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Kapria Lee

Around the time of her 16th birthday, while still mourning the loss of her beloved grandmother, Kapria Lee's father lost his job and she found out her mother was pregnant again with her fifth child. At the same time, Kapria was suffering from extreme allergic reactions to pollen and trees, and her vision was becoming increasingly blurred. She also contracted strep throat and tonsillitis and needed several expensive medications. But her mother refused to get food stamps or Medicaid for her children and told them they would have to do without.

With expenses mounting and no money to pay for them, Kapria and her mother got into a big argument and her mother told her to leave, so she moved out and began staying with a friend. As Kapria got sicker and missed more and more school, social services became involved in the situation. Finally, months later, to avoid incarceration, her mother purchased the medication necessary for Kapria’s allergies and tonsillitis. And it was her school’s social worker who got her much-needed glasses so she could see again. Soon after that, her mother moved out on her family without telling anyone where she was going. When they discovered her living with her sister, social services denied her further custody and recommended counseling.

Through it all, Kapria has managed to stay enrolled in the academically rigorous International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, make the honor roll, and participate in the National Honor Society and Student Government. She said she knows the worst thing you can do is to give into the negativity of others and allow yourself to be pulled into a cycle of failure. "I realize you can’t control a lot of things in life," she explained, "but my life has taught me that nothing is impossible."