“I was on my way to join a gang but decided to join Bright Futures Atlanta instead.”
I remember it clearly. I lived off of Hollywood Road, a rough area and was constantly being bullied and felt alone. I was twelve years old and that day I had made up my mind to join a gang for protection. As I was about to leave the house my sister talked me into going to Bright Futures Atlanta. It changed my life. When I met Philip and Gail it was an instant relationship. I felt a new calm. It felt good. I also loved that everyone treated us like we were theirs and it was like a big family, no matter where we went.
I had lots of challenges growing up, but Bright Futures Atlanta was there for me through it all. I learned that God was part of my life and through the devotions we had I felt the protection I was looking for. One of the best times I had with Bright Futures was the first time I got to go to the beach. I don’t think I had ever had a moment of peace like that – it was just experiencing God’s creation. It put everything in perspective of how big things are and how small we all are.Bright Futures took us to a retreat, “Jesus Jam” every year, and there was one year when I was thinking about my baby brother and my father. I had a lot of anger towards my father due to a complete lack of relationship with him. The theme at Jesus Jam was forgiveness. I learned how to let go of my anger and give it to God. I didn’t know how to do that before, but after that experience, I was finally able to let go of all that pain. I can’t describe what that was like, it was freeing. I looked at people differently after that. I learned how to have a loving heart.
Love – no matter what you are doing at the program, you feel love.
It really impacted my whole life. Bright Futures was my compass. They directed me to where I needed to go. Some people need that direction, because their path is not clear. I don’t think I would be where I am if it were not for them. They were there every step of the way.
I’ve now been married for four years with two kids, ages 19 months and two months. I am presently the E-Commerce Manager at Kroger, Dalton, GA, and a Sales Consultant at Office Depot. We recently purchased our first home. I’m really proud of my recent promotion with Kroger. I have been working with them for 8 years. I started off as a bagger and progressively moved up to become the E-commerce Manager and now oversee my whole department. I’m also the youngest and only African American manager in my territory. By the end of next year, I hope to become district manager of my region.
“That was the moment I knew Bright Futures was where I needed to be. It was a place that made me believe in dreaming.”
In 2005, I was a middle school student at West Fulton Middle School and during that time Philip was known for walking the halls. One day while I was standing in front of my school’s poster that read “Shoot for the moon, if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Philip came up next to me and said, “No, it’s wrong. It should be ‘Shoot for the moon, if you miss, aim again.’’’ That was the first time I met Philip. His quote spoke deeply to me because I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of a place that made me believe in dreaming. I wanted to be a part of Bright Futures.
One of the things that I loved about my time with Bright Futures was the exposure I received. There were so many things I did not know I could do. This may seem like a simple thing, but before Bright Futures I did not know how to swim, had never gone to the beach or the mountains, and I don’t know if I would have without them. Things that other people may take for granted (like going to the beach), Bright Futures opened my eyes too.
What I’ll never forget is that when Philip and Gail saw how my family was living at that time, they stepped in and helped us. There were seven of us living in a two bedroom apartment, my parents in one room and myself, four sisters and one brother in the other room. Gail came in and redid our room and it was beautiful. Philip and Gail have been there for us over the years. They covered the cost for my SAT tests and helped me prepare and study for it. They taught me and my siblings how to drive! They even helped me purchase my first car after I graduated high school.
Life-Altering and Hope
Bright Futures gave me hope when everything else felt hopeless to me and opened my eyes to God which is the ultimate hope so I think everyone should know that. They taught me that education is important. But what they are doing is more than just education. They are taking kids out the hood and changing them into God loving people. That’s something that goes beyond giving back.
What I also want people to know is that my family and story is one of many. Philip, Gail and Bright Futures have done so much for me and others and I am just so grateful to them.
In 2016, I graduated from Georgia Southern University and my major was Business Management with a concentration in Human Resources and minor in marketing. Today, I live in Savannah and am a manager at a Belk department store. I am currently teaching myself Korean and plan to move to Korea to teach English and travel the world.
I give Bright Futures credit for helping me believe in myself and achieve my proudest moment to date which is moving to Savannah and having my own apartment. Because of them, I am independent.