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On Being Nana

At first glance, Nana Geodzhayeva is a pretty typical 12-year old. She loves to watch music videos, thinks Leonardo DiCaprio is cute and loves her family. However, dig a little deeper and you'll find a remarkable girl with an exceptionally bright future.

Born in Russia, Nana and her family lived in Armenia before moving to the United States five years ago. They came to America in search of a better life and chose San Francisco as their new home. The family quickly learned that locating safe, decent, affordable housing was next to impossible, and they were forced to move into substandard apartments in unhealthy neighborhoods.

Their first apartment was near Nana's school, but it was small and whenever it rained, water seeped through the ceiling. They lived there for over a year, then moved to an apartment where strangers slept in the halls and residents caught the rats by using glue traps.

Desperate for a better place to live, Nana's mother learned about Columbia Park in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood. Developed by Mercy Charities Housing California and managed by Mercy Services Corporation, Columbia Park is a 50 unit building for working families struggling to make a life in this country.

Nana's family moved to Columbia Park and her young life changed dramatically. She started attending Presidio Middle School where she made new friends and met teachers who would challenge her. She started a part-time job at the San Francisco Youth Credit Union - a small business that is run by children. After two months, Nana became a manager and she even wrote a proposal to Citibank for a $10,000 grant that was funded.

Nana has found the "better life" her family came here for and lately she's been contemplating her many career options. She's been thinking about banking or becoming a lawyer or maybe a movie star or how about a rock star or perhaps a...

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