Each weekday, Onaya Davis would wake up long before dawn to start her morning, and by 6 a.m. the 17-year-old was out the door and on her way to school.
The high school she attended in northern Sacramento County was 90 minutes away from her father’s apartment in the Meadowview neighborhood, where she lived, her mother said.
Even with the long commute on public transportation, Davis was regularly the first student to arrive to class at the La Entrada Continuation High School, where she was set to graduate this spring.
“She’s the first person here in the morning,” said Kim Austin, the lead teacher at the continuation school. “She was so motivated and determined to live a good life.”
As Davis began her daily commute, on foot, in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday, a driver struck and killed the girl then fled, police said.
The Sacramento County Coroner’s Office identified Davis on Wednesday as the victim of the fatal hit-and-run accident at Meadowview Road and Coral Gables Court, near 24th Street, that occurred just before 6 a.m. Tuesday.
The vehicle that hit her was last seen heading west on Meadowview Road, a Sacramento Police Department spokesman said. No description of the suspect’s vehicle was available, he said, but investigators were examining video from a nearby police POD camera, which can read license plates.
Davis was described by her mother, Nadea Becknell, and her teacher, Austin, as a quiet, hardworking student who loved to learn. The youngest of six children, she had a special interest in studying earth sciences, her mother said.
“That was her passion, to be a scientist,” Becknell said.
Austin said Davis studied hard for every test, no matter the subject.
“She never shortcutted anything that she did,” Austin said. “She wanted to know everything.”
Raj Rai, a spokeswoman for the San Juan Unified School District, said Davis transferred to the continuation school during her sophomore year after attending Encina Preparatory High School. Both schools are near where Davis’ mother used to live.
The continuation school has 80 enrolled students and is composed of small class sizes, Rai said. Students typically complete coursework at the school for a few hours and do additional work from home.
Becknell said her daughter loved the school and developed a special bond with Austin while she was there. When Becknell moved out of a home just blocks from La Entrada Academy a few months ago, Davis opted to make the long commute from her father’s home during the week instead of going to a new school, Becknell said.
“She didn’t want to leave the academy because she wanted to be with me,” Austin said. “She wanted to graduate with us.”
Most recently, Becknell said the teen was studying to get her driver’s license so she could get a car and drive to school. Austin said Davis had submitted forms for a new part-time job the day before she died.
As of Wednesday afternoon, authorities had provided no additional details about the hit-and-run death. Family members said they hope anyone with information about the incident will go to the police.
“I just want whoever hit my daughter to come forward, or someone that saw this person to come forward,” Becknell said. “It’s just terrible that somebody would do this to my baby.”