I think their examples tell us two things. The first is that the environment that kids grow up in matters a tremendous amount in their outcomes. No children in this country should have to grow up with the kind of deprivation and stress and trauma that those four kids experienced in their early years. More than anything, we need to develop a better social-support system in this country for disadvantaged children and families, one that focuses on the early years but continues through adolescence.
The second is that young people can succeed even when they do grow up in very difficult circumstances. But they can't do it alone. They need help from a committed adult, whether that's a family member, a teacher, a mentor, or a coach. I think about the kind of dedicated, compassionate, focused support that Keitha got from her mentor, Lanita Reed. That was what made a difference for her.