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Every morning, three young sisters wake up together with their mom in one bed in a Brooklyn homeless shelter. Every afternoon, they train in a sport that they hope will put them on a path to a better life.

Tai Sheppard, 11, and sisters Rainn, 10, and Brooke, 8, have all blossomed since taking up track and field a year and a half ago, rising to the top tier of age-group national rankings and earning a spot in the Junior Olympic Games, now underway in Houston.

“This is a means to get them to college,” says their mother, Tonia Handy, “to opening doors that maybe I can’t open for them.”

Handy, a 46-year-old who works answering phones at a car service, has been raising her family alone for nearly a decade, enduring constant financial hardship and even tragedy. Three years ago, the girls’ 17-year-old half-brother was fatally shot in the street by another teen over what investigators said was a perceived insult

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