Robyn Margulis Vernon Ogrodnek

Kids today don't realize how good they have it. Thankfully, most kids don't know what it's like to go hungry or to not have a roof over their heads. I try to remind my kids, though, that there are children just like them all over the world, and all around our nation, who have personal struggles, and for whom life is hard. (And by hard, I mean they are dealing with things far worse than a dead cell phone battery.)

Take, for example, Nick Wood. This is a young man who easily could have gone down the wrong path. But Nick demonstrated that he has a good head on his shoulders and a lot of determination. And with courage and perseverance he has taken control of where he is in life, mind, and spirit.

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On Thanksgiving Day, The Press of Atlantic City published this inspirational teen's story. The touching article by Michael McGarry chronicled the 18-year-old's personal plight and his determination to take control of it. In McGarry's article, we learned that Nick has moved quite a bit in his life due to divorce and his father's and stepfathers' military careers. We also learned that an eviction forced Nick and his mother to move to a motel, and economic problems and substance abuse issues caused Nick to decide that he could no longer live with his mother. After a stay with a family friend didn't work out, Nick found himself homeless.

Now this is where this young man could have made some poor decisions; decisions that, quite possibly, could have changed his path for a long time to come.

Instead, Nick went to the Internet in search of a safe place for homeless teens. And he found it in Covenant House in Atlantic City. Now here is where Nick's story gets even more interesting. He was in Mt. Holly, NJ when he called Covenant House to tell them he needed help and he was coming. Representatives of Covenant House offered to pick him up in Mt. Holly and bring him back to Atlantic City. But Nick declined the offer of a ride because he "likes to do things for himself." For those of you who do not know how far of a walk that is, it's about 75-80 miles. The trek took Nick a few days. He stopped nights to sleep in the woods.

How many teens do you know that could truly appreciate the plight of this young man? How many could even contemplate being in a position of not having a place to call home or a supportive family to share it? As for turning down a ride, I found that part of the story to be most intriguing; these days it seems that teens rarely have the desire to do for themselves.

Nick's motivation to make the 80-mile trek probably had more to do with controlling his own destiny than anything else. It is a testament to his character and his will. He made it to his destination, he went back to school, and he was invited to join the school's football team. According to McGarry's article, Nick found a new family at Covenant House and with Atlantic City High School's football team; and he has a profound and sincere appreciation for his newfound home and family. Now, instead of worrying about having a roof over his head, Nick is making plans for the future, which will include college. Nick's story is one of hope and determination. I am truly inspired by the lesson he can teach others.


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