Turning tragic pasts into triumphant futures

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Teenage homelessness is becoming a growing issue in our area, but an organization in southern Minnesota is working to change the lives of area high school kids who are struggling to get by.

From substance abuse to family neglect, bad grades and encounters with the law, Project Legacy works to get kids off the streets, and into the classrooms of higher education. For many of the kids involved, it’s a long journey to get them to the start of the new school year, especially for Kevin Lee.

Lee tells us he struggled with substance abuse, homelessness and checking in and out of treatment facilities. However, his hard work has finally paid off and he is enrolled and set to attend Winona State University this winter. “None of this would have been possible,” he says. “It wouldn’t have been possible and I’m happy I’m with Karen.”

Karen Edmonds is the director of Project Legacy, and she’s the guardian angel in the Rochester community that takes kids like Lee, and turns them into aspiring scholars. She tells is that, “the hope is that out of those 300 kids that are labeled as homeless in Rochester, we will be able to eliminate that” and help get them enrolled into the school of their dreams.

This year, the organization is helping 21 graduating seniors make the leap from high school to college, a number Edmonds says she hasn’t seen since the program began back in 2008. Volunteers with Project Legacy help these kids navigate through everything from ACT prep, to college visits at universities nationwide. Their goal is to be a support system for these kids, and give them the push they need to succeed.

Lee has responded to this push by declaring his major and setting his goal to one day become a neurologist. He says, “I want to put my hand out and help people just like all of the people that helped me.”

The organization is hoping to have more than 40 volunteers sign up to sponsor kids in their program and as of Saturday, they currently only have 24 volunteers enrolled in the program. For more information about getting involved and sponsoring a kid in college, check out the Project Legacy website, or find them on Facebook.

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