Ex-con gives scholarship to children of other inmates

- WEST JORDAN, Utah (ABC 4 News) - Graduation for West Jordan High senior Mariah Williamson will be bitter sweet. The one person she hoped would be there won't.

“She's not going to see me graduate and it's the one thing I had asked,” she said. Her mom is currently incarcerated, in and out of jail for the last 13 years.

“It's been hard because I didn't have a relationship with her when I was a little girl and I always wanted a mom,” she said.

Without a dad in the picture, Mariah was raised by her grandma, but has taken on a lot of life's responsibilities herself by managing to be an honor student while working full-time 40 hours a week.

“It's really stressful,” she said.

Mariah might not get the support she needs from her mom, but is about to from someone once locked-up himself.

Karl Winsness can't get lost time back with his now grown kids, so he decided to make a difference where it still counts.

Winsness, who now owns a plumbing company, started a scholarship for children of inmates donating most of the thousand dollar awards from his own pocket.

“You realize the helplessness when you realize you're only making 40 cents an hour and they are thinking about going to college and they've worked hard they haven’t done anything wrong,” said Winsness.

On Monday, Mariah, the very first recipient of the “Willy the Plumber” scholarship got to meet the man behind it.

“I think it's amazing I wish my mom would be inspired and do something like that,” she told Winsness. “Well maybe she will, my children inspired me to do this,” he said.

It's not so much the money, but the act of kindness from a stranger that perhaps touches Mariah most.

“It really makes a difference in our lives, being able to know that people do care even though our parents aren't there and they don't care,” she said.

If you would like to donate to the “Willy the Plumber” scholarship fund, click here.

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