Alonso's Story

“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.

Andrea's Story

Andrea's Story

“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. 

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.

Dedric's Story

“Fantastic. The experience was fantastic – I learned, a lot I grew a lot. “

My older brothers were a part of Bright Futures so I was exposed to them when I was in third grade. My brothers were always talking about the fun things they were doing, and I didn’t want to be bored, so I officially joined the summer before my sixth-grade year in school.

I was raised in a single parent household, it was me and my three older brothers. When I was 9 years old my mom adopted a little girl and now with five kids, things became really tough. Shortly thereafter my mom broke both of her ankles. She could not work and we were living off of disability and government support. But I salute my Mom because she did the best she could. Being in Bright Futures was a big help to my mom because she didn’t have to always worry about us, she knew we were in a safe place and being fed.

I give Bright Futures credit for giving me proper guidance. I have seen a lot of kids come and go through my neighborhood that got caught up in the drama of the streets and now their lives are going in bad directions. Bright Futures kept me focused and motivated. I knew I didn’t want to become another statistic and I wasn’t alone.

After high school, I went to North Georgia Technical College and received an associate degree in air conditioning technology. Philip helped connect me with Lennox HVAC, which is the biggest HVAC company in the world, where I am now a full-time tech. However, in order to achieve this position, I had to maintain a 3.5 GPA in college, become a part of the BAT trainee program and pass the NATE certification. I failed the test the first two times but passed the third time. I’m excited to be working for a company this size and to have this opportunity.

Fantastic. The experience was fantastic – I learned a lot I grew a lot. 

I want people to know they are not wasting their investment in these young people. Philip and Gail were a great help and they are still there for me to this day. I can always call on them for advice.

After high school, I went to North Georgia Technical College and received an associate degree in air conditioning technology. Philip helped connect me with Lennox HVAC, which is the biggest HVAC company in the world, where I am now a full-time tech. However, in order to achieve this position, I had to maintain a 3.5 GPA in college, become a part of the BAT trainee program and pass the NATE certification. I failed the test the first two times but passed the third time. I’m excited to be working for a company this size and to have this opportunity. 

Jessica's Story

"I learned how to let go of my anger and give it to God. I didn’t know how to do that before. "

A bus used to come through my neighborhood to pick up the kids and take them to an open house at Bright Futures on Saturday’s. That day I was wearing a shirt that read, “Seek me, find me.” Philip came up to me and said, “Just did.” I was hooked. I joined the program the summer of my eighth-grade year. I was blown away by all the things we did that summer! We traveled to Virginia, went to the beach, and went hiking in Cascade Falls. These were things I had never done before.

I faced a lot of challenges growing up. One of the most painful was the loss of my little brother. He passed away when he was three months old. My older brother and I were taken away from our mother and split up. We were in foster care for four years. The experience was traumatic for me. I had so many emotions. After my mom got us back we were living in a bad neighborhood. Lots of violence, drug houses, and prostitution. Enter Bright Futures. They kept me away from that. They kept me focused.
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.

Family – I feel like Philip and Gail are my mom and Dad. They are a huge part of my life.

I have a 4-year-old niece and I want to be an example to her. I want her to know that you don’t have to be like what you see in your everyday life. If you have just one positive person influence you in a good way, it makes a difference. Bright Futures did that for me.

I was the valedictorian of my graduating class. Impossible, I thought! That was a huge accomplishment for me. I am the first person in my family to go to college. I was accepted into the Teacher Education Program at Georgia Southern University and am now a junior. I’m really proud of myself for how involved I am on campus this year. I am on the University Board and I help plan on-campus events. I am also part of the Student Council for Children, an organization where we help raise money for children with different disabilities. I also work with kids on campus in Eagle Academy, where I am a peer mentor for students with disabilities in high school that want to go to college. My goal is to graduate with a 3.5 GPA and apply to grad school after a few years.