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CNN Hero: Patricia Kelly

Updated 1:54 PM ET, Tue April 21, 2015
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Patricia Kelly grooms a horse on her farm in Hartford, Connecticut. Kelly's nonprofit, Ebony Horsewomen, teaches horseback riding and animal science to at-risk youths, offering them an alternative to the streets. David S. Holloway/CNN
The group's equestrian and agricultural center is nestled inside a 693-acre park. Complete with a horse stable, riding arena and an ice cream parlor, it's a far cry from the dilapidated homes and boarded up school buildings that lie just beyond its gates. David S. Holloway/CNN
Kelly spends time with Chance, one of the horses at her farm. David S. Holloway/CNN
A young program participant grooms her horse inside a stable at the equestrian center. "We use horses as a hook to create pride, esteem and healing," Kelly said. "They learn that they have ability. They just have to unlock it." David S. Holloway/CNN
Girls check out equipment inside a stable. David S. Holloway/CNN
Kelly, a former U.S. Marine, has lived in Hartford most of her life and witnessed the effects of inequality. Connecticut ranks fourth among the wealthiest states in America, according to the Census Bureau, but it also has one of the nation's largest income gaps between rich and poor. David S. Holloway/CNN
Program participants groom horses at the center. David S. Holloway/CNN
A child takes riding lessons at the center. "When you teach a child to ride a horse, they learn they are the center of their environment," Kelly said. "Once they make that connection, they can change what happens in school, at home and in the community."
Kelly poses with members of the Junior Mounted Patrol, a program designed especially for young men. David S. Holloway/CNN
Kelly prepares to saddle up. David S. Holloway/CNN