Christepher Romero, 17, a junior at Sunnyslope High School, survived a rough childhood in an inner-city neighborhood and went on to develop a program that is now helping to keep other at-risk teens in his old school away from crime and drugs. When he was young, Chris’s mother struggled with drug and alcohol addiction and an inability to care for her children. Chris was recruited by neighborhood gangs, but was ultimately “saved” by a school counselor who later adopted him. In his new family, Chris began to think of the kids in his old neighborhood who did not have the opportunities he now enjoys. “I decided to do something to help them and honor my parents,” he said. He approached a police officer working at his former school and became a volunteer mentor. He soon put together a plan to teach kids swimming and soccer, conduct CPR and nutrition classes, and organize neighborhood “clean-ups.” Other students have since signed on to help Chris, and his program – called “School Buddies” – now also offers after-school tutoring and recreation activities during school breaks. Chris plans to start a foundation soon – named after his adoptive parents – to provide college scholarships to children from his old neighborhood.
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