Some would say I was raised under the perfect conditions for success. Both of my parents were in the Air Force, I attended church regularly, I had an awesome relationship with my twin sister, and I was a grade A student with AP and Honors credits. I graduated in the top ten percent of my class and was accepted to go to college at the University of South Carolina. Everything was perfect and I was well on course to the ‘American Dream.’  

Shortly before the start of the fall semester, I got involved with the wrong people and began experimenting with drugs. To be expected, my parents disapproved of my behavior, and I moved out to maintain the life that I wanted. Little did I know, the following year, an introduction to methamphetamine would change my life forever.  

Meth turned into heroine, and heroine turned into anything that I could get my hands on. As I started to rely more and more on drugs, I slowly watched my life slip from my grasp. It wasn’t long before I had lost my job and my home. Only a year ago, I was an honors student excited to go to college and experience dorm-life. Now, I would do anything for a place to stay that wasn’t a hotel or with people I barely knew. 

Right after I turned twenty, I met the father of my child. I moved in with him and was physically and emotionally abused. He constantly questioned me and attempted to control every aspect of my life. I became pregnant and could only stay away from drugs for the safety of my daughter. Shortly after she was born, I started using meth again and the cycle reset.  

One night, my boyfriend and I got into a big fight. He was coming down off his high and couldn’t find any drugs, so I was his outlet. He beat me so badly that I had to be hospitalized. He was charged and arrested, and my daughter was sent to live with my parents. I not only lost my relationship, but I lost my little girl.  I went back to the streets and spiraled out of control. I could have gotten help, but instead I chose to use the drugs because it was easier, and it was the only way I knew how to cope.   

My life took a major turn when a high-speed police chase landed my car in a patch of trees. Of all the ways I could have run into the woods, I ran into the thorn bushes. I believe this was God telling me it was time to face my consequences. I was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison.   

While in prison, it finally occurred to me that on my own, I was getting nowhere. The only way I could see a future for myself, was if I gave God control of my life. I surrendered everything to Him. I knew only He could do for me what I could not do for myself.  

Before my release, I was not naïve enough to think that I could go back to the environment I had lived in before I was incarcerated. If I was going to be successful, I needed a change.  

When I heard about JUMPSTART, I jumped at the opportunity for a new beginning and joined the transitional program for re-entry.  

Before I went to prison, I had overdosed and was resuscitated five times. Now, I am no longer in bondage to substance, I have a full-time job, and I’m working towards a college degree, all while mending the relationship with my parents and preparing to be the mother my daughter needs. God’s plan for my life is far better than any ‘American Dream’ I could have forged for myself. JUMPSTART and daily surrender to Him are helping me work towards a future that is greater than my past. 

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I am no stranger to captivity. I was imprisoned to alcohol, I was imprisoned to meth, I was imprisoned to the state, and I was imprisoned to my past.  

When I received my eight-year sentence, I promised myself that when I got out, I would not return to my old ways of living. This was the fourth time I had made this promise, but this time, I meant it.  

I had given my life to Christ years earlier, but I never felt like I had fully surrendered to Him. There still was something keeping me bound from experiencing the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and I believed the chains of cigarette addiction were the one thing holding me back.  

One day I was walking through the prison’s courtyard, when I overheard the testimony of a man who had asked the Lord to take his craving to smoke away. That night, I prayed that God would take the craving away for me too, and within a month, I had quit smoking cigarettes completely. Prayer certainly holds mighty power against enslavement.  

I heard about JUMPSTART through a flyer, and I couldn’t help but think it was God giving me an opportunity to keep the promise I had made to myself. Four months into JUMPSTART, the pandemic hit and inside programming ceased. I was determined to complete the program and continued the curriculum despite the pause. I persisted and graduated with the highest-level certificate you could achieve.   

I had experienced the transformation possible with JUMPSTART’s program, and I wanted my peers to experience it too. I tore the application out of the back of my curriculum book and made copies to give to my friends. I refused to give up on convincing my peers to join me, and now there are at least five of my former cellmates with me in JUMPSTART’s transitional outside program.   

Before I left prison, I made a goal to accomplish three things: to be a part of a good church, to be of service to others, and to find employment with a nurturing environment. Just months into the outside program, I am an usher at a church I love, and I serve those in my community weekly through mission work. The pastor of my church personally offered me a job to work at his thrift store, and I am blessed to work with people who challenge me daily to grow in my relationship with Christ.  

Everything I have, I owe to the God who sets the captives free. I am four years clean from all that once imprisoned me, including myself. God opened the door to my freedom, and JUMPSTART has helped me stay true to my promise of never going back to being the man that I used to be. With my eyes set on Christ, I am a prisoner no more.  

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I understand how a family unit can crumble under the destructive force of abuse, threats, and crime. My father possessed just about every negative trait you could think of: manipulation, lack of sympathy, and aggression. Violence became his main outlet after witnessing his mother’s death at his father’s hand. Unaddressed emotions from this tragedy morphed into a need for control and led to heavily relying on aggression to maintain power. When my mother and father were married, these feelings were given a breeding ground and the cycle of violence that had begun years earlier continued.   

When I was six years old, I sensed something was off. I went outside to join my siblings and embraced my fourteen-year-old sister. When she pulled away, my sister’s blood covered my hands. While attempting to stop my father from stabbing their mother, my sister was caught amid the assault. Both my mom and sister suffered critical injuries. My father was sentenced to twelve years in prison.   

He wrote me and my younger brother letters while incarcerated, but the stereotypical “I miss you’s” and “I’ll do better’s” were always laced with underlying threats and false promises. After his release, he went on to serve a double life sentence for the double homicide of his new wife’s parents.   

My experience alone was enough to fuel the cycle for generations to come. I could have harnessed the same hate and destructive tendencies that I had witnessed when I was younger, but instead, I forged a different path marked with forgiveness, understanding, and love. My testimony gives me the daily motivation necessary to actively pursue a positive change that disrupts the continuance of abuse and crime.   

This true, life-changing transformation is only possible through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Complete surrender, accompanied by a robust support system, essential resources, and a change in mindset, is allowing individuals who were once like my grandfather and father to redefine their future and break the chains that hold them back from reaching their full potential.   

JUMPSTART provides all three with a holistic approach that meets a need and solves a problem. With Christ as the foundation for JUMPSTART’s programming, rehabilitation begins with a change of heart and grows outward as individuals restore broken relationships and become active in their families once again.   

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