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‘I Never Want to Be in a Neighborhood Where I’m Shot at Again’

When Mario Martinez went to Liberty University, a private Christian college in Lynchburg, Virginia, the affluence astonished him. A student’s car would break down and she’d have a new one within a couple of weeks. “It was mind blowing,” he said. “To see that people can have so much.”

And Liberty — with a median family income of about $75,000 a year — isn’t even that rich compared to what you will find at America’s most prestigious private colleges, where incomes are closer to $200,000 a year or more.

But Liberty is a long way from what Mario knew. He grew up in a poor neighborhood in Langley Park, Maryland. “We would hear police every night, we’d hear gunshots, we’d hear people scream,” he said.