Edina program gives smart, inner-city kids 'A Better Chance'

You can have a smart kid, but if they go to a dangerous or under-performing school, their options for a better life can be limited. That's a reality in many inner-city schools across the country, but there's a group that can give ambitious kids a better chance -- and one of those places is in Edina.

A simple dinner ritual can mean so much for a kid whose life was anything but simple two years ago.

Elizabeth Bueno was an outstanding student in a not so outstanding public school on the south side of Chicago.

"You couldn't really be outside once it hit dark. You could hear gunshots, ambulances, cops going in and out of the neighborhood," Bueno said.

Her drive and ambition got the attention of a national program called A Better Chance, and the group brought her to Edina High School last year. She lives at the organization's boarding house with a married couple and 4 other kids just like her from all over the country, but she also has a host family that watches out for her.

Elizabeth's host family: The Harens.

"When I asked Elizabeth when she started, ‘What do you think of Edina? She said it was like a high school on TV," Ann Harens said.

She said because she ran cross country back in Chicago, she joined the team here, helping to make some friends. Elizabeth admitted it can be hard for her real family to understand her reasons for moving away.

"My mom and dad both emigrated from Mexico, so they don't have a college education. My mom hardly passed a primary school education," she said.

As for the future? Elizabeth is relieved.

"I feel because of the choices I've made I am more prepared for the world and society and can contribute to society."

A Better Chance is a nationwide program that's been in the Edina community for 43 years. It's a privately-funded organization and always in need of donations. Learn more: www.edinaabc.org

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