Those statistics are unbelievable for a country with the wealth of the USA, but lost in those numbers are the heart-breaking personal stories of people down on their luck.
In many cases, help is not forthcoming, and it falls to charities and local governments to take care of them. For some, the crushing poverty is impossible to break free from, but in other cases, people, through a combination of factors, are able to get back on their feet.
And in the case of Jimelle Levon, not only was he able to rise out of poverty, he used his experience as a motivation to succeed.
Living in a homeless shelter in the 5th grade changed Jimelle Levon’s life.
To say that Jimelle’s early life was hard would be an understatement. From the very beginning, he, his mother, and two sisters struggled with poverty. Things got so hard that they even became homeless for a time when Jimelle was only 10 years old. The experience impacted Jimelle greatly.
“Once I hit 6th grade, I was always a hard-worker,” Jimelle, now a 19-year-old freshman at Clark Atlanta University, told NBC4i News. “Either, like, shoveling snow, or anything to gain money, because I didn’t want to be in that predicament anymore.”
Jimelle did all he could to help his mother, and struggled for the next few years finding work, any work, he could. Things started changing, though, when it all started to click for him.
Jimelle found his passion in fashion.
“I met a friend and she was a fashion designer,” Jimelle said on the Steve Harvey Show. “I’m like, ‘wow,’ that kinda motivated me,” Jimelle added. “So I began painting shoes, painting jackets, and hand sewing things.”
With a passion discovered, he aimed to cultivate his skills. Finally, a cousin gifted him a sewing machine for his birthday one year, and Jimelle taught himself how to use the machine. Once he got the basics down, he set himself a lofty goal: to make a prom dress for his date.
Taking inspiration from the Eddie Murphy movie, “Coming to America,” Jimelle created a stunning dress.
“I basically recreated the gold ‘Coming to America’ dress for my prom date,” said Jimelle on the Steve Harvey Show.
Making a dress for his prom date was the beginning of a lucrative business.
My Virginia client made this dress look amazing ! #JimelleLevon
“A Jimmelle Levon prom dress costs around $700–$1,000,” Jimelle told Steve Harvey last November. “Right now I have over 50 emails of people wanting my designs for this year’s prom.”
Today, he lives and works out of a dorm room with a roommate, but he is still designing and producing prom dresses.
That is because Jimelle has some big dreams. Not only does he want to grow his business, he also wants to give other struggling kids a helping hand.
“I want a Jimelle Levon School for Fashion in Columbus, Ohio,” Jimelle told Steve Harvey. “Where young people, my age, from my city, who were inspired by me, have a place to go to learn how to sew.”
Making dresses is now a business for Jimelle, and while it can get overwhelming at times, it remains one of the most rewarding experiences he’s ever had.
“The day I see them off to prom, and how beautiful they look and how much they love their dress, its worth it,” Jimelle said in an interview with NBC4 News.