Liliana Celso grew up in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. Trouble forced her to leave that community. Thursday, she returned to that neighborhood and talked to ABC 7's Stacey Baca about her life and how it's changed.
Celso now lives in Nebraska. As we looked around the Back of the Yards neighborhood, she had vivid memories of a life she life behind. She pointed out the home where she would smoke marijuana, a habit that started when she was just 12 years old and increased to smoking five times a day. She even pointed out the gang members she used to hang out with.
Those problems, though, are now in the past.
Celso was just 12 when her life in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood began to dribble down the drain.
"You never know when you're going to die, especially in this kind of neighborhood," Celso said Thursday. "So I just didn't care."
Her life was so bad she rebelled against her parents, refusing to listen to them. She says she fell into gang life, carrying guns for gang members.
Celso said she was shot at and witnessed one gang shooting.
"I didn't want to live like that. I had seen a lot of my friends pass away from gang violence and stuff. I didn't want to go down that road, and stuff, so I just ended up going to Boys Town," said Celso.
Boys Town of Chicago is now located one block from Celso's childhood home. It is an affiliate of the Omaha, Nebraska, program designed to save troubled youth.
"The mission is absolutely to bring kids hope, give them a sense of hope, help them to see that they're treasures. Recognize, tell them they're the best in the world, and we want to see them succeed," said Bruce Wellems, Boys Town executive director.
Father Bruce helped Celso and her family, shipping her off to the Nebraska program nearly five years ago.
Now Celso is a sophomore at Wayne State College. She is a Boys Town success story.
"I thank God and I thank Boys Town," said Celso. "I owe them my life pretty much."
Celso was at Boys Town in Nebraska for three years. She graduated with a 4.0 gpa. That earned her a full ride scholarship to Wayne State College.
She was back in Chicago to attend Boys Town of Chicago's annual fundraiser event.