CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) – When you walk down the streets of Camden, it’s easy to see why the city is in need of a transformation.

Blighted homes line many streets and struggling families are quick to tell their stories about living in a city with one of the worst crime rates in the country.

“You see people selling drugs around, it’s not a good view,” said 14-year-old Nikawri Silverio.

That view, that has stunted the growth of some, has pushed others to go beyond expectations. Silverio and classmate Tatiana Padilla aren’t letting their environment determine how far they will go in life. Both girls are on the honor roll. As freshmen, they’re already taking physics at Leap Academy University Charter High School in Camden.

Recently, they won first and second places in a local science fair and went on to represent their school, for the first time, in the Delaware Valley Science Fair. Padilla took home an honorable mention award for her project on Blood vs. Velocity.

“I work hard for that,” said Padilla. “I never quit.”

Quitting is not an option for Silverio either. She got choked up as she explained that her mother, who was recently in a car accident and couldn’t make the science fair, is her biggest supporter.

Watch the video…

“She said I got to be strong,” said Silverio. “She’s always there for me and telling me, you got to keep going. Don’t let them hurt you. Don’t let them be an influence for you.”

Another person who has been there to help and to inspire both students is physics teacher Dr. Sreeya Sreevatsa.

“The bar is set really high now that we know we can win,” said Dr. Sreevatsa. “We want to go a step further.”

“A lot of people look down on you,” said Padilla. “It’s like, oh, you’re from Camden and they got a lot of gangs and you’re not going to go anywhere. I use that as support and encouragement.”

Reported by Jericka Duncan, CBS 3

Top Content On CBSPhilly

Watch & Listen LIVE