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State Honoree

Christepher Romero

Arizona

Christepher Romero, 17, of Phoenix, Ariz., a junior at Sunnyslope High School, developed a program to help keep at-risk teens in an inner-city neighborhood away from crime and drugs. When he was young, Chris’s mother struggled with drug and alcohol addiction and an inability to care for her children. Chris was recruited by neighborhood gangs, but was ultimately “saved” by a school counselor who later adopted him. In his new family, Chris began to think of the kids in his old neighborhood who did not have the opportunities he now enjoys. “I decided to do something to help them and honor my parents,” he said. He approached a police officer working at his former school and became a volunteer mentor. He soon put together a plan to teach kids swimming and soccer, conduct CPR and nutrition classes, and organize neighborhood “clean-ups.” He also gets kids involved in fundraising activities that pay for an annual trip to a theme park. In the future, Chris hopes to start a foundation – named after his adoptive parents – to provide college scholarships to children from his old neighborhood.