Young Woman’s Story Inspires Colorado High School Students
HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – A group of Colorado high school students and teachers are trying to raise money to tell the true story of the life and death of a teenage girl in Nicaragua.
During a mission in Nicaragua Brad Corrigan visited La Chureca (or “scavenging place”) outside the capitol city. It’s there that he met Ileana.
“She just had this charisma. There was a light in her,” said Corrigan.
Over the next months and years he made many routine trips back to visit, becoming somewhat of a father figure to a girl he says faced poverty and desperation every day yet chose to smile.
“She chose to champion and embrace every day, and she laughed in spite of her circumstances,” said Corrigan.
Those circumstances turned darker than he ever imagined.
Corrigan later learned that Ileana’s parents forced her into prostitution and she tested positive for HIV. In 2011 she died from the disease.
The tragic tale inspired him to start the Ileana’s Smile campaign, a Kickstarter fund for a documentary about what happened.
“It’s just kind of grown each day,” said Corrigan.
After a chance meeting with Mountain Vista High School teach Jake Sabot, now Colorado teens are spreading the message globally.
“I’m hoping that kids can see that even though we are a world away, from these different places that they can make a difference,” said Sabot.
“I just felt a connection with Ileana,” said student Sabrina Perry.
The group is using the power of social media and Ileana’s portrait to spread the message.
“I hate the fact that her parents sold her,” said Perry.
Corrigan hopes the power of Ileana’s smile captures hearts around the world and her documented life will prevent it from being repeated.
“Through Ileana, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, if not millions of kids’ stories are brought into focus,” said Corrigan.
There are 10 days left in Ileana’s Smile Kickstarter project and the goal is to raise $133,000.