Medard Prosper had beaten the odds.
After he lost his parents and several siblings during the civil war and aftermath in his native Democratic Republic of Congo, he and his older brothers relocated to Minnesota where Prosper, 19, was months away from graduating from Highland Park High School in St. Paul when he died in a freak car accident last week.
About a month ago, Prosper had been announced as a recipient of a $500 college scholarship and laptop computer from the Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota's Beat the Odds program. On Wednesday, the program published a YouTube video interview of Prosper in which he described how he walked 500 dangerous miles with his siblings to escape his war-torn country.
"We had no money to pay for ... transportation so we were walking so sometimes we went and slept in the forest," he said in the video. "We found food. We found anything."
During the trek, two of his six siblings died of malnutrition. Another died soon after in a refugee camp in Tanzania.
"We're all just walking around with just a kick in the stomach ... I think that he just exuded a lot of personality and he was so positive despite all of the things that he had gone through," said Sybil Axner, associate director of the Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota.
The Children's Defense Fund recognizes local teens who have overcome extreme adversity.
Prosper had planned to use his scholarship to attend Normandale Community College in Bloomington for two years before transferring to the University of Minnesota, Axner said. Afterward, he wanted to go to graduate school.
But last Thursday at about 5:30 p.m. the vehicle Prosper was driving east over the Minnesota River on the Mendota Bridge blew a tire. As he tried to get out of the moving car, his foot got caught and the vehicle ran over him.
Prosper's scholarship will be donated to his memorial fund and the laptop will go to his brothers, who are pursuing their education.
A visitation for Prosper will be held from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday followed by a funeral service at the Word of Grace Baptist Church in Minneapolis. The burial will be at noon at Mound Cemetery in Brooklyn Center. Donations to the Medard Prosper Memorial Fund can be made at any U.S. Bank branch.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495 • Twitter: @stribnorfleet