Yale-bound teen paints a new life through determination

New Orleans has always been famous for its food and music, but the city is also a hot spot for art.

The Big Easy is home to countless galleries and museums that feature the talents of world-famous artists.

And now some of the city's most recently celebrated artwork is the product of an unlikely artist whose incredible talent is rivaled only by his remarkable story.

High school artist Leonard Galmon knows how to leave an impression.

A 3-D painting shows a gun on the ground, and a young man turning his back. It was featured recently at the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center.

"In this city most of the homicides and shootings and stuff like that are because of young African-American males," Galmon said. "So I just wanted to do a piece that was sort of turning your back on that."

The piece is personal to Galmon.

He grew up in the projects of one of New Orleans' infamous high-crime, low-income neighborhoods.

He was born when his mom was just 13. His dad was a drug dealer who was killed in broad daylight.

"You grow up, you know, people are shot and killed," he said.

Hurricane Katrina forced Galmon's family out of its dangerous neighborhood.

He said it was a blessing in disguise.

"Moving from the city let me know that there was more than the city - that if I wanted to leave I could and there was a whole world to see," he said.

So when he finally returned, he focused on school and art.

And his teacher, Ann Schwab, noticed something special.

"He came in like a whirlwind. He came in and set the bar really high for his peers," Schwab said.

Galmon's counselors encouraged him to apply to college. He set his sights on the Ivy League. Now, he's headed to Yale University.

"I was just happy. I was happy and excited, and I really got into Yale, and it was kind of surreal actually," Galmon said.

Galmon's story has attracted attention across the state.

During a recent ceremony, the New Orleans City Council called him an "example" for the entire city.

He's even earned an official commendation from the Louisiana State Legislature and a prestigious scholarship.

But he's taking everything in stride.

"I still actually have to go to school and excel, so it's going to be difficult. It's Yale University," Galmon said.

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