Susan Jarvis rose from living on the street to aspiring to become a registered nurse.
In the transforming 10 months between prostituting herself to feed her cocaine habit to planning to enroll in Youngstown State University’s nursing program in January, Jarvis lived at the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and attended its Discipleship Academy.
Friday was graduation day, a celebration of completing the academy curriculum and beginning a new life.
Part of the new life is a new place to live and two part-time jobs.
Today she and her husband, Bill, are scheduled to move out of the mission where they have lived since Nov. 30, 2012, to an apartment.
And next week, Susan, 30, will begin her jobs as a family-services client adviser at the mission and working at Goodwill Industries.
After receiving praise and prayers from the mission staff, volunteers, clients and friends, Susan talked about her 10-month experience.
“You have inspired me,” she began. “I have regained confidence and my self- esteem.”
She says graduating “shows me I have changed ... that I can have fun and live without being on drugs ... and that I am better at managing money.”
Susan was placed in foster care at age 2 and adopted at 9 by a pastor and his family. “I grew up knowing the church and the Bible,” she said.
But at 17, she got pregnant and dropped out of school because she didn’t want to embarrass anyone. Susan and her boyfriend, Bill, who was to become her husband, lived together and both worked. They had three children.
“I was working so much and trying to take care of my family. I got so tired, I just crashed. I was introduced to cocaine and found I could function using it. Then I got addicted and ended up on the street. I lost everything except my husband,” she said.
Their children are living with a family member.
The Discipleship Academy’s learning-center courses include conflict resolution, financial management, and United States history. Students participate in a final project in which they are required to participate in a mock job interview, write a personal testimony, obtain their General Educational Development diploma, if needed, and write a resume. They also participate in service projects around the mission and community.
But the academy’s foundation is Bible study, said John Muckridge, director of education services.
“When Susan arrived here, she was not the person she is now. She received a ‘heart transplant.’ God has given her a new heart,” Muckridge said.
“I had to surrender my whole life to God,” she said.
She also offered some advice to others on how to get through the program: “Hold your tongue, and be humble,” she said.