When Dr. Francis Amara set up an inner city city lab several years ago, the U. of M. scientist from Sierra Leone had a vision. He wanted to get kids hooked on science, and hopefully, help them achieve their dreams of going into it. 

'He looked at me and he told me I had the potential to do whatever I want and it kind of sparked something inside of me that told me I could do this, even where I'm from.'- PJ Homeniuk

Kids like PJ Homeniuk.

Homeniuk had already spent most of his young life either hungry, homeless or surrounded by violence.

Dr. Amara met PJ when he was in grade six, and immediately saw his potential. 

At Dr. Amara's urging and on the spot, with no studying in advance, PJ took a university level science test. He aced it.

"I think I got a score of 31 out of 32," he recalled. That was eight years ago. 

"I think I stood out to him because of how well I can learn something so quickly. He looked at me and he told me I had the potential to do whatever I want," he recalled. "Saying that out loud to me kind of sparked something inside of me that told me I could do this, even where I'm from."

Homeniuk grew up in Winnipeg's North End. 

Dr. Francis Amara

Dr. Francis Amara works closely with Winnipeg’s aboriginal communities. He created the Inner City Science Laboratory, which invites youth to explore and learn about medicine. (Courtesy U. of M.)

"The North End has a pretty bad reputation for drugs, violence, alcoholic abuse and I saw quite a bit of that because it was around me," he explained. "It gave me a weird, negative feeling just to see all these people waste their lives." 

"Since I grew up with a mom that was disabled I was kind of into medicine already because I learned from being exposed to that."

Staying focused on his long term goal has kept Homeniuk from getting into trouble. Instead he spent his time learning to speak Cree and Ojibway. He studied French and Japanese. And he learned to play the guitar too. 

PJ Homeniuk is about to graduate from Children of the Earth high school with two scholarships to help him make his way to studying medicine.

Hear PJ Homeniuk's full story on Information Radio with Marcy Markusa on Monday June 16 at 7:50 a.m.