Full speed ahead is the motto for these resilient winners

One was left without a father or a mother by the age of 9. Another managed to juggle college-prep courses while suffering from a serious affliction. A third escaped civil war and smuggled medicine for sick refugees. A fourth scrappy overachiever understands his self-worth and goals easily trump the negative impact of the stares, finger-pointing and taunts that he knows may follow him throughout his life. 
Each Year the stories are more powerful and the event more rewarding. Read the complete profile of this year's 17 Youth Appreciation Winners in the Pioneer Press.   The St. Paul Optimist Club upped the award this year from $1500 to $2000, and has given out nearly $400,000 to eligible public high school students since 2001.