Karis Hawkins

"Brighton has enriched my life easily tenfold."

I first became involved with Brighton Center in my youth. Specifically the Youth Sewing Class that was taught by Helen Brewster when I was 12 years old. When I joined Sewing Class there was a waiting list and just getting added to the list was a process. I remember asking my mom if I could do it and then begging Helen to let me skip by the list. She added me to the list but then let me join like a week later. I was so eager to learn from her. 

When I was younger I utilized several programs, the biggest and main one was Sewing Class both youth and Adulthood. I also was part of the very first Youth Leadership club that was developed. It was somewhat a piloted program of the Youth Leadership Development program that exists today. At the age of 14, I participated in a work/study summer program they held! It was amazing! It was awesome to get the various experiences of working in four different positions as well as learning life skills. I then went on to develop relationships with not only Bob and Helen but also Jean Brown. We were very close and when she passed I was honored to receive the Jean Brown Memorial Scholarship created in her honor.

Some of the obstacles I have been able to overcome are probably mind blowing when I really think of it. I was able to graduate High School and not have a kid then, so I will say Teen Pregnancy. Also not to mention I actually graduated High School. My entering freshman class was around 302 students but, my graduating class was only 115! I went to college and not just locally. I was built up enough by my mentors and parents to go away to school. I was able to graduate college and had my first professional job lined up at Brighton Center before I had even officially graduated. 

After being involved with Brighton Center I learned quickly that I have a passion for helping and serving others just like how others helped me. It is a huge reason why I went into Social Work, well that and a very informative and nurturing conversation over lunch with the Brewster’s one day!

I continued to be impressed by Brighton Center’s ability to nurture its staff and new professionals. It's great place to work and grow. It also is a place that continues to adapt to the ever changing needs of the population but still holds the ability to be firmly planted in our Appalachian roots. So while some new ideas are introduced, tradition is still embedded throughout the organization and community, I.e. The Block Party and Holiday Drive!

When I was younger Bob and Helen were truly my mentors that opened my world so much more than what my parents could give and I'm still learning from them. However, the dynamic is a little different now that I'm 37 years old, although there is still plenty they teach me. Sewing Class, to me, has made such an impact on my life. Not only did it give me a skill but it allowed for me to explore my creative spirit, develop lifelong friendships as well understand the importance of volunteering and teaching others. 

Brighton has enriched my life easily tenfold. My relationship with Bob and Helen helped shape my young adult life. They helped guide me and showed me that I could do pretty much anything I put my mind too. I cannot tell you how vital it was for me to have someone else other than my mother or family members nurture me. They were truly invested in my success and me as a person. The kindness, patience and culturally rich exposure I was given is invaluable. Not to mention being shown what a healthy relationship looks like. It was very powerful! 

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