“I first joined the Emerald Youth Foundation when I was in 8th grade. My brother was already involved in the program, and the director at the time saw a need in me as well, so she gave me the opportunity to get involved. I didn’t really have any direction growing up, and I was able to get that through Emerald. The mentors were constantly there for me and in my ear about different opportunities and stuff, just making sure I wasn’t on the streets like some other kids. They just gave me guidance and reassurance, whatever I was going through at the time, and it was so beneficial just knowing that they were there to support me. I stayed through the program through high school, and they really pushed me to consider college, which wasn’t really on my radar before then. We actually went on college visits and we went to Johnson- Johnson Bible College at the time- where I ended up getting my degree.
I am now a full-time staff member with the Emerald Youth Foundation, just giving back in a way that changed me so much when I was younger. I work at the Restoration House – it’s a 2-3 year program form single moms and their children, and I’m in charge of the elementary, middle, and high school program. I really never saw myself as someone who works with kids, but here I am. I realized that if I could do for these kids what my mentors did for me, if I can make just one kid believe and have hope in themselves, then that would be really cool. And as much as I got from my mentors when I was younger, I realize you get just as much out of the relationship with the kids as a mentor, as well. They really see something in you. And I still have relationships that I made in 8th grade – that’s the thing about Emerald, once you’re a part of it, you’re always a part of it. They’ll always care.”