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New Orleans inner-city teenager uses art to depict struggles

NEW ORLEANS (CBS) -- A New Orleans high school artist is heading to an Ivy League school this fall with a big scholarship.

Leonard Galmon, 18, is known for painting the hauntingly hopeful faces of inner-city New Orleans.

One of his works, a 3D painting, was featured at the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center. The painting shows a gun on the ground and a young man turning his back.

"In this city most of the homicides and shootings, stuff like that, are because of young African American males, so I just wanted to do a piece that was sort of turning your back on that," says Leonard.

The piece is personal to Leonard. He grew up in the projects of one of New Orleans' infamous high-crime, low-income neighborhoods. 

He was born when his mom was just 13. His dad, a drug dealer, was murdered in broad daylight. 

As a kid, Leonard loved art, and his mom encouraged him to draw, keeping him away from the drugs and violence.

Teachers recognized Leonard's talent and pushed him to apply for college. Not only did he get accepted to Yale, he earned a prestigious scholarship to help cover the cost.

Leonard doesn't like to dwell in his accomplishments, though. He says when he does it gives him anxiety.

"I still have to actually go to school and excel, so it's going to be difficult. It's Yale University."

Leonard's paintbrush helped change the course of his life, and he'll use it to create the next chapter.

During a ceremony last week, the New Orleans City Council called Leonard an example for the entire city. He's also earned an official commendation from the Louisiana state legislature.

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