Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Happily Beating the Odds 5 E. St. Louis Youths to Get Special Awards

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Happily Beating the Odds 5 E. St. Louis Youths to Get Special Awards

Article excerpt

Going to funerals has become a way of life for Dontrell Anderson of East St. Louis. He has seen 13 of his friends buried in the last three years. None was older than 20.

He knows he might have ended up the same way. But Anderson, 17, beat the odds.

So has Myko Seqauia Hammond. Her father abused drugs and alcohol and beat her mother. For a while, the family lived on the streets of East St. Louis.

"She doesn't have the socially correct trappings of many of today's youths - no family car, no phone, no $50 sneakers, no add-a-braid hair, no trendy clothes, no gold chains," says her counselor, Ledora Williams. "Yet she appears to accept her present situation with the understanding of a mature adult."

This fall, Anderson will enroll at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Hammond, 18, who was an exemplary student at East St. Louis Senior High School, will start classes at Western Illinois University in Macomb.

And because they have come so far, Anderson and Hammond, plus three other high school students from East St. Louis who have overcome difficulty, will be honored tonight at the Adam's Mark Hotel in downtown St. Louis.

Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund in Washington, will speak at the celebration. And the five students will get to meet the President Bill Clinton.

The event is part of the Children Defense Fund's nationwide "Beat the Odds" program, which is intended to accent the "positive potential of young people."

The East St. Louis honorees know what it's like to have their hopes tested. They know it's only a few short miles - but a very long road - from the streets of East St. Louis to the Adam's Mark.

The other honorees are Evelyn Strode, LaTosha Maggard and LaTonya Griffin.

Tonight, carloads of youngsters and community leaders from East St. Louis will gather at the Adam's Mark. Mayor Gordon Bush, Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., columnist Gregory Freeman of the Post-Dispatch and Tony Scott of Majic 108 FM will hand out awards and gifts.

Each of the students will receive a wardrobe of school clothes and supplies, along with a lap top computer and a $1,000 scholarship. …

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