[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/29/art.winnie.phan.jpg
caption=”Winnie Phan, 16, educates kids on the importance of staying in school.”]
Winnie Phan grew up in a troubled home. Her parents didn’t support her education or give her the opportunities other kids her age enjoyed. By the time she managed to make it through grade school, she was on the road to becoming a statistic.
California has a 25% high school dropout rate, according to the California Board of Education. Nationwide, the dropout rate is about 31%. Winnie, now a junior, is determined to defy the statistic herself and inspire her contemporaries to do the same.
Winnie started Safe Walks in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, pairing up older kids with younger kids to make sure that everyone gets to and from school safely. “Growing up it was scary to walk home,” the now 16-year-old remembers. Taking the fear out of the commute, Winnie hopes, will get more kids staying in school.
Update: Watch the CNN.com Live interview