Katherine Haley’s story (Sun Journal, online, Feb. 13), is a powerful testament to the strength of the human spirit to “beat the odds” with the brute force of education, faith and resilience — the dogged mentality to bounce back from negative adversities. But it’s also both a sobering reminder about child abuse in the U.S., and an inspirational testimony about what’s possible when one hangs on to hope.

In the U.S. today, one-third of diverse youth are born into poverty and 7.5 million reports of child abuse are placed each year. That’s a report every 10 seconds! Reams of data show that youth abused by adults are far less likely to complete high school or enter college . . . without intervention. Intervention can take many forms, ranging from investigation of reports by child protection agencies to therapeutic counseling and clinical treatment of injuries.

Yet, Katherine points to another major source that buffers against the harmful effects of abuse: strong, positive relationships with supportive adult kin (fictive or biological) who can empower surviving youth to find safety, love, acceptance, and a sense of belonging in the world. That’s part of what Katherine’s referring to when she said: “I found solace in that when I was young . . .  living with (my grandparents) is a much more stable and caring environment.”

Agencies connecting more youth to caring communities, like CDF, YMCA and REACH, go a long way in the fight against child abuse. Foundations like Horatio Alger and others provide the money needed to finance these college dreams.

To Katherine and so many students like her, remember this: You matter. You are enough (as you are). You belong here. #KeepShining #DreamsDoComeTrue

Terrell Strayhorn, Nashville, Tennessee

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