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“I Beat the Odds”

Charlette always knew what she wanted: to go to college. But that didn’t mean it would be easy to reach her goal.

Nathaniel Welch for Scholastic

Star Player
Charlette has stayed focused on her goals, on and off the basketball court. The game has played an important role in her journey to college.

    On the street where Charlette Leurs, 18, grew up, there are often piles of trash. Buildings are damaged and neglected. Sometimes there are people selling drugs. 

    Charlette’s street is in a part of New York City with a lot of poverty and crime. Many people there struggle to afford basic things, like rent and food.

    Like most people in her neighborhood, Charlette didn’t have much money. Her mom raised Charlette and her baby sister on her own. Charlette never had the latest iPhone or newest clothes.

    But she never missed that stuff. That’s because she had two things that kept her optimistic about her future: her family and a dream of going to college.

    Charlette Leurs is 18. There’s trash on the street where she grew up. Buildings are damaged and neglected. Sometimes people sell drugs. 

    Charlette’s street is in New York City. It’s a part of the city with a lot of poverty and crime. Many people there struggle. They can’t afford basic things. It’s hard to pay rent. It’s hard to buy food.

    Charlette didn’t have much money. Her mom raised Charlette and her baby sister on her own. 

    But Charlette had two things that kept her optimistic: her family and a dream of going to college.

    On the street where Charlette Leurs, 18, grew up, there are often piles of trash. Buildings are damaged and neglected, and sometimes there are people selling drugs. 

    Charlette’s street is in an area of New York City that has a great deal of poverty and crime. Many people there struggle to afford basic things, such as rent and food.

    Like most people in her neighborhood, Charlette didn’t have much money. Her mother raised Charlette and her baby sister on her own, and Charlette never had the latest iPhone or newest clothing.

    But she never missed those material possessions, because she had two things that kept her optimistic about her future: her family and a dream of going to college.

No Doubt

    Going to college is harder than it sounds for a student like Charlette. Many children who grow up in poverty do not finish high school. 

    Many of these students drop out so they can work to help support their families. But this makes it even harder for them to make a better life. 

    Without a high school diploma or college degree, it’s hard to get a well-paying job. 

    From a young age, Charlette wanted something different. And she knew that she would have to work extra hard to beat the odds. 

    “My mom always said that school comes first, no matter what,” Charlette says. “She and my aunts and cousins never let me doubt that I would go to college. It was just a question of how to get there.”

    Getting to college can be hard. Being poor makes it harder.

    Some students need to work to help their families. They drop out of high school. But this can make their lives harder. Without a diploma or degree, it’s hard to get a job that pays well. 

    Charlette wanted something different. And she knew she would have to work hard to beat the odds. 

    “My mom always said that school comes first, no matter what,” Charlette says. “She and my aunts and cousins never let me doubt that I would go to college. It was just a question of how to get there.”

    Going to college is more difficult than it sounds for a student like Charlette. Many children who grow up in poverty don’t finish high school. 

    Many of these students drop out so they can work to help support their families, but this makes it even harder for them to improve their lives. Without a high school diploma or college degree, it’s difficult to get a well-paying job. 

    From a young age, Charlette wanted something different—and she knew that she would have to work extra hard to beat the odds. 

    “My mom always said that school comes first, no matter what,” Charlette recalls. “She and my aunts and cousins never let me doubt that I would go to college. It was just a question of how to get there.”

Staying Focused

    To reach her goal, Charlette took charge of the things in her life she could control. She studied hard. She stayed focused, regardless of what was happening on the streets around her. 

    And in middle school, she started playing basketball. Being part of a team gave her even more discipline.

    By high school, college was within Charlette’s reach. She was one of the top five students in her class and a star on the basketball team. 

    But her schedule was tough. She had basketball practice every night until 7 p.m. For a while, she had a job. Plus she helped out around the house.

    “Sometimes I wanted to relax,” Charlette says. “But I also wanted to help my mom. I did laundry and dishes and cleaned the house.” 

    Charlette juggled these responsibilities as best she could. And every day brought her closer to her dream.

    Finally, she was a senior. It was time to apply to college.

    Charlette took charge of what she could. She studied hard. She stayed focused. She ignored what was happening on the streets. 

    In middle school, she played basketball. Being on a team gave her even more discipline.

    Soon she was in high school. College was within her reach. She was one of the top five students in her class. And she was a star on the basketball team. 

    But things were not easy. She had basketball practice every night. For a while, she had a job. And she helped out at home.

    “Sometimes I wanted to relax,” she says. “But I also wanted to help my mom. I did laundry and dishes. I cleaned the house.” 

Charlette did her best. Every day brought her closer to her dream.

    Finally, she was a senior. It was time to apply to college.

    To reach her goal, Charlette took charge of the things in her life she could control. She studied hard and stayed focused, regardless of what was happening on the streets around her. 

    And in middle school, she started playing on a basketball team, which gave her even more discipline.

    By high school, college was within Charlette’s reach. She was one of the top five students in her class and a star on the basketball team. 

    But her schedule was tough. She had basketball practice every night until 7 o’clock, and for a while she also had a job. Then, when she got home, she helped out around the house.

    “Sometimes I wanted to relax,” Charlette remembers, “but I also wanted to help my mom. I did laundry and dishes and cleaned the house.” 

    Charlette juggled these responsibilities as best she could, and every day brought her closer to her dream.

    Finally, she was a senior, and it was time to apply to college.

Asking for Help

    Applying to college is hard work. It also requires some important things that Charlette did not have. 

    She did not have internet access at home. She did not have free time to fill out applications or money for application fees. She did not have family who had gone to college and knew the process.

    Charlette struggled to keep up her grades, play basketball, and finish her applications on time. “Applying for college was the most stressful thing in the world,” Charlette says. “I cried several times.”

    But what Charlette did have made the difference. She had the guts to ask for help. 

    Charlette reached out to her teachers and principal at Bronx River High School. 

    “Once I spoke up, they helped me manage my time,” she says. “They also loaned me a computer and let me fill out applications during school.” 

    Charlette turned in her applications on time—all while leading her basketball team to the playoffs.

    Applying to college is hard. And Charlette didn’t have what she needed. She had no internet access at home. She did not have free time to fill out applications. She did not have money for application fees. No one in her family had gone to college or knew what to do.

    Charlette kept her grades up. She played basketball. She tried to get her applications done. “Applying for college was the most stressful thing in the world,” she says. “I cried several times.” 

    Charlette asked for help. She turned to her teachers. She talked to her principal at Bronx River High School. 

    “Once I spoke up, they helped me manage my time,” she says. “They also loaned me a computer and let me fill out applications during school.” 

    Charlette turned in her applications on time. And she led her team to the playoffs.

    Applying to college is hard work, and the process requires some important things that Charlette lacked. 

    She didn’t have internet access at home, free time to fill out applications, or money for application fees. She didn’t have family members who had gone to college and were familiar with the process.

    Charlette struggled to keep up her grades, play basketball, and finish her applications on time. “Applying for college was the most stressful thing in the world,” she recalls. “I cried several times.”

    But Charlette did have something that ultimately made all the difference: the courage to ask for help. 

    Charlette reached out to her teachers and principal at Bronx River High School. 

    “Once I spoke up, they helped me manage my time,” she says. “They also loaned me a computer and let me fill out applications during school.” 

    Charlette submitted her applications on time—all while leading her basketball team to the playoffs.

A Bright Future

    In December, Charlette got the news she had waited so long to hear. She was accepted to the University of Hartford, in Connecticut. Even better? She received a basketball scholarship. 

    “When I visited the university, it felt like home,” Charlette says. “I can’t wait to play with my new teammates.”

    Charlette is nervous but excited to start school in the fall. And she is grateful to her teachers, principal, coaches—and especially her mom and family. With their support, she reached her goal. 

    Now, she wants to help other kids do the same. 

    “I want to be an algebra teacher,” Charlette says. “I want to help kids love learning as much as I do. I want them to know that there’s so much they can do.” 

    In December, Charlette got great news. She was accepted to the University of Hartford, in Connecticut. Even better? She got a basketball scholarship.

    “When I visited the university, it felt like home,” she says. “I can’t wait to play with my new teammates.”

    Charlette is nervous. But she’s excited to start school in the fall. And she’s grateful to her teachers, principal, coaches, and family. They helped her reach her goal. 

    Now she wants to help others do the same. 

    “I want to be an algebra teacher,” she says. “I want to help kids love learning as much as I do. I want them to know that there’s so much you can do.” 

    In December, Charlette got the news she had waited so long to hear: She was accepted to the University of Hartford, in Connecticut. Even better, she received a basketball scholarship. 

    “When I visited the university, it felt like home,” Charlette says. “I can’t wait to play with my new teammates.”

    Charlette is nervous but excited about starting school in the fall, and she’s grateful to her teachers, principal, coaches—and especially her mom and family. With their support, she reached her goal. 

    Now, she wants to help other students do the same. 

    “I want to be an algebra teacher,” Charlette says. “I want to help kids love learning as much as I do. I want them to know that there’s so much you can do.” 

Nathaniel Welch for Scholastic (left); Courtesy of Leurs Family (right)

College Bound
The college prep room at Bronx River High is decorated with flags from schools around the country. (left)

 

Family Support 
Charlette celebrates her college acceptance with (from left) her cousin, mom, and aunt. (right)

ACTIVITY

Cause and Effect

You’ve just read “I Beat the Odds” It’s time to try this activity!

You’ve just read “I Beat the Odds” It’s time to try this activity!

You’ve just read “I Beat the Odds” It’s time to try this activity!

What to do: A cause is what makes something happen. An effect is what happens as a result. In the chart below, fill in the missing causes and effects.

What to do: A cause is what makes something happen. An effect is what happens as a result. In the chart below, fill in the missing causes and effects.

What to do: A cause is what makes something happen. An effect is what happens as a result. In the chart below, fill in the missing causes and effects.

Many students in poverty drop out of school and help support their families.

HINT: How does dropping out affect their future?

Many students in poverty drop out of school and help support their families.

HINT: How does dropping out affect their future?

Many students in poverty drop out of school and help support their families.

HINT: How does dropping out affect their future?

HINT: What did Charlette do to work toward her goal of going to college?

By high school, Charlette was a top student and a basketball star, and her goal was within reach.

HINT: What did Charlette do to work toward her goal of going to college?

By high school, Charlette was a top student and a basketball star, and her goal was within reach.

HINT: What did Charlette do to work toward her goal of going to college?

By high school, Charlette was a top student and a basketball star, and her goal was within reach.

Charlette was struggling to study, play basketball, and get her college applications done. 

HINT: How did she feel? What did she do?

Charlette was struggling to study, play basketball, and get her college applications done. 

HINT: How did she feel? What did she do?

Charlette was struggling to study, play basketball, and get her college applications done. 

HINT: How did she feel? What did she do?

HINT: Sum up what led to Charlette’s success.

Charlette got into the University of Hartford and received a scholarship.

HINT: Sum up what led to Charlette’s success.

Charlette got into the University of Hartford and received a scholarship.

HINT: Sum up what led to Charlette’s success.

Charlette got into the University of Hartford and received a scholarship.

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