirmative Action IB Diploma. The IBDP is supposed to be "rigorous". Its rules and regulations fill an entire book. You obviously didn't read my link to the story of the white student who DID all of the work, speaks 3 languages fluently and had the misfortune of being ill on IB exam day .... only to be denied the Diploma. This story makes the IB Diploma a JOKE and a complete waste of taxpayer dollars.
Gross story
July 22, 2013
No mention of her grades or GPA just that she's black and homeless so lets reward her and say its ok to miss tests and work. Life's hard get over it. This should not be rewarded. IB is hard for a reason and that Marietta makes exceptions doesn't surprise me. Anything to get their stats huh!?
July 23, 2013
Yes, note that the IB Coordinator had to file an appeal with IBO to get the Diploma issued. Those appeals aren't free, you know. You the taxpayers foot the bill.
Amazed Educator!
July 28, 2013
This young lady obviously had some adversity, the story that I read is more so about her trials in life as opposed to her accomplishment. I'm sure Ms. Quiller was and is an exceptional student or else why would her IB coordinator act on her behalf. I'm sure this young lady will become a success in whatever career she chooses. Go Soar Conquer, you have made your community proud! Be the kind of person that focuses on positivity, and life will be much more rewarding!!
July 22, 2013
"... appeal to the IB on her behalf because she had missed some required work in the program."

"My IB story is not that I was homeless or that I missed two papers and my exams...."

Well, I guess it pays to be black and homeless in the U.S. nowadays. I see IBO just throws all of its standards and regulations out the window so it can use this student as a "showpiece" for its conference to prove how compassionate the IB "family" is. On the other hand, if you are white, miss ONE paper and attend a private IB school in Europe, you are awarded an 'N' and denied your diploma:
July 22, 2013
While one does hate to rain on this young lady's parade, and I am truthfully happy that she has overcome her parents' inadequacies and bad fortune, you are right, Truth.

I'm absolutely certain she is also getting grant after grant for college from the federal Obama education department, while hard working middle class kids whose parents make too much to qualify for financial aid (and had little help from counselors) had to stay in Cobb, live at home and work whatever meager job they could get in the continuing-to-fail economy. Notice how the young lady, though educated through IB, has no concept of what has caused this economy, and likely believes that George Bush caused all of her problems, yet Obama and IB solved them all for her.
July 29, 2013
Are you bitter that you weren't bright enough in high school to attempt the IB diploma, or what?
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