Thursday, March 28, 2013

Teen wants to break out of Colfax cycle

"If I stay here, I won't be able to even help me," Persinger said, who is now 18 years old. "I knew I had to get out and do something and make something out of myself."

Much of her life has been spent surviving the reality of Colfax Avenue.

"There were drug dealers and prostitutes and whatever because that's what happens on Colfax," Persinger said. "I knew a couple of girls that were 12 and 13 and they were prostituting and I didn't understand."
She has been living for years in a motel on East Colfax in a single room with her grandparents.

"Yeah, she is a tough and maybe she got a little bit of that toughness from living right here," Persinger's grandmother Linda Jordan said.

Persinger says it's that toughness and determination that's driving her down a different path. She decided she wanted break out of the Colfax cycle by going to college.

"Most people in this situation aren't going to college, they're not graduating," Persinger said. "You're lucky if they're even in school."

She buckled down and got strong grades at George Washington High School. But, she did not know the process of applying to college let alone how she was going to pay for it all.

"No one in my family has been to college, so we were wondering what we were supposed to do," Persinger said.

She received help from an unlikely ally - the family who adopted her daughter.

"If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be going to college, most likely," Persinger said. "They didn't have to [care], but they do and that means so much. I don't even know where to begin."

The adoptive family wanted to remain anonymous for reasons of privacy. But, they hired an advisor over the period of nearly a year to help Persinger apply to college, obtain scholarships, and figure out a way to pay her tuition.

"It's just amazing," said Tara Persinger, Briauna's mother who now works as the manager of the hotel where they live. "She found the right family."

The family also had connections to a small, all-women's college in Nevada, Missouri. They helped Persinger get into Cottey College where she is now attending. Persinger says it is quite different than what she is used to.

"So, I'm here and I'm like, there's a lot of space here and I can walk around outside and not worry about someone trying to pick me up," Persinger said.

She doesn't worry about her next meal. She is surrounded by friends instead of drug dealers and pimps. Persinger still can't believe she is living in a small town going to college.

"A year ago I would've never thought of all the places, I would be in the middle of Missouri," Persinger said.
Persinger wants to be a pharmacist. She plans on having a successful career and make enough money to get entire family away from the troubles in Colfax Avenue.

"You don't want to get stuck in this. You want to start out and just keep going because once you get in, it doesn't matter how old you are. It's hard to get back out," Tara Persinger said.

Briauna Persinger finally feels like she's starting to leave her life on Colfax Avenue behind.

"I definitely don't miss Colfax any part of it," Briauna Persinger said. "I hated that street."

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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