Participant Stories

WMU Foundation Scholarship Helps 2 Texas Women Take Next Step in Life

Brianna Watts was stuck in a cycle. After growing up in foster homes then being adopted by an aunt as a teenager, she became pregnant at 17.

“I thought I knew what I was doing, and I didn’t,” she said. “I started partying and soon turned to drugs.”

Over the next seven years, she dealt with abuse “of every kind.” She became homeless, and she had more children who were taken from her.

“I wanted to get out, but I just didn’t have the resources and was extremely scared,” Watts said. “One night I wanted to quit partying and my fiancé didn’t. We got into a bad altercation, and he left me beat up in a hotel room with no money, no food and nowhere to go once again. I felt alone and helpless again.”

She cried out to God, and she felt Him prompt her to talk with someone who connected her with a rehab facility and drove her there.

“That next week I found out I was pregnant once again,” Watts said.

Getting clean

But this time, she had help. The rehab program — called Gateway of Hope — helped her get clean, and she took classes and graduated from Transformation Pathway Christian Women’s Job Corps of Dublin, Texas. She has custody of two of her children, joint custody of another two and is able to periodically see a son who was adopted by a family.

“I am doing so much better in life, and now I want to pursue college while I have two more years left at Gateway of Hope, so that way when I graduate there, I will have a career laid out for me and be able to provide for my family and finally gain some independence in life with a great support team for whenever I need them,” Watts said.

One way she’s able to do that is through the Faye Dove Scholarship recently awarded to her by the WMU Foundation.

Juanita Brawley, executive director of Transformation Pathway, called Watts a “dedicated, bright and pleasant young lady” and a “strong leader.”

“She came to class eager to learn and grow,” Brawley said. “Brianna always has a smile and is willing to help her classmates. I have witnessed her spiritual growth this semester as she has become dependent on God’s will for her future.”

Catalina’s story

Catalina Cormack, another Transformation Pathway graduate, also received the Faye Dove Scholarship.

Cormack migrated to the U.S. from Mexico at age 21 and raised her son, who is now a Marine. She’s still raising her two youngest children.

Her mother, who passed away in May 2021, saw the signs for Transformation Pathway and suggested she take classes.

“This fall I graduated from CWJC, and I know my mother would be proud of me,” Cormack said.

Now she is preparing to attend Ranger College.

“I know that my Creator has a plan for me,” she said. “I know education will prepare me.”

Barbara Yoder, an instructor at Transformation Pathway, said Cormack is a “hard worker” and a “team player.”

“Her verbal communication and testimony inspired us all,” Yoder said. “Everyone marvels at her work ethic and the amount of work she accomplishes.”

by Grace Thornton, writer for The Baptist Paper

Participant Stories

Two TN women pursue life-changing education with help from WMU Foundation scholarships

Laurien Assis was awarded the Academic Scholarship from WMU Foundation to pursue a college degree in business administration. (Courtesy of Begin Anew of Middle Tennessee)
When Laurien Assis moved from Brazil to Tennessee to become an au pair, she brought something with her — a heart full of lessons from her parents.

“My parents have always been simple people who never had the opportunity or finances to pursue higher education,” she said. “Nevertheless, they sacrificed greatly to excel in their trades and provide a better life for their children. From a young age, we were taught the importance of faith, integrity and a strong work ethic.”

Assis said she knew when she arrived in Tennessee with little English and no knowledge of the culture, she was going to have to lean into those things if she wanted to make it.

“In a time of such anxiety and sacrifice, I learned just how important my God, family and values were to me,” she said. “Looking back, I am proud of the courage I had to overcome these obstacles and how determined I was to improve myself.”

That continued as she practiced her English, cared for her host family’s seven children and pursued a high school diploma. Her Tennessee family’s care for her was “the biggest proof of God’s love for me,” Assis said.

The second biggest was Begin Anew, a Christian Women’s Job Corps site that provides education, mentoring and resources for individuals who need help to overcome the obstacles caused by poverty.

“When I decided to get my high school diploma in the USA, Begin Anew was the program that appealed to me the most,” Assis said. “I was excited to study in a place that shared the same values and religious foundation that I was raised with. While studying at Begin Anew, I was able to improve my English tremendously and make lasting friendships.”

Bridging the gap, providing resources

And now the Academic Scholarship given by the WMU Foundation, a Baptist missions foundation established by national Woman’s Missionary Union,  is helping her pursue a college degree in business administration.

Tracey Gholson, former program director for Begin Anew, said Assis is “an excellent example of how CWJC can bridge the gap and provide the resources and encouragement that one might need to achieve their goals.”

“I am amazed by this young woman from Brazil who has a strong desire to learn, a determination to succeed and a deep faith in God and God’s plan for her life,” said Gholson, who served as one of Assis’ tutors.

Julie Russell, another former Begin Anew program director, said she’s also proud of a second Begin Anew graduate — Margareth Caballero, who is this year’s Faye Dove Scholarship recipient.

“She was a joy to work with, and she was determined,” Russell said.

Caballero said Begin Anew has impacted her life in many ways, but the biggest was giving her the opportunity to earn a high school diploma online.

“It was a blessing to be able to do all my classes online, as I was able to work full-time and take care of my daughter,” she said.

‘Big dreams’

Russell said Caballero is dedicated, as she earned her high school diploma in less than a year and completely virtually.

“She has big dreams and the dedication to go along with them,” Russell said, noting that every Monday, Caballero attended Bible study via Zoom with her daughter in her lap, and that was a step along her journey of figuring out what God wanted her to do with her life.

Caballero’s desire is to use the funds from the scholarship to help with cosmetology school, which will help her have a more flexible schedule as she works and cares for her two children.

She said she’s so glad she found Begin Anew.

“To this day they keep providing me with support and resources to make my life easier,” Caballero said. “I have always believed in God and that He has a purpose for me, but Begin Anew made me believe in people again. I had lost faith in people, and it was hard for me to trust that there were still good people out there.”

Russell and the others at Begin Anew “gave me hope again,” Caballero said.