Overcoming struggles to find purpose and unite teens

When David was only 6, his troubled father abandoned him, his sister, and their mother. "There were some days we had no food," David remembered. "We couldn't go out for fun. It was really bad."

Their life stabilized after his mother remarried years later, though central Los Angeles is a hard place to raise a family and be a teen. "Almost every weekend you would hear drunk people in the middle of the night," David said. "Around the MacArthur Park area, that's where you would see a lot of drugs."

To help change the image of his community, David created Students Working on Progress, an organization designed to educate, encourage, and inspire students to act on local issues. "There is a chance for change," he said. "I just want our voices to be heard."

David's burgeoning student movement benefitted from World Vision's Youth Empowerment Program (YEP), a yearlong mentoring and training program that teaches teens skills in leadership and civic engagement.

He learned how to make policy recommendations to his local and national government officials and to mobilize others to join him in making their community a better place. "YEP has taught me that if
we're united and if we work together, we actually can make the
change that we want to see," he said.

David dreams of going to college and becoming a psychologist to help other children who feel abandoned and purposeless, as he once did.

"I realized that other people need help," he said, "and if families just had a 'third hand,' you know, everything would be good. I want to be that third hand that would help them."