If you don’t believe in the power of a community, then you’ve obviously never heard the story of Jozey Mitcham. For the former Wood River High School student experienced the strength of community and more small town love than she ever imagined possible.
It all started in 2006, when Jozey Mitcham was named Paula’s “Prom Girl.” Each year since 2002, Paula Procter of Paula’s Dress Shop in Hailey has given a high school senior girl a little leg up and a prom night she’ll never forget—and few involved in the program will ever forget choosing Jozey.
When she was just two, Jozey lost her mother in a car accident and was raised by her aunt/mom Rustin Miller, uncle/dad Mark Miller, grandma Nancy Sherbine and father Jerry Mitcham.
Jozey’s prom night was more like a prom week. Professional women from all over the Valley pitched in whatever they could to send Mitcham off like a modern day Cinderella. The young tomboy was forced to get girly. Jozey received a new hairdo, a facial, a spray tan, flowers, a manicure and pedicure, tip money, high heels, jewelry, dinner for two and $100 toward her college books.
“When they called me into the school office, I thought I was getting in trouble,” laughed Jozey. “I was so honored. I didn’t even know about Paula’s Prom Girls before then.”
For Procter, it’s about giving girls confidence. “Having a beautiful dress when they walk in a room gives them such confidence,” Proctor said, “and they get to choose ANY dress in the store.” What girl wouldn’t love that?
When Carol Harlig, one of the prom night donors, received a handwritten thank you note with a photo from Jozey, many lives were forever changed. Harlig was so impressed by this Paula’s Prom Girl that she reached out to other women in the community and wound up raising over $5,000 in just two weeks to help Jozey with her upcoming college expenses. These are normal, working-class people from all walks of life in the Wood River Valley who have become part of this young woman’s college experience. And the support has continued to grow. Jozey’s story and the way she handles herself has been so inspirational that there are now 60 women and one man that are part of her “Guardian Angels” team, which has now amassed more than $50,000 of assistance.
The new goal of the Guardian Angels is to hopefully inspire others to support a deserving student in the community. They ask everyone to donate a mere $100, which might not seem like much, but ask 60 friends to get involved and you can really make a difference in someone’s life.
Six years after choosing the prom dress of her dreams, Jozey Mitcham will graduate from Boise State with two Bachelor of Science degrees; Applied Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Physics. Upon graduation she plans to integrate her engineering degrees with animals, her true passion, to discover new ways to improve animal health care. This summer, she’ll be interning at the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, which will hopefully launch her career.
Throughout her journey, Jozey has continually updated her Guardian Angels with all the details of attending college. “They truly have become my family,” she said.
The power of community outreach is undeniable and our Valley is among the most generous. Jozey Mitcham’s Guardian Angels have watched her grow into an incredibly poised young woman, all while embarking on their own fulfilling journey.