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Chicago Woman, Working With Nonprofit 'Ascend,' Fights For Brave Girls Who Are Trying To Find A Way Out Of Afghanistan

CHICAGO (CBS Chicago/CBS News) -- The Pentagon announced Monday that the last U.S. troops had left Afghanistan, ending America's longest war.

The last U.S. flight out of Afghanistan left at 2:29 p.m. CT, McKenzie said. The heads of the State Department and Defense Department teams were among the last to leave: Chargé d'Affaires Ross Wilson and Major General Chris Donahue. The Defense Department's communications wing, DVIDs, released a photo of Donahue boarding a C-17 cargo plane at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

But while the world is focused on the final boots on the ground, CBS 2's Meredith Barack introduced us Monday night to one Chicago woman who is more concerned with innocent girls who are trying to leave Afghanistan and the grips of the Taliban.

Sarah Lavery read the words of "Brave Girl," a 17-year-old in Kabul who has been somewhat of her pen plan in recent days.

"I am one of the girl athletes of Afghanistan. I'm a mountaineer who has aspirations to be a successful girl in the future," "Brave Girl" told Lavery. "I had goals that I one day planned to become a reality."

But "Brave Girl's" situation is terrifying right now.

"She is silenced. She is in her home, sheltering in place," Lavery said, "and so to get her voice heard, is an honor for me to be a conduit to that message."

The two have been communicating for the last week. "Brave Girl" is one of many young women and their families still trying to find somewhere safe to go.

"These girls, 'Brave Girl' included, think that the world is forgetting about them and leaving them," Lavery said, "and that is obviously, certainly not the case."

The young professional from Roscoe Village connected with "Brave Girl" through Ascend, a U.S. based nonprofit that teaches young women, ages 15 to 24, leadership skills through mountain climbing.

"'Brave Girl' and I have been working together channeling the strength that mountain climbing teaches you, because this is the tallest mountain that she ever will have to climb," Lavery said.

For several weeks now, Ascend has been focused on safely extracting and evacuating more than 200 women and their families from Afghanistan.

"The girls are at risk right now because of their association with a U.S.-based nonprofit, as well as their position as leaders and activists in their community - let alone being athletes," Lavery said.

Lavery went on reading "Brave Girl's" essay: "My dreams were lost with the arrival of the Taliban. I am still 17 years old. It is too early to die in my heart."

Despite the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Lavery said Ascend will not be abandoning their efforts to get each girl and their families somewhere safe. Plans are in place that can be activated - but funding is needed.

"Funds will directly impact the immediate safety of these young women and their families," Lavery said, "and what's most important to remember - Ascend is here to stay."

It's here to stay just like the hopes, wishes, and words of "Brave Girl."

"We do not want our life to end here. We do not want to give up," "Brave Girl" wrote in her essay. "I want nothing more to be free. I want to be a successful leader. I have dreams. Do not forget about the brave girls who climb mountains."

Ascend is accepting donations for its Evacuation, Resettlement, and Continuing Aid Fund at this link.

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