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    Memphis teens, one adult, to be honored for beating the odds to succeed in life

    Linda A. Moore


    May 13, 2014 - Left by his mother at age 13, Tariq Hurst has turned his story of abandonment into one of success. The Soulsville Charter School senior, standing in front of a display of college acceptance letters from fellow grads, was accepted to eight colleges. (Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal)


    Tariq has worked very hard over the years, despite so many obstacles and barriers. He continues to be focused in really setting himself to complete his goals”

    On this date five years ago, Tariq Hurst received shocking news that changed his world.
    His mother, unable to find work in Memphis, was moving to California, leaving Tariq, then 13, and his younger brother here.
    The boys went to live with The Soulsville Charter School’s middle school principal, LaMonn Daniels.
    “She explained that she was trying to give me and my brother a better chance at being successful,” Tariq said of his mother. “Staying with the principal was the better option.”
    Now 18, Tariq pushed past the emotions of that day and will graduate from high school (where all of the senior class has been accepted to a four-year college). Tariq will attend the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, on full scholarship.
    He helps teach children’s Bible study at church, helps keep the church clean and works part time at the Center for Southern Folklore.
    Tariq is one of six young people and one adult recognized this year by the Memphis Beat the Odds Foundation for their ability to thrive and to rise above adverse situations.
    Tariq and the other winners will be honored at an awards dinner on Thursday at Lindenwood Christian Church.
    There were about two dozen nominees for the award, coming from schools, community organizations and churches, said Dr. Theresa Okwumabua, an assistant visiting psychology professor in the psychology department at the University of Memphis and founder of the Memphis Beat the Odds Foundation.
    The award also includes scholarship money and gift baskets from the community, Okwumabua said.
    “To be honest, all the kids that usually come in are pretty deserving of recognition,” she said.
    At first, Tariq resented living with Daniels, but he eventually became the father figure Tariq never had.
    “He helped me really to become a young man, something that my mother probably couldn’t do,” Tariq said. “So I tried to look at the positives from the situation.”
    And Tariq has never lost contact with his mother. He called her on Mother’s Day.
    “I’m so excited for Tariq,” Daniels said. “Tariq has worked very hard over the years, despite so many obstacles and barriers. He continues to be focused in really setting himself to complete his goals.”
    Other winners this year are:
    Corey Austin Eldredge, 18, also a Soulsville student, left gang membership and life on the streets, turning to academics and the viola. He now mentors young boys, helping them overcome peer pressure, drugs and gangs.
    Princess Joy Johnson, 18, another student at Soulsville, described in her application a life where she was “mentally and physically abused.” She takes care of herself, her younger brother and mentors and tutors younger students.
    Victoria Meeks, 18, also at Soulsville, was 12 years old when her mother’s car was caught in a crossfire and she was shot. She calls it a “pivotal” moment that helped her to become driven. She now tutors at school, church and in her neighborhood.
    Javonta Porter, 17, a Melrose High School student, grew up with no father, surrounded by crime, gang activity and drugs. He is, however, president of the honor society and his senior class and is active in his church and community.
    Ana Karen Rodriguez, 17, a student at Wooddale High School, was brought to the United States illegally as a child and has lost out on opportunities because of her undocumented status. She has had the opportunity to travel to Washington to speak to legislators about immigration reform.
    The adult winner of the Catherine Rivers Johnson Award is Mario Hendrix, director of Bridge Builders, a leadership and diversity program at BRIDGES.
    Awards Banquet
    The 21st Annual Beat the Odds Awards Banquet will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Lindenwood Christian Church, 2400 Union.
    Advanced tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at memphisbeattheodds.org. Tickets are $30 at the door.
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