by Laura Knox, Options Now Staff
Carissa & her husband, Willie, met me on a crisp fall day at North Campus of Valdosta State University for a photoshoot with our partnering photographer, Kevin Walker, of Kevin Walker Photography. Three lively, friendly siblings piled out of their vehicle, smiling and ready for their photos.
As Kevin photographed the siblings, I caught up with Carissa. She was a former patient of mine from back when I worked full-time, and her family was always special to me. Carissa was married when she came in, but needed some extra support through her pregnancies. Carissa was captured in one of the videos we produced when she was a patient, and you can see her testimony here. (Carissa shares starting at 2:28, but be sure to watch the whole video!)
I get really nostalgic, seeing those little bitty babies from 2005...
...all grown up into these fine looking young adults now.
But as dramatic as the transformation is from babies to middle schoolers, there is an equally dramatic transformation within their mother. Carissa was always...and still is...a learner. When she was a patient, Carissa absorbed every single class and video we offered her. After "graduating" from Options Now, Carissa went on to Wiregrass Technical College and completed a diploma in Accounting. She now has owned & operated her own business in Hahira for three years called Twice the Charm. She is also finishing her Associates Degree in Business Administration at Georgia Military College this December, then she will head off to Valdosta State University to work toward an Accounting degree.
As we talked in the parking lot after the photo shoot, Carissa said something so profound that I have not forgotten. She said that she had no idea when she dropped out of high school years ago how hard it would be for her to finally get her education. She has worked hard for years to get to the place that she is now. She said that she is so determined to help her children appreciate their educational opportunities, and she is committed to supporting them as they reach their educational goals. Carissa & Willie are helping their children set goals and have a vision for their future.
Options Now is also committed to helping the young people in our community set goals and develop a vision for their futures. This is our reasoning behind launching our outreach ministry called Choose Now. We feel a responsibility to help youth in our community--like these youth featured in our 2016 calendar--make positive choices for their future. We want all youth of this community to be able to:
make healthy decisions
deal with cultural & peer influences
deal with conflict
understand friendship, dating, & love
avoid high-risk behavior
develop skills to prepare for healthy marriages
These goals all involve education--just like Carissa & Willie work hard to help their children set and achieve goals, Choose Now volunteers go into schools and community groups to build relationship with youth while sharing with them a message of healthy life choices. Our goal is that before youth end up with a sexually transmitted infection, before they end up with a positive pregnancy test, before they begin high-risk behavior, that they will be equipped with the tools they need to make positive choices for a healthy life.
Would you volunteer with this new arm of our ministry? Would you be part of this exciting, proactive outreach to the youth of our community? Contact Haley Radney, our Choose Now Coordinator, at 506-5017 for more info!
Be sure to check out more 2016 Calendar Stories & stay tuned for next month's story!