One night in 1989 Capitol Hill staffer Karin Walser stopped at a gas station. Children in a nearby shelter asked to pump her gas for spare change. Instead of just handing them money, Walser offered to take the kids to the zoo the next weekend. A powerful relationship was formed, and the nonprofit Horton's Kids was founded.

Horton's Kids now serves Wellington Park in Ward 8 of Washington, DC. This area has one of the highest rates of gang activity and substance abuse in the city. The vast majority of households earn under $10,000 annually; well below poverty level. In a community where schools are under-performing and many adults don't have a high school diploma, it's difficult for kids to find the guidance they need to excel. Horton's Kids has a community resource center that provides this support, and empowers youths to reach a higher academic standard.

Equipped with a dedicated staff, Horton's resource center also offers a space where children in the neighborhood can get access to healthy food and enjoy extracurricular activities. Classes from cooking to dance and sporting events are held there. This outlet allows the kids to broaden their horizons, and find their strengths.

Horton's Kids has grown extensively since that initial trip to the zoo, but its mission remains the same. Circumstance should not dictate one's future, and every child deserves to graduate from high school in order to succeed in college, career, and life.

This article is sponsored by Horton's Kids. Find out how you can get involved.

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