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Honors for Minnesota High School Seniors who Beat the Odds

PHOTO: Five high school seniors each will be awarded a $5,000 scholarship Saturday at the 23rd Annual Beat the Odds Celebration from Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota. (Left to right: Martell Person, Makayla Hout, Kao Soua Yang, Nasro Mohamed, Randy Mathews) Photo credit: Children's Defense Fund - Minnesota.
PHOTO: Five high school seniors each will be awarded a $5,000 scholarship Saturday at the 23rd Annual Beat the Odds Celebration from Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota. (Left to right: Martell Person, Makayla Hout, Kao Soua Yang, Nasro Mohamed, Randy Mathews) Photo credit: Children's Defense Fund - Minnesota.
April 17, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The path to future success can be tough for any teen, but many face major life challenges and prevail. With the end of the school year quickly approaching, five of the state's high school seniors who have beaten the odds are being honored.

Among them is Kou Soua Yang at Johnson Senior High School in St. Paul. With her mother and father becoming ill and unable to work after immigrating to the United States, Yang took on after-school jobs and caring for her parents and younger siblings.

"Too many times I feel like I want to give up," she said, "but I always tell myself to not give up because I've come this far already and I know that there are people who are worse off than me, so I just take advantage of the opportunities I have and do what I can."

Yang plans to pursue a master's degree in engineering. She'll have help with that thanks to a $5,000 "Beat the Odds" scholarship from Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota.

Peggy Flanagan, executive director of Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota, said the other students being honored and awarded scholarships are Martell Person of St. Louis Park, Randy Mathews of Minneapolis, and Makayla Hout and Nasro Mohamed, both of St. Paul. Flanagan said Mohamed immigrated here from war-torn Ethiopia.

"She saw her mother killed by soldiers and her father disappeared," Flanagan said. "She was shot and has gone through painful rehabilitation and yet has still excelled in school and has generally just kept an incredibly positive attitude."

This is the 23rd year of the Beat the Odds celebration, which will be held Saturday night at the University of Minnesota's McNamara Alumni Center.

More information is online at cdf-mn.org/bto.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN