Justin Haynes McKizzie, a senior at Washburn High School, is now able to dream. Throughout his traumatic and chaotic childhood, he was besieged by poverty, violence, homelessness, as well as his father's physical abuse and his mother's addiction to crack. While most kids dreamed of their futures, Justin says he simply learned to survive. By age 10, he had already lived in numerous shelters, rehab and independent living facilities, as well as with various relatives.
It was only a matter of time until all of the pressures pushed him over the edge and led him to gangs and selling drugs to supplement the public assistance his family tried to survive on. His illegal activities eventually resulted in legal troubles after he severely injured another boy in a gang fight.
By 9th grade Justin had dropped out of school. When his strung out mother, who had been unemployed for seven years, sold his clothes and belongings to buy drugs, he left home with no real place to live.
I was on a destructive path, he admits. I became a very angry, disturbed and traumatized kid.
Justin's life began to turn around when caring foster parents began showing him love and support. They saw the good in him and looked beyond his troubled past. He enrolled at Washburn and met a football coach, who mentored Justin and acted like a big brother to him. His coach taught Justin that there is more to being a man than being tough.
Although he missed a year and a half of school, Justin applied himself to his studies, and is now on track to graduate. In high school he helped lead his football team to the state playoffs, participated in track, and plans to play college football in Rochester, Minnesota. He and his foster father volunteer at the Target Foundation, and he helps out at the church where his foster father is a pastor.
Justin plans to study carpentry, business and architecture in college. Eventually he wants to build hospitals and places for young people who don't have a lot. I took a lot from my community, and now want to give back,he says. When I do become successful I want to donate as much as I can to kids and people in need, like me.