Katalia*, whose name means “orchid,” is as unique and extraordinary as the flower she’s named after. Just 16 years old, Katalia is indeed blooming at New Life Children’s Center as a role model and peer leader for other girls in the program. She shares, “Being part of the ‘I Am Strong’ program makes me feel good because I know people are counting on me, and it makes me feel like I’ve grown up.”

While Katalia likes music and books, her eyes light up when she talks about her family, helping others and working with children. Although she experienced far too much tragedy and many difficult challenges in her childhood, Katalia is determined to become a registered nurse so she can be the kind of adult who helps others in their hardest moments.

“Before I came to New Life, I did drugs, was in and out of jail and boot camps, and grew up in the streets,” said Katalia. “Now I’m focused on my family, and I have learned new coping skills, so I won’t turn to drugs when life gets hard.”

Like the orchid, Katalia is learning to grow and thrive wherever she lives, especially when she is surrounded by inspiring and encouraging leaders like the staff at New Life, who guide her in the right direction, as well as her mother, a constant presence in her life.

For this teen with a heart for serving others, her hope for other girls in similar circumstances is simple: “Strive to be someone significant and be brave enough to dream big.”

*Katalia’s story is true, but her name has been changed and a stock photo is being used to protect her identity. Each girl who shares her story is given the opportunity to choose her pseudonym. The girl featured here chose “Katalia” because it means orchid.

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