At the age of twelve, Carissa was taken to Juvenile Hall in Fresno by her mother, who declared Carissa to be out of control. Shortly after her arrival there, Carissa ran away from the group home for troubled youth, and began living on the streets. She promptly fell in with a prostitute named Linda who began grooming her young friend for a life of prostitution.
Eventually Carissa found her way to another Juvenile Hall and there she received counseling and help that she desperately needed. She began to attend school regularly, found several teachers who took the time to help her, and she began to rebuild her life.
Fast forward to 2012. Carissa has earned a Bachelor Degree, a Juris Doctorate from UCLA School of Law, an MBA from UCLA School of Management, and is now CEO of Runaway Girl, Inc., a corporation she has started to help homeless and lost street girls. Twelve years from being sold like a commodity, this woman has now come full-circle.
Carissa’s goal, now, is to be an advocate for the thousands of young girls who appear to have no hope or chance in life. She is determined to do for those young girls what two dedicated teachers did for her, namely give them a chance. I would not bet against Carissa Phelps.
Several things jump out at me regarding this story. I have written before about sex and child trafficking in the United States. It is a billion dollar industry, second only to illegal drugs, and it is growing rapidly. It is happening to the girl and boy next door; one day they are doing chores for mom and dad, and the next they are kidnapped into a world most of us cannot fathom, and it is happening in every major city in the United States.
As deplorable as that fact is, I want to focus today on the human spirit. Carissa so beautifully exemplifies that which is in each of us, that incredible reserve of strength and resolve that keeps us moving forward in life despite overwhelming obstacles. This was a twelve-year old girl who in twelve years has gone from sex slave to corporate CEO.
I am in awe of this young woman, but then I am in awe of most people that I meet. As a former teacher I know of many of my students who, after graduation, met with some tough realities in life, and yet they kept moving forward, they kept clawing for a handhold, and they kept going after their dreams.
We do not have to look long for the negatives in life. The news agencies are more than happy to tell us about abuse, murder, and other senseless acts of violence. Isn’t it a relief to hear about the good in mankind, and the fire within us all that keeps us from giving up? That fire within us has a name….it is called hope!
Written by B. Holland